days of autumn are a mysterious time, marking the waning year and filled
with a sense of the inevitable. Those who follow astrology know this
is the season of Scorpio, the sign associated with the death and transformation
that leads to change, renewal and regeneration of life. At the center
of this season is Halloween, the modern version of the ancient Celtic
holiday Samhain (pronounced sa-wane).
seem like a coincidence that the scary costumes, candle-lit walks to
old cemeteries and, for the faithful, the vigils inviting the spirits
of ancestors home for All-Hallow's Eve align with the astrological sign
of the mysteries of death. But when you consider, in the words of Donna
Henes in her book Celestially Auspicious Occasions, that
Halloween's symbols—"the ghosts, masks, fires and food—are the
same as they were thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt," it's
clear that Scorpio is part of an unbroken chain of tradition through
temples on the Nile millennia before the birth of Jesus, through the
rise of the Christian movement with its co-opting of local religion,
its crusades and inquisitions; from ancient Aztec cultures to Mexico,
Spain and Portugal of recent centuries, and even through to modern-day
marketing culture, the traditions of Halloween carry a common signature,
an identifying mark. Even skeptics who are paying attention must make
note that there is something inherent and natural about this time of
year for these symbols to arise from the collective consciousness in
so many cultures.
the "death" symbolism of Scorpio aligns with the tradition
of welcoming the spirits of the dead on what the Christians later called
All Soul's Night. The grim reaper appears in the season of the final
harvest. Historically, this was the time of year when final preparations
were being made for the winter that lay ahead by harvesting anything
that was left in the fields. In addition, the ancients assessed their
livestock and decided which animals were to be slaughtered and preserved
for the food that would be eaten during the many cold months to come.
The Celts knew that they could only sustain the smallest of herds in
the coming months.
It is important
to understand that this was a very serious time. In many climates, particularly
Ireland, from where most of our Halloween traditions originate, winters
were cold and harsh, and the mortality rate was very high. Medicines
were made with herbs for the inevitable illnesses to come. Nobody knew
for sure who would make it through the long winter, which was, in the
harsh climates, a time when many lives ended.
It is no
wonder, then, that the opposite Celtic holiday, Beltane, or May Day,
is a celebration of fertility and sex, for it was understood that the
more joyous and passionate was Beltane, the more fruitful the harvest
of the following autumn, and the greater the chances of life being sustained
through the following winter. As modern society continues to conquer
nature, one may say that these obvious facts of life are departing from
our awareness. But the prevalence of Halloween and its images is reassuring.
October 31, Samhain, is a time for communing with the dead, the time
of year when it is believed that the veils between the worlds are the
thinnest. One tradition is called a "Dumb" or "Silent
Supper." Ceremonies are performed in honor of those we love that
have passed, and we set a place at the table for the departed with offerings
of bread and wine so that the dead may feast, eating in silence and
remembering loved ones.
this is consistent with the familiar astrological themes of Scorpio,
which we associate with psychic powers and communicating with the dead.
Indeed, traditionally, this season was also the time of casting divination
on the question of marriage, an attribute connected with Scorpio and
the corresponding Eighth House and theme of sexual consummation. In
the oldest astrology textbook in English, William Lilly suggests that
the Eighth House is the house of "death and dowry."
symbolism of this sign has been related to sex through the act of the
scorpion's sting, which is a pessimistic interpretation. Yet "in
Mesopotamian mythology," says the Astrology Encyclopedia
by James R. Lewis, "scorpion men guarded the gates of the underworld,
which is the original reason Scorpio became associated with death."
The snake sheds its skin; all things must change; the cycle of birth
and death continues throughout the life of the Earth in an unbroken
chain of life and tradition of which Halloween, Samhain or All Hallow's
Eve is a defining moment worldwide.
the Wiccan mystic Starhawk, "We are not separate from each other,
from the broader world around us. We are one with the Goddess, with
the God. As the cone of power rises, as the season changes, we arouse
the power within, the power to heal, the power to change our society,
the power to renew the Earth."
Research: Jenny Singer and Carol Burkhart