If you go
What: Denver Witches' Ball
When: Saturday, Nov. 2, 6 p.m.-midnight
Where: Highlands Masonic Center, 3550 Federal Blvd., Denver
Cost: $25 advance, $30 day-of
More info: Samhain ritual at the end of the night.
What: The Sacred Side of Hallowe'en
When: Sunday, Nov. 3, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Where: The Solstice Center, 302 Pearl St., Boulder
Cost: Donations requested
For some Front Range residents, celebrating Halloween is a little too new. They prefer the ancient precursor of Halloween known as Samhain (pronounced as "SAH-win" in Gaelic).
"The word itself means 'end of summer,'" said Edie Stone, a psychotherapist and a certified Shamanic journey guide, who teaches Celtic spirituality, relationship skills and dream workshops in Boulder. (She has also held Peruvian Shamanism workshops in Britain and Wales.)
Some of the earliest mentions of Samhain are in 10th-century Irish literature. It was originally a three-day holiday starting in the evening of Oct. 31. In the British Isles, it was called All Hallow's Eve. For the Celts, this is when the days get darker, when the harvest season ends and winter starts.
It is also a potent time to connect with spirits, according to Stone.
"It is the time to thank your ancestors for the harvest," Stone said. "The veil between the worlds are thin at this time, so it's easier to connect with them."
When the Roman Catholic Church came into the British Isles, Stone said, they tried to stomp out the Pagan traditions. To get people to adapt, the Church moved All Saint's Day (also called the All Hallows' Day) to Nov. 1 and established All Souls' Day on Nov. 2.
Now, it is a time to set new intentions and to let go of anything holding back personal growth. Neo-Pagans still celebrate the spiritual rituals associated with the holiday.
Stone, for example, will host "Samhain, the Sacred Side of Halloween" this Sunday at Boulder's Solstice Center. The event will include storytelling, music and sharing of apples and hazelnuts, traditional crops eaten during this time of year.
Coming from a background of Welsh, Scottish and English ancestry, Stone said she follows the Pagan traditions while still honoring Christian traditions. She had studied Native American spirituality closely, connecting with the sense of honoring the earth, but came across her first Celtic ceremony at Naropa in 1994, she said.
"I was very connected to Native American mythology," she said, "and I heard that coming from my own lineage, my own heritage. I realized that I can still honor the earth this way."
Paganism is an umbrella term that describes several traditions that follow more ancient rituals and traditions of the Celtic people, which includes Druids and Wiccans. Kat Lindgren, of Lafayette, is a high priestess in Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca. She formed the Temple of the Moon, a community based on teaching indigenous and mystery traditions, and she will be reading in a Samhain ritual at the end of the Denver Witches' Ball on Saturday.
Lindgren grew up in a family with magical traditions. She said Samhain is an intensely powerful holiday since the veil between worlds is so thin. In her traditions, an table is normally set aside the table where guests are feasting — for the dead to visit.
"You might even see them sitting across from you," she said.
Meanwhile, some of the traditions associated with Halloween are really from Samhain, say Chris Redmond and Kelley Forbes, founders of Cró Dreoilín (the "Wren's Nook" in Gaelic), a Pagan community in Denver.
According to Redmond, carving pumpkins follows an old tradition of carving turnips.
"Pumpkins are a New World vegetable," said Redmond. "It comes from a genuine Old World tradition for Samhain." Pumpkins are North American produce; they became the vegetable of choice for carving when European settlers came in.
In the British Isles, there was an old tradition of wearing masks for Samhain. Since the veil between Earth and the spirit world are thin, wearing masks was a way to protect oneself from harmful spirits, according to Redmond.
"There are a lot of interpretations of why people wear masks," said Redmond. "The costume tradition of witches is a modern invention."
Contact Mirav Levy at firstname.lastname@example.org.