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Every year people ask me what witches do on Halloween. It’s a natural curiosity born of the fact that witch decorations are plentiful and witches tend to gather on or around Oct. 31 to commune for some “secret” purpose. Although Wiccans enjoy the fun of Halloween, Halloween has nothing to do with the Wiccan feast of Samhain (pronounced SOW-in). Halloween is a secular holiday with links to folk practices. Samhain is a part of the Wiccan Wheel of the Year.
The Wiccan Wheel of the Year is divided into four major parts that correspond to the four natural seasons. Feasts that mark the beginning of each season are known as the Major Sabbats, of which Samhain is one.
Literally,Samhain means “summer’s end.” The Celts marked two seasons, winter and summer. Samhain coincides with the return of the livestock from the grazing fields. Weaker cattle were slaughtered and preserved as food for the long winter. In some areas, Samhain feasting went on for about one week and was accompanied by games and entertainment. Long before Samhain was associated with the dead, it was a pre-winter harvest festival to end all festivals until summer returned.
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