For many of us, Halloween is a time to celebrate the bizarre and morbid, the scary and unknown. For others, they are wracked with fear and anxiety over the evil that they believe is released into our world. While we embrace the things that go bump in the night, they hide from it. But, none of us really know why they bump to begin with.
What really happens on Halloween?
The Celts believed that the barrier between the spirit world and ours weakened on the 31st of October, allowing for spirits and demons to roam the earth for one night. It’s an ancient tradition and one that is believed to this day.
There are dozens of other beliefs and superstitions surrounding this one night. From the common to the scary to the bizarre, let’s explore what All Hallow’s Eve is really about.
Certain animals are almost synonymous with Halloween due to their unsettling and creepy nature - like cats, bats, and spiders. So, it’s not surprising that these animals have ties to certain Halloween superstitions.
It’s believed that if you see a bat in your home on Halloween, or if you see a bat flying around you, a ghost either lives in your home or is nearby.
With cats, there is the old and well-known legend that they were witches’ familiars during the colonial period. There's even the classic idea that if you see a black cat, bad luck will follow.
As far as Halloween goes, if you hear a black cat meowing outside your door or window, that means that a family member will die soon. Maybe that’s also because if you see a black cat on Halloween, a witch is nearby.
Just hope that witch isn’t the one bringing death to your family.
Spiders are always unnerving with their many eyes and legs, but they may not be as menacing as they look. If you happen to see a wall-crawler in your house on Halloween, then it could be a representation of one of your dead loved ones returning to see you. Maybe hold off using the shoe for one night.
The Eternal Flame
Candles are often depicted during rituals, likely due to their religious uses during worship or in remembrance of someone. Fire itself has been used throughout history as a symbol for hope or purification - even rebirth. It has a unique connection with the spiritual and the living.
On a night where it’s believed that the barrier between the living and the spirit world is broken, it makes sense why candles are so heavily regarded and used during Halloween. It also helps clarify why there are certain beliefs surrounding them.
Some believe that if a candle goes out on Halloween with no explanation, an evil spirit is near. Others believe if the flame of a candle turns blue, a good spirit is watching over you.
A more ominous belief is that if the flame grows taller, a mysterious stranger will visit you.
Just the act of lighting certain candles on Halloween seems to have some form of spiritual power about them. If you light white candles around your house on Halloween, you will have good fortune for a year. Others say that if you burn an orange candle at midnight on Halloween - and let it burn till dawn - you'll have good fortune for the rest of your days.
Some also say that if you gaze into a candle on Halloween night between 11:00 pm and 1:00 am, you will be able to glimpse into your future.
Of course, there are certain things that you should absolutely NOT do with candles on Halloween.
Any candles you light on Halloween shouldn’t be lit on any other day. Doing so will cause you to face terrible luck.
Some say that if you look in a mirror by candlelight, you’ll be able to see your deceased loved one in the mirror. Though some say not to peer into your mirror by candlelight for fear of what you might see... Or what you might unleash.
In fact, the truly superstitious cover up their mirrors on Halloween. There is a belief that mirrors can act as a portal to the spirit world. Covering up a mirror would prevent something from getting out. Covering them may even prevent the spirits of your loved ones from getting trapped inside.
Perhaps it would be best not to have a mirror in your home at all?
There is an interesting dichotomy between candles and jack-o-lanterns. The Irish used to carve faces into turnips and potatoes, then place them at their windows to ward off evil spirits. When they came to America, they used pumpkins instead.
But, if you were to put a candle in the jack-o-lantern, you were honoring your ancestors. The jack-o-lantern additionally provided them light, guiding them to visit you on Halloween.
In folklore, crossroads are depicted as special points where the spirit world and the world of the living meet. This allows someone to contact the dead, or for a special supernatural event to occur. You can imagine how much easier this would be on Halloween, where the barrier between both worlds is weakened
It’s believed that if you stand in the middle of a crossroad on Halloween, you will hear what is to happen to you in the coming year. There is another belief that if you bring a three-legged stool to a crossroad, you will be told the name of someone close to you, and that person will die within the year.
If you’d rather not lose your loved one, you can counteract the curse by throwing an article of clothing that belongs to them in the air, then shouting their name.
Perhaps the most well-known facet of the crossroad is the connection it has with the devil. They say that if you are standing at a crossroad at midnight, you will come face to face with him. In exchange for your soul, he will grant you a wish.
This legend has been heavily recorded in the German folktale Faust, during which the titular character met with the devil at a crossroad to ask for knowledge and pleasure. This was in exchange for his soul, of course.
Perhaps even more famous is the legend of the famous blues musician Robert Johnson. The story goes that Johnson sold his soul to the devil at a crossroad in exchange for the ability to play the guitar.
It’s hard to say if that bodiless voice telling fortunes at crossroads is the devil or something else. Best not to risk it either way.
Night of the Living and the Dead
There are many superstitions surrounding ghosts and Halloween. This stems from the widely believed superstition that ghosts are able to roam freely across the earth on this one day.
If you happen to hear footsteps behind you on Halloween, don’t turn around. It’s believed that you will die if you do. This might make living in a city during Halloween a bit stressful.
If you happen to see a ghost on Halloween, there’s an old trick to trap it and banish it. You do this by walking around the spirit nine times. After that, it will go away and leave you alone. This may not be a tried and true method, so proceed with caution if you’re attempting.
Of course, there are many superstitions surrounding Halloween and cemeteries. Some say to hold your breath on Halloween when passing a cemetery to prevent yourself from being possessed by an evil entity. There’s also a similar belief that states you should have your pockets turned inside out when passing a cemetery to prevent a ghost from following you.
A more bizarre superstition on Halloween is to never point at a grave. It is considered a rude gesture to the dead, and your finger will rot off if you do. Other variations of this are injuring that finger or getting arthritis in that finger.
Some say that you will be blamed for something you didn’t do. Pointing the finger, as it were.
Despite all the seemingly horrible and downright bizarre superstitions on All Hallow’s Eve, there’s one that seems to be particularly positive. This may even help you if you ever find yourself in the clutches of a spooky superstition.
If you are born on Halloween, then it’s believed that you are blessed and will have good luck and fortune for the rest of your life. It’s also believed that you gain a second sight. You gain the ability to perceive or sense ghosts in some way or form.
So, if you happen to be born on Halloween, then you should have no issue traversing this spooky night of the dead. For the rest of us who weren’t, maybe keep this guide on you. You don’t want to accidentally squish your great-great-great grandmother with a shoe. At that point, she might have a good reason to haunt you. Good thing you know which candles to light and which mirrors to cover.