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Samhain: The 'Spirit' of Halloween for Wiccans

A peaceful, and often misunderstood religion

Kelly Labrie, owner of the Luna Gallery in North Conway, offers classes to introduce people to the Wiccan religion. Lori Lenart. (click for larger version)
October 28, 2010
Pagans, and specifically Wiccans, see this time of year as the best time to honor those who have passed on and now exist in the spirit realm. Samhain (pronounced sow-wen), marks the end of one cycle and the beginning of another, said Kelly Labrie, a practicing Wiccan and owner of The Luna Gallery in North Conway. It is the Wiccan New Year.

"This is one of the best times to reach out to connect with loved ones who have passed on; it's the time when the veil between this world and the spirit realm is the thinnest," Labrie notes. The other time is Beltane, on May 1.

Wiccans, who worship the natural world, the Sun God and the Moon Goddess, and celebrate the turning of the seasons ("the wheel"), are a very peaceful group, she added, but very misunderstood still. Pentagrams, witches, and altars — just to name a few — have meanings behind them that are not "evil," but symbolic, in this peaceful religion.

CENTRAL TO THE Wiccan religion is the casting of the circle, which is a safe space in which they gather, chant, and worship. Labrie said once that circle is cast, they have different ways to protect themselves from the evil spirits, including carving faces in pumpkins to scare them away. This is where the Jack O'Lantern originated.

Witches, as Wiccans came to be known, were persecuted from the Middle Ages on, and if they wanted to continue, they had to do so in secrecy. They would meet at night, in hidden areas, wearing black cloaks. Not only did the black camouflage them better, but the color black is considered a good color to ward off evil. The cloaks then were thick, too, keeping them warm during those cold nights in fall.

Not surprisingly, Samhain was also a time to celebrate the harvest: how many potatoes, carrots, brussel sprouts, beets, and turnips would a family be storing in their root cellar over the winter? If a family had an extremely successful crop, of turnips, say, they would go out into the community to share their turnips with others. In turn, they might get carrots from the family next door or tomatoes from another family. This is where the concept of trick or treating came from.

"There is so much to learn," Labrie said, "if we just open our minds."

For more information about the Wiccan religion or the spirit realm, visit Labrie at her store on Main Street in North Conway or call 356-5862.

Martin Lord Osman
Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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