Halloween is an annual festival celebrated on the 31st October. For many people, it is a time for carving pumpkins, apple bobbing, trick or treating and telling scary ghost stories late into the night. How fast can one carve a pumpkin?

Paganism encompasses a diverse community with some groups concentrating on specific traditions, practices or elements such as ecology, witchcraft, Celtic traditions or certain gods. Wiccans, Druids, Shamans, Sacred Ecologists, Odinists and Heathens all make up parts of the Pagan community.

Halloween (or Hallowe’en) has its origins in the ancient Pagan festival of Samhain (pronounced sow wan), which means Summer‘s End.

As the Summer season of growth and fertility comes to an end, the festival has evolved over time to become more focussed on a lack of life and the afterworld. The night of October 31st is the time when the barriers between the living world and the afterworld are brought down, allowing passage and communication between inhabitants of both worlds.

On the eastern side of the Atlantic, glowing jack-o-lanterns, carved from turnips or gourds, were set on porches and in windows to welcome deceased loved ones, but also to act as protection against malevolent spirits. Burning lumps of coal were used inside as a source of light, later to be replaced by candles. Pumpkins were brought back from America by European settlers and also used in a similar fashion.

The Pagan festival of Halloween celebrates the transition from the long light days of Summer to the cold dark nights of winter. This is also reflected in the Hindu, Sikh and Jain celebrations of Dashera and Diwali.

All three festivals place focus on light and darkness, on good and evil. Even when people are separated by thousands of miles and by different cultures, human nature is identical in every individual. The same themes are universally celebrated – no matter how much people try to be different.

As for ghosts and ghouls? Are they real?

Well, once upon a time, around 20 years ago – two young sisters were sleeping in their beds in the room they shared together. One of the sisters woke up to see a female figure standing at the bottom of her bed. The figure was dressed in a white Victorian dress – tucked in at the waist with a wide band, with lace covering her chest. A wide brimmed hat framed her gentle face.

The young sister – who was still only a child was terrified and buried herself in the blankets of the bed, putting the pillows over her head. After a fitful nights sleep, the sister dressed and went into the dining room to join some of her family for breakfast. She told her family of the figure, describing the Victorian woman in great detail.

Some 15 minutes later the second sister woke up and joined the family for breakfast. To a stunned silence the second sister described seeing exactly the same figure during the night. The two sisters had not had a chance to discuss and confer to make the story up together.

As for ghosts and ghouls? Are they real?