The Hallowtide is a much misunderstood and puzzling time of year, both for the public and those within the Pagan sphere. It is without doubt, one of the most public and obvious of the Pagan festivals today but what do mean by Hallowtide? Is the Hallowtide a specific and particular day? Is the Hallowtide instead a period of time, seasonal but perhaps imprecise? My use of the word Hallowtide, rather than the more popular Samhain, should by now suggest my own perception of the tide.
Today we associate the Hallowtide, Allentide, Halloween or Samhain with only the 31st of October; All Hallows Eve, the eve of All Souls which itself is one day before All Saints Day. Although this association is natural and indeed acceptable, it is not the only interpretation or manner of perception. The Folklore and the calendrical changes of the past, all play a part in giving this festival and this time of year, depth and meaning.
For some it is only that one day the 31st of October but for others it is the first full moon of Scorpio. Some using the older Julian calendar will observe the 11th of November as Old Halloween. This allows for the difference of eleven days here in Britain, between that calendar and the Gregorian one. As one of the four Cross Quarter Days, falling in this case between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice at 15 degrees Scorpio; the precise astronomical date this year was the 7th of November.
As one of the four tides, being that of repose, consolidation and rest. We may be able to perceive the tidal influence in the latter part of October and we conceivably be aware, that the tide flows well beyond that month. There is an ebb and flow of energy throughout the year, which follows the solar, the lunar and the celestial cycles. This incorporates and historically influenced the folklore of the agrarian calendar. The links are so close and so intertwined, that the relationship is symbiotic and near impossible to separate.
As is my own ‘tradition’ today, I decorate the hallway of my house. I do this for the benefit of the local children, the Trick or Treat groups that are active on the 31st of October. I do this in the full knowledge that the modern practice of Trick or Treat is a relatively new import from the USA. It simply did not happen when I was a child. The practice that is now fashionable, even if it is a modern one, has a history of some value.
The origins are found in European folk-custom, including those of the British Isles. Costumed begging is documented as taking in England during the late medieval period and customs such as Mischief Night, Pookie Night, Souling and Guising have all influenced this modern reinvention of door to door collecting. That ever present fruit the pumpkin is simply a Jack o’ lantern but carved from something rather more pliable than the traditional swede.
Perhaps because I do not have children and can’t; I find it delightful to see the many family groups at Halloween and sometimes even the parents are in costume. I often watch as groups work their way through the neighbourhood, with much laughter and such obvious enjoyment.
Often I attempt a general theme. My effort and it has to be said my generosity with sweets, has been noted and it appears to be appreciated. In previous years I have displayed genuine skulls, a ram or that of a stag. Occasionally I have had a display of weaponry, such as a Viking shield and sword for a more medieval theme. Many children now consider my house the ‘must visit’ of the evening.
This year I acquired a genuine and quite old human skull. Ideally suited for workings of an occult nature and she is beautiful, if perhaps disturbing. I did consider placing her on display but my courage wavered. I returned to my original idea and toned down the more obvious occult elements. I have observed that some parents are beginning to notice the symbolic features. I therefore returned to my pirate theme, a more fun and entertaining presentation than previous years.
I set up an ‘altar’ with a pair of candles and a grimoire, with a wooden chest full to the brim with sweets in front. My resin skull was placed nearby, together with two very appropriate replica seventeenth and eighteenth century firearms. The display proved a success and many parents took pictures of my ‘creations’ using their mobile phones before departing. Of particular note was the carved pumpkin created by my nephew-in-law.
This for me was the public representation and observance of a festival with so many layers, than the heart of the season lies hidden in the darkness of the winter evening. Perhaps next year I will return to a more overtly occult or Pagan theme for the viewing of the Trick or Treat groups. Perhaps next year a skull will come out to play. This year however, I felt the need for a divided approach. Something public and fun in juxtaposition to my own private observance. There it ends, the Hallowtide both hidden and in plain view.