Some of you may have heard that, traditionally, people believed that on Halloween night the “veil between the worlds” becomes thin and allows spirits to pass through more easily. That’s where some of the Halloween ghost traditions came from. What exactly is this veil and why does it become thin? Here’s my theory.
The veil refers to the aspect of our mind or consciousness that keeps us in the land of the living, in ordinary reality, and therefore unable to perceive the other side, or the spirit world. The other side is with us all the time, but we usually can’t tell it’s there because the veil prevents us from seeing it. This is probably a good thing. If we went around “seeing dead people” all the time, it would be hard to get anything done.
Why does the veil become thin on Halloween? Because Halloween is a liminal — or between — sort of time. Halloween was called Samhain by the Celts (pronounced sowen, not sam hane). In modern Gaelic, Samhain is the name for the month of November. It’s also the traditional beginning of the winter season. Halloween is really Samhain Eve, or the night before the beginning of November/winter.
Maybe you can see where I’m going with this. Samhain/Halloween is in between summer and winter. All places and times that are in between are magically potent. Because Halloween is neither summer nor winter, but something in between, it is symbolically connected to both. And in magical thinking, that also connects it to both ordinary reality and spirit world reality.
Here are some other in between times and places: midnight, noon, dusk, dawn, thresholds, gates, Midsummer Night, Winter Solstice, and May Eve/Beltane (between winter and summer). These are also traditionally associated with spirits, fairies, and magic. There’s a reason Shakespeare called his play Midsummer Night’s Dream.