For Jessica Enamorado, Halloween has always been a time to dress up in costumes, go out with friends and visit haunted houses.
But this year, she decided to try something new.
The 22-year-old Hollywood resident participated in an ancient pagan ritual called Samhain. Stemming from pagan religions, Samhain is celebrated from the eve of Oct. 31 to the morning of Nov. 1. Part of the Samhain holiday falls on the date of modern-day Halloween, Oct. 31.
But before there was the modern-day Halloween complete with costumes of superheroes, politicians and pop stars; trick or treating; and haunted houses, there was the ancient tradition of Samhain.
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“Today, it has becomes really commercialized,” said James Jones, a Wicca-practitioner who also participated in the Samhain ritual. “It has become a thing for people and children to dress up in costumes. Halloween, I would say, is more secular and for most people it represents a holiday of having fun and dressing up. It doesn’t have a spiritual connection to them. For us, Wiccans, we honor our ancestors.
“I’ve dabbled in pagan and Wicca work before, and I thought it was the right time to do” the Samhain ritual, said Enamorado. “During the ritual, I felt more connected to a spirit.”
Indeed, the Samhain ritual is a way to connect to a spirit and honor family and friends who have passed away, said Sandra Cheryl Richardson, a psychic consultant who co-led the ritual.
At the ceremony, held behind the Coconut Grove Celestial Treasures store that caters to people who identify themselves as pagan-beliefs practitioners, about 20 people stood in a circle, or what Richardson said was a “sacred space.”
The Samhain is “a time when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is at its thinnest,” said Kyle Leite, who also co-led the ritual. “At this time we honor those who have passed on through the veil between the worlds.”
For Wicca-practitioner Jones, 57, participating in the recent Samhain ritual was a way for him to commemorate the holiday and feel closer to members of his family who have died – his grandparents on his mother’s side, his grandmother on his father’s side and his mother.
“Those were the images that were coming through my mind during the ritual,” said southwest Miami-Dade resident Jones, who has been a Wicca-practitioner for the past 23 years. “Our memory of them – our ancestors – and their essence, lives on through that.”
Because it is so deeply rooted in ancient paganism, the Samhain ritual is also a New Year celebration, marking the last harvest of the year and the beginning of the winter.
“In pagan interpretation, the Earth is dying, the green is gone. All they have is sticks,” said Joe Richardson, a psychic consultant who also works at Celestial Treasures.
In a true New Year’s celebration spirit, ritual participants picked out fortune messages and looked forward to the upcoming year.
“I see this as my new year because I see it as a transition from the warm weather to cooler weather,” said Jones, the Wicca-practitioner. It is a way to mark the wheel of the year. It keeps me in closer connection to the cycles of the Earth. We live in a city and sometimes we are not in touch with the natural cycles of the Earth.”
Jones said the word pagan is a general term for people who identify themselves as Wiccan or identify themselves as practitioners of other forms of nature-based religions.
During the ritual, held Oct. 26, an altar was placed in the middle of the circle of people. On it were placed representations of the four elements of nature, which are water, air, earth and fire.
In attendance: Lifelong Wicca-practitioners like Jones as well as people who were just curious.
“I am always looking for peace and good vibes,” said 23-year-old Cecilia Gonzalez. “I was just thinking about my grandfather, who died, the whole day and then I ended up here. I don’t known how. I felt tickles in my whole body during the ritual.”
Wiccan or no, most Samhain participants said that they also enjoy the more commercialized part of Halloween.
“I do the commercial thing, too,” said Enamorado. “I go out, have a couple of drinks, go to haunted houses – those are fun.”
Added Jones, the long-time Wicca-practitioner: “I also enjoy the regular Halloween activities, like trick or treating. When the children come to my door for candy, I like to tell them, ‘This is a real witch giving you the candy. The look at me with their big eyes.’ ”