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Samhain 2023

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Did you know Halloween is an officially recognized religious holiday in New Jersey? That’s right, if your kid misses school on Halloween, it’s an excused absence according to the New Jersey Department of Education.

The State Board of Education has formalized guidelines concerning student absences due to religious holidays for 2023 and Halloween, or Samhain as it is called in the Wiccan faith is on it.

Hallowmas, Hallows, Halloween, Samhain and many other names are all talking about the same thing. This is the High Holyday of Wicca and many other pagan and neo-pagan faiths, a central part of these religions, often referred to as a Sabbat. Nowadays it’s often observed on October 31 by tradition and the fact that you can find the day on an ordinary Calander. But Hallows is a Cross-Quarter day and astrologically, that means it’s actually on the day that the Sun enters 15° of Scorpio. This year (it varies by year) this happens on November 7th. But still, most will go for October 31st.

The holiday of Halloween, celebrated on the night of October 31, is a time when ghouls, ghosts and goblins come out to play.

It's a holiday that is marked by costumes, candy, spooky decorations and Halloween movies, but have you ever wondered where the name "Halloween" comes from?

Like many of our annual celebrations, modern Halloween is the product of centuries of evolution with roots dating back to Pagan times. Over the years, traditions surrounding Allhallowtide (31st October – 2nd November) have come and gone or evolved into new ones.

One such tradition was ‘Souling’, the medieval precursor to trick-or-treating, which revolved around the giving of a small round cake in exchange for prayers. The practice remained popular in Britain until the mid-20th century but has now been largely forgotten.

Also see this article on Souling

Witches from left: Sue Myland, Shelley Mayes, and Lynette Richardson. (Photo: Rachel)

For witches, Halloween, or Samhain, marks the end of the year instead of January 1, and it is believed that October 31 is the night when the veil between the living and spirit world is at its thinnest.

But according to high priestess Shelley Mayes of Flange & Prong witchcraft shop, contrary to what is believed thanks to Hollywood’s misconception of witchcraft, Halloween is not the summoning of the devil, communicating with evil spirits, or casting spells. But rather, as this is the end of the pagan year, celebrations are more of a time of reflection to remember loved ones and ancestors.

Witches celebrate with a whole week of celebrations, starting on Halloween night and running through until November 7.

The Pagan Society of the Coulee Region celebrated the harvest with the Samhain Nite Market on Sunday.

According to one of the event's organizers, Samhain is the original Pagan holiday for bringing in the harvest.

Admission was free, and the event ran from 4-9 p.m.

The market featured work from different artists, tarot card readings and live music.

The Halloween spirit was also present at the market, as organizers and vendors hosted trick-or-treating for kids from 4-6 p.m.

Zoe Steward, a founder of the Pagan Society of the Coulee Region, says her favorite parts of the event was the art, the music and the community.

For more cool photos on this story see Ancient traditions embraced at Samhain celebration

Illustration by Hokyoung Kim.

Long before it was a sugary moviefest, the Halloween we know was called Samhain. The Celts of ancient Ireland believed Samhain was a night when the barrier between worlds was thin, the dead could cross over, and if you didn't disguise yourself, evil fairies might spirit you away. Over time the holiday shape-shifted too, thanks to the Catholic Church, pagan groups, and even the brewing company Coors. From the Great Famine of Ireland to Elvira and the Simpsons, we present the many faces of Halloween.

One doesn’t have to wait until Samhain to speak to the Ancestors or to feel their presence. The veil is thin every day.

Traditionally, the Three Days of Samhain represent the time when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. While I have no way in measuring the width of the veil or its function at this time of year, I do acknowledge that as we enter the so-called “Dark Time” in the Northern Hemisphere, Samhain acts as a transition point between the expansive time of the year and the contracting, or withdrawing, time of the year.


I’m definitely the kind of person who loves tarot-themed goodies! For starters, I like the whole vibe and aesthetic. But I also love how they can remind me of a specific message I want to give myself— depending on the meaning of a card. Sometimes, I just like to share that I’m kind of witchy, too, and tarot things are great for that. Anyway, if you’re like me, then you’re in luck! Because I took a dive into Etsy to find tarot-themed goodies. And let me tell you, I found a lot of amazing things to share with you.


Martha Corey and her prosecutors, Salem, Massachusetts. 1692. (The Print Collector / Print Collector)

Taking place in 1692 and 1693, the Salem witch trials were held in northeastern Massachusetts and led to the prosecution of more than 150 people.

The Salem witch trials were the largest witchcraft outbreak in American history, resulting from a perfect storm of catastrophes.

Taking place in 1692 and 1693, the Salem witch trials were held in towns across northeastern Massachusetts. The center of the trials was Salem Village, or the modern day town of Danvers, according to Salem State University history professor and author of "A Storm of Witchcraft" Emerson Baker.

