Celebrating Halloween, every witch way but true

It might be about kinky costumes or eye candy for you. For me, it’s a sacred celebration that ”tricks” sweet little kids into “treating” all witches as ”wicked” stereotypes.

samhain-witchesDANNY KENNY — Ah, to be an Irish Pagan at Halloween and witness apparently sane, God fearing people, joyously ridiculing a sacred tradition from an ancient  land of culture.

I refer of course to Ireland, those mythical shores that gave you Shaw and so much more than “Paddy’s Day” and the “Paddy Wagon” — a racist term still sadly used openly in these so called PC days.  Let’s not forget we also gave the world literary greats like Yeats and Wilde.

We gave you the Kennedy family, U2 and even “the Greatest” grandfathers of  all; Muhammed Ali and Obama’s. And what did you choose to celebrate from our culture: Halloween and St Patrick’s Day! Both of which do neither Irish culture nor Paganism any favors.

One drunkenly celebrates a Roman Saint driving the symbolic snakes, in the form of Irish Pagans, out of Ireland (sorry, no real snakes to see here, folks) and the other, denigrates Celtic Pagan practices to mere child’s play and mockery.

“Witch” seems more than just ironic, since Christianity was so keen on ”adopting” all our major Pagan Holidays and  transforming them (less than miraculously) into Saints days — Oestara (Easter), Saturnia and Winter Solstice (Christmas), and our personal favorite, Halloween, or Samhain (sow-en), as it was celebrated back then, and regarded as the dawning of the ”Celtic New Year.”

Still, they say imitation is the highest form of flattery! So how did those kind Christian folk choose to repay us? They mock us annually in grand style! Parading their ignorance through the streets and even ringing our doorbells and thrusting their ugly little witches in our faces, so we can’t even hide from them, like a bashful turkey at Thanksgiving.

They take our sacred rites and turn them into silly children’s games, and, most insulting for a handsome witch like me, they depict witches as ugly, mean, green and evil, which fosters their children’s fear, so that they inevitably grow up ignorant of our ways.  Hmm, that sounds familiar, anyone for green beer?

Anyway back to green witches for now, I mean, really! We don’t parade around wearing huge bleeding crucifixes on Good Friday or stage toss-the-baby-Jesus-in-the-manger competitions on Christmas Day, now do we?

Okay that’s enough “wicked” drama from me. So onward and upward, all hyperbole aside, now to the point where I wish to lay my hat: Halloween and The Day of the Dead (for my non-Pagan Hispanic brothers and sisters) is/was a sacred time for us and many other indigenous people around the world who still acknowledge the natural turning of the seasons and the Wheel of The Year.

wheeloftheyearIn Ireland, Samhain later became “Feile na Marbh” — the Festival of the Dead (anyone for All Souls Day?) It’s the time of the year when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest as we head into the darkest and most dangerous time for survival, winter.

For the Celts, it was the end of the harvest season, their year, and, for the many that would not survive the harsh winters, their time on earth. Whatever you had gathered by the last harvest moon had to sustain you through to the first spring shoots. So how did we treat this possibly scary time?

In true Celtic Pagan fashion, we had a huge celebration and communed with the wisdom and spirits of those that went before us, in an attempt to get “the inside line” on who would make it through the winter. Who would live or die and, by the way, will I get married to that cute hairy stag-hunter with the beard?

Yes, even back then people appreciated a good stag, as we slaughtered the animals that would not survive the winter, and some of the weaker men didn’t make it either, although they died from disease and hunger in most cases. So we feasted and made bonfires and purged, by burning, anything that may cause disease, like damaged or deceased crops or the carcasses of diseased animals. As it happened, at the end of the harvest we had lots of fun with apples since they wouldn’t last the winter. Our solution: we made them into cider, which would last until we drank it all and also had the added benefit of taking our minds off dying from something other than a hangover.

But no, we did not sacrifice tasty, pasty-white Christian virgins. After all, there were no Christians to spoil the fun at that time; besides, virginity was not prized in our Pagan culture, as women were not yet subjected to the Vatican “virgin -whore” mentality.

That was another man-made gift from God that the Pope gave us to subjugate women centuries later, as he did when he parked “All Saints Day” right beside Halloween to invade our space and once again try to spoil our party with the concept of hellfire and retribution.

But we did dance around the fires and try to ward off the evil spirits we believed were responsible for disease and pestilence. We dressed and mimicked evil spirits and had dances and rituals to banish or placate them and probably copulated prolifically. Wouldn’t you if you thought your lives depended on it?

Yet ironically, it was the Irish Christians who put the devil in us, and also gave you the Jack O’ lantern, based on the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, a stereotypical hard-drinking, gambling, greedy old farmer who tricked the devil himself, who then in true devlish form, condemned him to wander the earth with a candle inside his turnip head. You gotta love that devil.

But remember, that nasty old devil was a Christian invention that brought sin to the party, so don’t blame my lot for him.

“Witch” brings us neatly back to the present, and so, inevitably as I make my way to my sacred ritual on the one night of the year that it’s cool to “be a witch”, I will have to put up with the usual array of drunken pirates and village idiots asking me: “So what are you dressed as?” To which I politely reply: “Oh, I’m a real witch.” To which they typically guffaw heartily and slur informedly, “Yeah, sure thing Buddy, you don’t even look like one.”

Oh yeah and that reminds me, I need to find my ceremonial dagger!

Trick or treat anyone?


Danny Kenny, shown here in Ireland, is a San Francisco-based writer and a Pagan witch.

