This Halloween, thousands of women worldwide will unite on Zoom to celebrate the ancient festival of Samhain – honouring the dead and the fatally persecuted as witches during the European Witch Hunts of 1450-1750
Thousands of women worldwide will gather on Zoom this Halloween on Sunday, 31 October (7.30-9.30pm), to honour their ancestors in the tradition of the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain – and, in particular, the thousands of innocent women hanged and burned at the stake as ‘witches’ during the so-called Burning Times (1450 to 1750).
Cali White, a psychotherapist and ancestral healing practitioner, has been studying the Witch Hunts through the lens of intergenerational trauma, and will be leading the Global Samhain Ceremony.
For the past three years she has been working to educate people on how the violence and oppression of those times continues to affect us collectively today and how we can work together to clear these wounds of the past.
“The Harry Potter generation is now a generation of thirty-somethings, a generation which grew up with a positive image of witches and magic, debunking the archetypal evil old hag,” says Cali.
“While they may have a lot to do with the current witches revival, women of all ages are involved and often for different reasons – be it an interest in magic, a return to the old earth-based spiritual ways, a pathway to empowerment, a way to rebel against patriarchal oppression, or an interest in ancestral connection and the history and stories of the innocent women persecuted as witches.
“The women accused as ‘witches’ during the Burning Times were far from evil and often the healers, midwives, and elders within a local community.
“Persecuted for their natural healing abilities, herb lore, sisterhood connections, midwifery skills, earth-based spirituality, land ownership, post-menopausal wisdom, and community leadership – torture and murder became the price they paid.
“Our Samhain ceremony will be a worldwide honouring of those accused, tortured and murdered as witches, and a chance to help heal the wounds in the psyche of humanity passed down over 20 generations.”
Instigated by the Inquisitions of Catholic Church, the European Witch Hunts led to a mass hysteria which swept up through Europe and into the UK.
Fear of the devil grew into a national paranoia, with the witches cast as his handmaidens.
Three hundred years of oppression, silencing, betrayals, mistrust and gas-lighting, led to fear being driven into the hearts of women (and men), activating trauma and survival behavioural patterns we still carry and play out today.
Inspired by the recent work of scientists in the field of epigenetics proving that trauma is passed down our intergenerational lineages through our genes, Cali White – together with a group of women collaborating as the Silver Spoon Collective – is orchestrating a month-long exhibition at the Storey Institute in Lancaster in January 2022, titled ‘I am Witch – Tales from the Roundhouse’.
Through their personal stories, the exhibition curators will explore how inherited trauma from the Burning Times continues to affect us today, and how we can heal it through creativity and sisterhood.
Cali White will lead the Samhain ceremony with other members of The Silver Spoons Collective live from Hebden Bridge, home to one of the central creative projects to be shown as part of their January exhibition, the ‘Medicine Spoon Memorial’.
Created by artist Caren Thompson, the memorial individually honours the 4,000 women whose names lay forgotten in trial records and has involved participation from over 1000 women worldwide.
Cali believes the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain – from which Halloween derives – is also undergoing a revival, as in our shifting times, people feel the call to reconnect with our ancestors.
“People all over the world are now gathering again around the ancestral fires at this time,” she says.
“Women’s circles, like the covens of old, come together around a sacred altar to share their gratitude, hopes and fears, to light candles of remembrance and give thanks for their own lives, and in so doing bringing meaning back to what has otherwise become a commercial celebration of sweets and candy.
“With thousands of women across the globe joining together this Halloween to embrace their ‘inner witch’ as a positive identification, maybe it’s time to look beneath the black pointy hats and peer into the historical cauldron with a sense of curiosity rather than fear.
“We never know what magic awaits!”