Exploring the Meaning of Halloween Symbols
Halloween Symbols and Their Meanings
This page is devoted to the meaning of Halloween symbols, but it should be understood these symbols come from a myriad of origins and traditions.
Indeed, every culture designates a special time of year to honor the other side of the Veil, a place where subtle energies do not reveal themselves by common or physical means.
Halloween is just one of infinite designations in the human calendar that brackets time away from the ordinary day to herald the underbelly of the mundane, honor the dead, and commemorate the passing of one phase of life to another.
Other such designations include…
Other Calendar Designations for Halloween
- All Saint’s Day
- Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
These are just a few moments in time celebrated around October 31. Still other cultures recognized the “darker” or unseen side of life at other times of the year.
No matter what we call it, or what time of year we recognize it; there is an undeniable point in time in which we are able to dip our psychic senses into the realm of the unknown, the unseen, and uncommon.
The following symbols are most common in current Western Halloween traditions, but they’ve traveled over two millennia in time to us via the ancient Celtic culture.
During that time and within the vessel of human understanding when nothing was banal, but rather everything held energetic (often sacred) symbolism we inherited much of our Western festival icons.
Although somewhat convoluted (as time tends to morph meanings) over time, the core meaning of Halloween symbols can sing out in beautiful clarity if we have the psychic ears to hear.
And so, this page attempts to play that song of symbolic resonance. I invite you to add your own rhythm, harmony and personality to this song as you continue to do your own personal research on the infinitely fascinating world behind the meaning of Halloween symbols.
Common Halloween Symbols and their Meanings
A common practice among our ancestors at the time of summer’s end (Samhain, Oct. 31) was to build tremendously brilliant bonfires. These fires would blaze the night for many reasons: Warding off maladjusted energies, soften the chill in the air, prepare harvest feasts, mark the occasion with a powerful solar symbol, etc.
Anyone who has lit their own campfire knows the light magnetizes all manner of insects. In turn, their natural predators will also come to the flame looking for an easy insect meal. And so, bats were a common sight at Halloween-time festivities. By association, bats are viewed to be connected with this holiday’s theme of magic and a time of passing from one phase of life to another (both in the timeline of human life and seasonal cycles). You may be interested in reading my page on the symbolic meaning of bats from a totemic perspective here.
Halloween Black Cats:
Mysterious, precocious, sleuthy, and seemingly able to stalk the darkest nights without aid of light – the cat has long been considered to be closely linked with otherworldly concepts. Indeed, many practitioners of energetic communication welcomed the company of felines as it was understood these creatures could serve as a facilitator to opening otherworldy doors.
Black is a common color of mystery and the unknown. Black is also considered to be an absorbing element – taking on off-kilter energies and transforming them into purer frequencies. When we view the meaning of Halloween symbols based on the understanding it is a time of transitions – the black cat becomes a suitable totem for the celebration. The black cat augers our connection with the intangible, and serves as a bridge from the mundane to the magical. You may also be interested in my page on the meaning of the domestic cat as an animal totem here.
Halloween Symbol of the Jack-O-Lanterns:
Originally, they were turnips hollowed out and equipped with candles to light the way of “guisers” and beggars roaming about on All Hallow’s Eve for a bite to eat or rousting neighbors door-to-door for a donation to their cause.
With their mass migration to the United States after the potato famine, the clever Irish replaced their illuminated turnips for more accommodating pumpkins. Carved in various grotesques and ghoulish faces; maladjusted spirits are kept at bay or frightened away entirely by the sight of these luminous lamps. Various legends speak of the name Jack. Most popularly is the persona of Jack as a weather sprite (Jack-in-the-Green, or Jack Frost). Undeniably, this Halloween symbol welcomes the oncoming winter season while simultaneously lighting the night.
Continuing in the knowledge that Halloween is a time to honor the memories of those who no longer share the physical stage of life with us, the skeleton is a symbolic (and physical) reminder of the remnants of life. Skulls in particular were considered by many ancient cultures (including the Druids of the Celts) to be the psychic seat of the human whole.
As such, skulls are powerful symbols invoking a heightened awareness of our psychic potential. Incorporated during this powerful time of year doubles their profound symbolic purposes. The skeleton is almost always featured on the Major Arcana Death card; peering into its meaning may offer more enlightenment on these intriguing concepts here. I’ve also written a bit on the skull as a good luck symbol here. You may also be interested in the symbolic meaning of skulls according to the Celtic symbolic skull meanings here. With more research, our understanding of this Halloween symbol takes on a whole new meaning.
Following the same fashion as Halloween bats (see first entry), owls were commonly seen around Samhain bonfires lit in honor of the night of transitions. Furthermore, owls have long been symbols of wisdom of an esoteric (hidden) nature. This time of year held much mystery for our ancestors.
With questions such as: “Will we survive the coming winter?”, “Are the spirits of our transitioned clansmen and women at peace?” it took wise auguries to identify subtle communications to answer these questions. Due to their status as wise creatures, and their long-standing association to the spirit side of life, (and their common appears at bonfires) it made sense to hold owls sacred to this time of year. It took the keen perception of a good witch to understand the language of the owls to answer clan questions. Thus, considering the time of year, this is one reason these two are commonly seen together as a Halloween symbol. You may be interested in my symbolic meaning of the owl totem page here.
Much like the bat, cat, and the owl – spiders (as Halloween symbols and otherwise) are creatures considered to be endowed with supernatural qualities which make them harbingers of mystic energy. Witches often invite the spider into their homes and practices as a method of enhancing understanding of energetic patterns.
Why are they so mystical? Predominantly because of their ability to weave webs, which has long been symbolic of time, fate, progress and the representation of the human journey (on both physical and philosophical levels). Also, the spider boasts eight legs, and the number eight is symbolic of cycles which would make the spider’s presence during this time of year (symbolic of the transition between summer to winter) quite fitting. For more on number eight click here. You may also be interested in the symbolic meaning of the spider as a totem creature here.
Witches and Halloween are perfect pairs as Oct. 31 is a time most advantageous to tap into supernatural perspectives. This time of year is situated in the crevasse of transition in both constellational, and seasonal aspects. It’s a time when the Veil between mundane and magical are quite thin and energies tend to take on more revealing forms.
As witches are devoted to utilizing, interpreting, magnifying, and manipulating unseen energies – their presence upon the cultural stage of this time of year is only common sense. Witches are gifted at energetic interpretations; and in ancient times their talents, perspectives and expertise would be called upon during this time of year for help in understanding messages from the non-physical side of life as well as forecasts for seasons ahead (long before the Farmer’s Almanac, there were soothsayers :-). And so, witches as a Halloween symbol are understandably vital to the occasion.
I hope you have enjoyed these common meaning of Halloween symbols. Bear in mind, these are just a few, incredibly brief explanations pertaining to a vast subject.
Hopefully, this page will inspire you to carry on more research into the rich lineage of Halloween, and add your own special understanding to this magical time of year.
As always thanks for reading.
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