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20 Responses to “Celebrating Halloween, every witch way but true”

  1. As a somewhat heretical (at least un-orthodox) member of the Christian church, I beg your forgiveness. Christianity would be much better (*is* much better) when it incorporates the wisdom from traditions that it has co-opted, instead of denying, burying and persecuting. Christianity did it to the Celts, to the indigineous people of this country and many other places. There is deep wisdom in ancient traditions, before Ego and intense separation from Nature and Cosmos. Hopefully as these decrease (a la Eckhart Tolle) we can reconnect with the sacred wisdoms of many peoples. Thank you for the wisdom and the humor of this article.


  2. I get a kick out of Halloween for the very reason you describe in your entertaining and enlightening description of its spiritual roots. This is the one night a year secular society takes to the streets to celebrate a sacred date — even though most people don’t know it!

    Thank you for refreshing our collective memories, and have a great festival.

  3. Danny, Thank you for such a wonderfully witty, and at the same time telling, look at how “we” Christians have lost our souls in the cleaned-up, sanitized versions of truly meaningful holidays. I, like David, am a “heretical Christian” and my heart longs to dance around the fire in the moonlight as the veil between worlds thins, and the ones who’ve passed on can come close to me again. We have lost something dear without really knowing it, something about connection and meaning and soulfulness. I think my Celtic blood is stirring a bit for the “old ways”.
    I hear the tinkle of children’s laughter as they make their way down the street. Yep, there’s the doorbell.
    Trick or Treat!


  4. I’m going to show my ignorance (again). Isn’t a male “witch” a “warlock”? This inquiring mind wants to know.

  5. Danny –

    Merry Meet! Thanks so much for your explanation of all things Wiccan… those that touch my Irish heart. I went to a women’s circle here in Sudbury when I was brand new to the area and we sat in a circle with directional chairs… one to the North, to the South, to the East and to the West. We greeted the souls and the faeries who abide amongst us and prayed for our neighbors, our children, our families… for one another.

    Truly just evil stuff, eh? May the Goddess bless you this day…and every day.

    Merry Meet and may we meet again beyond the veil…

  6. The picture at the bottom is incredible. It looks like a production still from a feature film. Where is the location?

  7. Wow, I didn’t know a lot of this…the Jack O’ Lantern story is great.

    Your site has so much primo stuff on it! I have explored it
    twice now, and I feel like I am just scratching the surface.

    Hope you all had an epic Halloween.

  8. Well Well Warlock!
    A Warlock is perjorative Christain term for a male Witch, the original meaning being oath breaker or liar the etymology from middle English -Waerloga taken originally from Scottish Gaelic word for traitor. So if you were picking a name for yourself you wouldn’t be picking that, just as Paddy’s didn’t give themselves that name.It was a perjoraitive British term for the Irish and lends its racist name to ‘Paddy Wagons”.
    Which speaking of annoying invasions brings me to the location of the picture; St Brigids Well in Kildare Co Kildare Ireland….Brigid was originally the Goddess of Ireland for 2,000 years then the Catholics dumbed her powers down and “converted” her into to St Brigid and linked her with St Patrick .Who then in true Patriachal Vatican fashion became our Patron Saint( and he was a fucking Roman) banishing snakes( another perjorative term for Pagans and all our fun at the same time.Anyway her wells remained as Magickal/Miraculous places, but thankfully they didn’t realize the water is still 100% Pagan.
    Slainte ( thats cheers to you)

  9. Go Danny,You tell ‘em..It would surprise you how ignorant people can be when it comes matters of religion,pagan or otherwise.Everyone is so busy ‘living’ that they forget where it all began.Keep up the good work!Looking good in the picture by the way..

  10. True story:

    My 5-year-old daughter is looking over my shoulder as I’m reading this piece.

    “See that man,” I say to her pointing at the picture of Danny. “He’s a witch.”

    “A real witch?” she asks incredulously.

    “Yes,” I tell her.

    “Is he dead?”

    Oh, no.

    “Is he scary and terrible?”

    Not at all, I explain. He’s very special — kind, loving and giving. Witches aren’t bad, I tell her. That’s just pretend.

    “Really?” she asks again, then continues: “Can I be a witch when I grow up?”

    Sure thing, I tell her.

  11. Lethal article.

  12. Danny- this was a very witty article- both informative and tongue-in-cheek humorous. Thanks for sharing it with us, and I’m happy to see how much positive feedback folks of all spiritual paths have left here. Tolerance is nice, but authentic curiosity and respect are even better! Blessed be and happy new year!

  13. Victoria Magbilang Reply 02. Nov, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Fantastic photo and interesting article, Danny! Can’t wait for you to come over and teach the littles what’s cool about being a witch. Can teach me a thing or two, as well!

  14. Thank you again, both for the article and the correction/admonishment. I truly wish we were better informed.


  15. Great article, funny, informative and insightful

    ’tis a shame your not Welsh!


  16. Love the photo, scared the bejaysus out of me

  17. Wonderful article. Thanks for sharing some truth about us wicked pagans! I hope to read more from you.

  18. WoW!! That was an awesome history lesson..So much new interesting information. Thanks Danny.. I look at Halloween way differently, and hope to share with my little ones the history behind holidays as they are taught.. I’ll keep reading.. Thaks

  19. Do I have to give all the candy back?

    Here in England we have Bonfire night just after Halloween, where we burn an effigy of a traitorous catholic and let off fireworks to celebrate the foiling of an attempt to destroy parliament. This destruction seems to have been achieved recently by our own representatives fiddling their expenses, btw.

    My point being there is always some majority picking on a minority and it really is time we stopped that.

    Here’s to tolerance as we enter the winter in whatever tradition.

    Seriously – I have to give the candy back?

  20. Great article, Danny! Also, love the picture!