The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween: Celebrating the Dark Half of the Year

The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween:  
Celebrating the Dark Half of the Year  
by Jean Markale
Inner Traditions


Halloween is one of America’s most popular holidays, yet many Americans remain woefully ignorant about its true origin and meaning. The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween provides a nice starting point for Halloween novices seeking a well-researched and scholarly introduction to “The Celtic Festival of Samhain” and an unraveling of the mystery and meaning of that most Christian of all holidays — All Saint’s Day, which quite literally means “eve of all the saints.”

Throughout the book, Markale attempts to answer the question: Is Halloween a profane or a religious festival? Although the reading gets a tad bit dry at times, Markale is extremely thorough in his exploration of both the Christian and Pagan views of Halloween.

One of the book’s most interesting chapters is “The Shadows of Halloween” in which Markale explores the origins of beliefs, rituals and spells associated with Halloween, including Halloween’s most recognizable symbol — the jack-o’ lantern.

Markale also explores the evolution of Halloween throughout the ages and the diffusion of its essence as it traveled from culture to culture and from one land to another. Markale takes his readers a good distance in that respect, except that he leaves off just when it gets interesting. What about the evolution of Halloween in America during the last fifty years or its current state?

All in all, this book provides some useful and well-researched information. Because it’s likely that The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween will whet one’s appetite for more of the same, Markale’s bibliography will come in handy as a tool for further exploration.


RATING: 4 Broomsticks

» Originally appeared in newWitch #01

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