The calendar flips to October, the leaves begin to change their color and suddenly the decorations for Halloween begin to go up. Even if someone had no idea what Halloween was, they would know it was coming up and be able to gauge from the Halloween symbols that it is a spooky holiday. Certain things have come to represent Halloween either because of tradition and legend or just due to their connection to the macabre.
Individual Halloween Symbols
Some popular Halloween symbols include witches, ghosts, spiders, bats, vampires, skeletons, graves, jack-o’-lanterns, black cats and monsters. With a holiday that dates back to the Celts and the Druids, it is bound to have picked up some stories and traditions along the way. Though many things that have become symbolic to the holiday because of rituals related to the day, some just tie in to the spooky element.
Jack-’o’-Lanterns – This has become one of many popular Halloween symbols as well as rituals and traditions. The jack-o’-lantern has become a great representation of Halloween since families often come together to choose their pumpkins as well as prepare them for the final look. Yet few know the supposed Irish folklore origin of this carved pumpkin.
It basically has to do with a stingy man named Jack who tricked the Devil not once but twice in order to prevent the Devil from taking his soul. After Jack’s death Heaven refused him and Hell couldn’t take him because of the agreement. The Devil sent Jack on his way back to where he came from with only an ever-burning ember from the flames of hell to light his way. Needing something to carry this hot coal in, Jack found a turnip and carved himself a lantern. Irish immigrants quickly discovered pumpkins and thought that would make a much better candle holder to carry on their tradition than a turnip.
Witches – These familiar Halloween symbols pop up everywhere for the season, from decorations to greeting cards to Halloween costume parties, and for good reason. Witches have been around for eons and were often thought to have mystical powers, partly because of their connection to Satan or the spirit world. Their most notorious gatherings were thought to happen during the two major season changes on April 30 and, of course, October 31.
Spells would be cast, witches brews boiled, and these creatures would often change their shape during the witchcraft meetings. They flew on broomsticks, gathered around cauldrons, made potions involving toads and kept black cats as pets, leading to all of these items or images to become Halloween symbols as well.
Bats – While actually not vicious, evil or terrifying at all, bats have become a familiar symbol tied to Halloween. Much of this is to blame on vampire bats, who do suck blood, but just enough for survival without usually killing another animal, such as a cow. Since most vampire tales claim that these mythological creatures transform into bats for flight and to enter places with greater ease, bats have become a symbol of evil and all things ghoulish.
Bats have also been linked to witches, either flying about from their caves while witches perform their ritualistic ceremonies or for actually becoming part of a witch’s brew. Bat wings, blood and other parts have been famous for being part of the recipes for witch’s spells or options to give themselves the ability to fly, along with other not-so-nice things.
Spiders – These arachnids have become part of Halloween imagery because of their connections to witches as well as abandoned haunted houses. Witches were thought to invite spiders into their homes as pets, companions or for use in potions. They are often affiliated with the extra creepiness one might find in the overhead corners of dilapidated houses of haunts or horrors. Not to mention, the stories tied to writing spiders. It is thought that if a writing spider spins your name in its web, you are destined for death in the near future.
Death and the Celts – It would be impossible to list each one of the many Halloween symbols, as well as their meaning. Consider that many things that can be a representation of the old Celtic festivity known as Samhain, the original Halloween, or death conjures up holiday themes. Halloween costumes, for example, have been used since the first Samhains though the original disguises were animal skins.
The connection to death also brings to mind plenty of images, especially skeletons and ghosts. Anything that could be considered spooky and relate to death, including graves and cemeteries, are bound to be perfect subject matter for creating Halloween symbols.