How Wiccans and Witches Mark Halloween With Reflections on Death as Well as Magic

This Halloween, there are likely to be fewer pint-sized witches going door to door in search of candy. Concerns over the coronavirus have meant that in many places, trick-or-treating is off the menu. Even in Salem, Massachusetts, the place associated with the infamous witch trials of 1692 and the epicenter of Halloween gatherings, festivities are expected to be subdued.

But for members of the minority religion of Wicca and witchcraft, part of contemporary paganism, Halloween has never been primarily a children’s holiday. As a sociologist doing research on contemporary pagans for over 30 years, I have observed how it is marked as a sacred day known as Samhain in which death is celebrated.

This Halloween they might have something to teach us – both about the acceptance of death and staying safe.

Although a minority religion, contemporary paganism is growing in popularity. There are anywhere from 1 million to 2 million people practicing paganism in the United States. This number is more than the number of Presbyterians, a traditional Protestant sect.

Psychic energy and magic

For Wiccans and witches, magic is real. They believe that magic happens when “psychic energy” is raised through dance, song or meditation, and is then directed through thought into a particular outcome. This takes place most often in rituals. At one ritual that I attended, for example, energy was raised to save endangered species.

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