Starhawk, a practioner of Wicca, explains the day's significance:
For Witches, for those who practice the renewal of the ancient, pre-Christian Goddess religions of Europe and the Middle East, Halloween is our most sacred holiday, our New Year. In Celtic Ireland, Wales and Scotland, Samhain, pronounced ‘sau-in’, was the time when the sheep and cattle were brought down from the summer fields, when the harvest was gathered in and the dark time of year began. The fruits of the harvest, the blessing of the year’s abundance, was shared with the ancestors in the form of offerings which have come down to us in modern times as the candy we give to children-who are the ancestors returning. Harvest is a time of ending, but also a time of beginning, for the Goddess stands for the great regenerative powers of nature. Out of darkness, light will be born anew. Out of the time of cold and dormancy, new life will return. Death is part of a cycle that brings about rebirth.
(Photo: Names of donors are carved into bricks at the Witch School October 25, 2006 in Hoopeston, Illinois. Wicca is a neo-Pagan religion which uses magic and nature in its teachings. The school, which opened in 2003, offers courses in Wicca theology, hosts seminars and Wiccan rituals at the campus. By Scott Olson/Getty Images.)