Witch trials sound as antiquated as the three Weird Sisters in ‘Macbeth.’ But witches, most of them women, are still persecuted and killed today. Marion Gibson explores the history of witch hunts, from the most infamous trials of the Middle Ages to contemporary petitions for witch pardons.

Guest: Marion Gibson, Professor of Renaissance and Magical Literatures at the University of Exeter


Written by his younger sister, Christine, this biography of Wiccan trailblazer Scott Cunningham (1956-1993) is a fitting and loving tribute to a queer man who helped usher witchcraft into the mainstream.

His 1988 guidebook, "Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner," is one of the most popular and bestselling books on the subject ever sold. That book joins an influential oeuvre of well-received volumes and collective series on metaphysical and organically magical art forms of witchcraft, the elements, astrology, Tarot practices, crystals, herbology, and nature, among others. His books were heralded for their smooth yet instructional prose, nonconfrontational openness, and kind approaches to often tabooed or harshly criticized practices, particularly within queer communities.


A modern witch debunks seven myths and misconceptions about witches.

When you hear the word “witch,” there are undoubtedly many specific images that come to mind. Do you see a woman in a long cloak and witch's hat, brewing a hot potion in her cauldron? Do you think of the Sanderson Sisters from Hocus Pocus and their flashy “I Put a Spell on You” musical number? Do you see the more horrific depictions of witches on TV—like in American Horror Story: Coven—or in movies, like A24’s 2015 movie The WITCH? Witches—whether urban legends or historical figures—have turned into such pop culture staples that popular tropes and visual portrayals of them are some of the most recognizable images we have. And with that comes a lot of common myths and misconceptions about witches.

Sarah Faith Gottesdiener is a modern-day witch—and business owner, podcaster and teacher, among other things—and does not fit any of those witchy tropes at all.

What were the signs to identify a witch and symbols that raised suspicion and fear in people's hearts?

In every culture and corner of the world, the notion of people (especially women) who possessed connections with the supernatural or could manipulate unseen forces has persisted. How was a witch identified in ancient times? What were the signs to identify a witch and symbols that raised suspicions and fears?

Texas Monthly; Getty

If you believe in such superstitions, the veil separating our world and the metaphysical one thins on Halloween. It’s an ideal time to conjure La Llorona, curse the Texas Lege, or otherwise generally dabble in the world of witchcraft and occult practices. But which candles to light, which potions to mix, which rituals to conduct? The following shops across the state, some of which have been in operation for decades, help newcomers to the world of esoteric ephemera navigate the curios cabinet—and they sell everything you’ll need to conjure your own spells or set a spooky atmosphere.

Altar by Esa

It has been an interesting conversation and debate – What is the difference between magic and witchcraft? The deeper it went, the more some perspectives started to take shape for me.

It started touching on the long standing debate on who would be considered a “witch.” An example of the debate goes something like this: Everyone makes a wish and blows out birthday candles, thus doing a form of magic, but does that make them a witch?

By definition, Magic is the power of influencing the course of events by using unseen/ mysterious/ supernatural powers – or to move, change, or create as if by magic. Witchcraft is the practice of magic. So by definition, everyone has the capability of magic, but a witch intentionally practices it – with the intentional being the operative word here.

When it comes to sourcing your magickal supplies without having to set aside additional funds, all you need to do is look around you with a Witch’s eye. Your creativity is the key to the practice of Thrifty Witchery.

Do you live in a food desert, lacking easy access to supermarkets or grocery stores? Do you consume mostly fast food and take-out? Guess what? Your magickal supplies are already being delivered right into your hands.

Exterior of Strandagaldur, The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft in Hólmavík, Iceland. Image from Wikimedia Commons,

Throughout October, I'm going to share Halloween-worthy ideas, places, and events. In that spirit, let's virtually visit Strandagaldur, The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft in Hólmavík, Iceland, which opened in 2000 and sees about 11,000 visitors a year. Visit Westfjords explains:

The exhibition tells the story of the witchcraze in Iceland in the 17th century and how witchcraft is presented in our folklore. Guests will learn about certain witchcraft cases and about different witchcraft like necropants to gather money, find a thiefe and wake up the dead.

25 Best Books About Witches for a Spooky Autumn Read

Double, double toil and trouble...

As the weather turns cooler and spooky season gets underway, it's not uncommon for readers to gravitate towards a seasonally appropriate cozy autumn read. Maybe they look for aclassic murder mystery, or books about vampires, but there's one spooky figure that reigns supreme: The witch. Witches, commonly women, appear throughout pop culture, from Hermione in the Harry Potter series to the three witches in Macbeth. They're a go-to Halloween costume, but more importantly, they're the subject of many great stories. Here, 25 of the best witch books to read this autumn:

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