Thought to have originated with Celtic festival of Samhain, Halloween has evolved over the years and means different things to different people around the world. Now synonymous with myths, traditions and scary superstitions, here at Sudeley we’re preparing for the spookiest week of the calendar. Read on to find out more about the creepy celebrations.
1. What a hoot
Throughout history there have been few other creatures who have been viewed in such a controversial manner as owls. Feared and respected, loathed and admired, and considered both wise and foolish.
In medieval Europe, owls were thought to occupy dark, lonely places with many believing them to be witches. The nocturnal behaviour of an owl made them creatures to be feared – moving around an eerie darkness when people felt most vulnerable. The sound of a hooting owl meant that death was imminent or evil was afoot.
2. It must be love
While there are many superstitions at this time of year, a surprising number of them are linked to love and marriage. In Scottish folk law, girls believed that if they hung wet sheets in front of the fire, or looked into mirrors while walking downstairs at midnight on Halloween – they would see images of their future husbands.
Elsewhere in Britain, apple bobbing was a custom used to help women find their future husbands. Some people would write names on the apples to determine a match, while others would race to see who would emerge with the fruit first – thus determining they would be next to marry.
3. The ghosts of Sudeley
With 1,000 years of history, Sudeley is no stranger to ghostly guests.
Richard III, Henry VIII, Lady Jane Grey, Elizabeth I and Charles I are just some of the kings and queens who feature in the castle’s bloody history, however it is the ‘lady in the green dress’, Katherine Parr, who has been most commonly spotted by vigilant guests.
The Tudor queen and the last of Henry VIII six wives, Katherine died during childbirth here at the castle in 1548, and is buried in the grounds – perhaps she’s set to make a timely appearance this Halloween?
4. Trick or Treat?
As with many well-known Halloween traditions, trick or treating originated in medieval Europe. The Celts believed that as we moved from one year to another, the dead and the living would overlap, meaning that daemons and spirits would once again roam the Earth.
Dressing up was a defence mechanism, in the hope that if you did encounter a member of the after-life, they would think you were one of them. This, combined with ‘souling’- the act of going from door to door to lobby gifts or food in return for prayers for the dead – paved the way for the modern custom of trick or treating we know today.
5. Modern-day witchcraft
While the stereotypical image of a Halloween witch may involve a hooked nose and a broomstick, for many in the Wiccan community Halloween is a time for remembrance and thanks.
The word ‘witch’ comes from the old English word, ‘wicce’, meaning wise woman, and historically were respected women in their respective communities. For modern-day Wiccans, October 31st is midway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, the time when everything stops growing ready to reborn again in the winter.
As such, the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest during this time, so Wiccans use the opportunity to meditate and connect with the souls of loved ones who have recently passed.