I wanted my Halloween party to be a little different from previous ones. I did some research on the internet and learned that Halloween or Samhain, is the Celtic Pagan equivalent of New Year. The festivities last from sundown to sunrise and focus on honouring and remembering the spirits of our ancestors. Traditional Irish folklore says that this is the time when the 'veil' between the living and the dead is at its thinnest, so ghosts, vampires and zombies are more able to enter our world and mingle with the living.
I wrote the invitations in calligraphic handwriting using thick gold ink on jet black writing paper. I bought gold glitter, glue, and Halloween stickers from the local party shop and decorated each invitation individually. After adding the location, date and time I sent out the invitations in black envelopes. I had added that guests should come in Halloween costume and also bring something a dish with a "harvest" theme as well as a small pumpkin to carve.
One of the things I most needed was a fire, which according to folklore was necessary to ward off evil spirits. Since the Pagan festival of Samhain is about rebirth and renewal, the ancient Celts ritually cleansed themselves of negativity by jumping through a fire. I couldn't very well build a bonfire in my backyard, but I could dig a fire pit and create a decent campfire for us to jump over. I carefully removed a patch of grass from the center of the garden and dug a small pit then ringed it with rocks I took from the river bed. I collected some firewood from the foods nearby and put it in the pit. For safety, I filled a five gallon bucket with water and placed it nearby.
I rented a canopy tent to set over the food table. I set up camping tent for the guests to go inside for their individual séances. I had hired a medium for the party who would attempt to contact one deceased relative for each of the guests. The camp tent was lit by Jack-o-lantern and filled with pillows and cushions covered by remnants of velveteen I picked up at the fabric shop.
I covered the food table with an autumn leaf print table cloth. I laid out a variety of Halloween themed food: Blood Soup (made from tomatoes and chilli), chicken and pumpkin stew, Halloween biscuits with iced scary faces, marshmallow ghosts, cheese eyeballs, toffee apples and cider punch amongst other things. From my research I also learned how to make cloved fruit and set out a bowl of apples and pears in which I stuck pieces of clove. In pagan tradition, if you found a clove, you had to pass from your mouth to another person's mouth without using your hands. That person had to pass it on to someone else and so on.
The first activity after the guests arrived was pumpkin carving. A few guests started throwing pumpkin goo and seeds at each other and I snapped a few good action pictures. All the seeds were collected and placed on cookie sheets and baked in the oven. There were tons of seeds and we munched on them all night along with the other delicious Halloween dishes brought by the guests.
I had prepared some booklets so we could all stand around the fire after it was lit and chant some traditional pagan chants for the New Year. The fire jump was the highlight of the party. We formed a circle around the fire and chanted our favorite songs (because none of us knew any pagan chants). Some people had to remove part of their costumes, but everyone took turns running toward the flames. Some bellowed or shouted as they jumped and everybody clapped and cheered when they landed safely on the other side.
Some of the guests entered the séance tent with a snigger, but then came out with looks of amazement at the way the medium channeled the spirits of their deceased relatives. My friend Jimmie said he didn't think he would take the medium seriously, but after just a few minutes he knew he was really talking to his grandmother's spirit because she always called him Shatzi. He said she told him she wasn't upset he hadn't been there when she died and she was also proud he was about to graduate from law school. There was no way I could have coached the medium ahead of time, because I didn't know Jimmie's grandmother called him by a nickname.
People sat around the fire singing and dancing and even passing cloves all through the night. One of my friends brought his guitar and strummed a few folk tunes. It was as if we were transported back to time when life was simpler and people's sense of family also extended to their friends as well as relatives. I think everyone went away with a lot of new memories and stronger friendships as well as a lot of pumpkin seeds. The party was different, just as I had wanted it to be.