In most of our minds, witches and Halloween are linked, and this link extends back practically to the start of human civilization when everyone developed a deep mistrust of anyone who was believed to practice witchcraft and therefore had the power to consort with the devil and could potentially raise the dead and summon demons.
Considering the power witches were supposed to have, and since Halloween is a time when devils, demons, lost souls, and all manner of other creepy things are free to roam the earth, connecting Halloween and witches feels natural.
What you might not know is that during the time when the Celts freely honored Samhain, they had a very specific reason for connecting witches and Halloween. While the living feasted at the dumb supper, carried torches around the perimeter of their property, and lit protective bonfires, the Celtic Goddess, Cerridwen, spent the day mourning the old God’s death. She did this by lighting a fire under her enormous cauldron and inviting all the dead souls to enter it.
Based solely on her actions during Samhain, it’s easy to assume that Cerridwen was not only a witch, but also the one that forged a permanent link between witches and Halloween, but the tales surrounding Cerridwen are quite complex.
While it’s easy to get the impression that Cerridwen was only around on Halloween. She played an important role in the lives of the ancient Celts throughout the entire year. She was a prophetic goddess. And her cauldron? She used it all the time. It was officially called the Cauldron of Knowledge.
Stories surrounding Cerridwen are often complicated to unravel, partly because different regions had different opinions and stories about her, and partly because she’s an aspect of the Triple Goddess. The Triple Goddess represented the three stages of womanhood (Maiden, Mother, Crone.) In stories and traditions that take place during Samhain, Cerridwen was in her crone phase. And while crone is a word that’s commonly associated with witches (even though it merely means in the final years of life) it’s another link between witches and Halloween.
Interestingly enough, contemporary witches (Wiccans) attitude towards Halloween is very different from the average person’s. While they feel it’s a very important date, they don’t believe there’s anything to fear. In their religion, it’s a day of rebirth. This believe stems back to when the Celts were still allowed to observe Samhain and treated the night as their version of New Year’s Eve.
Robinson, B.A. “The myth about the “Celtic god of the dead.” Religious Tolerance. 22 October 2015. <http://www.religioustolerance.org/hallo_sa.htm>.
Wigington, Patti. “Cerridwen: Keeper of the Cauldron”. Thought Co. 26 April 2017. Web. <https://www.thoughtco.com/cerridwen-keeper-of-the-cauldron-2561960>.
Wigington, Patti. “Maiden, Mother and Crone – The Triple Goddess”. Thought Co. 18 June 2017. Web. <https://www.thoughtco.com/maiden-mother-and-crone-2562881>.