Halloween is time to dispel myths for pagans

SALISBURY — When she saw the devil costume in a local store, frustration boiled inside her.

Everything classic about the devil was there, said Morning Dove. There were horns and red makeup, but the pentacle — the symbol of her Wiccan religion — was like a slap in the face.

By Kim Mitchell
Daily Times Staff Writer

“How am I supposed to protect my son from that, that pentacles represent evil,” she said of how the symbol was represented on the costume. “It’s a sacred symbol of earth, and Mother Earth is our goddess.”

Beyond complaining, Morning Dove, a practicing Wiccan who asked that her given name remain anonymous, said all she can do to change the perception of Wiccans is to educate people.

“People need to realize that that’s not what Wicca is about. It’s not about the devil,” she said. “We are moral people who are not out to hurt anyone.”

The biggest misconception about Wicca — the largest religion under Paganism — is that its followers worship the devil.

“Most pagans don’t acknowledge Satan as an actual being,” said the Rev. David Andrews of the Church of Eclectic Pagan Fellowship. “Those that recognize him as a deity are from Christianity.”

Instead, Wicca is a modern religion that borrows from contemporary to ancient traditions.

“We look at everything around us and recognize that everything has a soul,” said the Rev. Heidi Andrews, also of the CEPF. “Everything has a spark of the divine.”

The three practicing pagans said not all pagan paths are the same. It is not only impossible to give a number of practicing Wiccans, but also explain their traditions or make assumptions.

“We all have different paths,” David Andrews said.

Most Wiccans are polytheistic, believing in the Lord and Lady, which rule over different parts of their yearly calendar. They have a golden rule, or moral rede, which says, “If it harm none, do as ye will.”

Morning Dove said Wiccans believe the earth is divine and seek spiritual growth and connection with the divine.

“All religions are like that,” she said. “We just go about it in a different way.”

The path Morning Dove follows includes magic. Magic isn’t isolated to practice by special beings, she said. Instead, all people have the ability to engage in witchcraft.

Morning Dove uses spells to improve herself.

“Spell work banishes fear from my life,” she said. Through spells and prayers, Morning Dove conquered her fear of driving.

Witchcraft and Wicca is not mutually exclusive, though.

“Just because you are Wiccan doesn’t mean you’re a witch,” David Andrews said. “Witches engage in spell work. Wicca is the spiritual aspect.”

It may be a time to pretend to be someone else for a night, but for Wiccans, it’s one of the most sacred of days.

In the hours after the sun sets on Halloween, children frolic down neighborhood streets, while Wiccans prepare for the transition into another year.

Samhain, or summer’s end, is the original Halloween that comes from Celtic culture, David Andrews said. After sunset each Oct. 31, villagers would celebrate their harvest with a festival and the end of another year.

“Making it through another year is spiritual in itself,” he said.

The land goes dormant, so villagers prepared their food and slaughtered the weak animals that wouldn’t make it through the winter, Heidi Andrews said.

With hopes of healthy and plentiful livestock, they would throw the bones in the fire. She said this tradition is where bonfires originated.

Bones wouldn’t be the only reason for the bonfire. The fire figuratively burned away any misery or hardship so the people could have a fresh start to the new year, Heidi Andrews said.

Samhain is not only for divining the future but also remembering the ones that passed away during the year.

During the transition of the cycle, tradition says that Samhain represents a point outside of time where any other point in time may be viewed.

It is the time, pagans believe, that the veil between worlds of the living and dead is the thinnest, allowing communication and passage between the two.

“Death is just a part of the cycle,” David Andrews said. “We will meet and be with the departed again.”

For that night, he said, it is a chance for people to be near or speak to the dead again.

The table is set with extra place settings for the dead as well as a candle in the window to guide those who have passed on their way home, he said.

Morning Dove disagrees. Like many Wiccans, she believes in reincarnation.

“They aren’t there for me to talk to,” she said.

She does, however, honor her ancestors, not only those from which she is a descendant, including the Pilgrims, but also those who are her cultural heroes, including Gerald Gardner, the father of Wicca.

“He developed Wicca into a cohesive religion,” she said. “But I’m not related to the guy.”

Samhain also begins a time of reflection until Yule, when the god is reborn and begins the circle of life. Yule — when the dark half of the year relinquishes to the light half– is commonly known as Winter Solstice and falls around Dec. 21.

“We take time to think about our lives and our future,” David Andrews said. “Yule is our rebirth, and we are prepared to be a new person.”

# Reach Kim Mitchell at 410-845-4634 or kmitchell@salisbury.gannett.com.

The Daily Times – www.delmarvanow.com – Salisbury, Md.

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