In a small room at the Loyola campus, a group of like-minded people are planning a New Years party.
The only unusual aspect of this otherwise mundane exercise is that the party is scheduled to take place on Nov 2. A bit early?
Not if you’re a Neo-Pagan.
The Concordia University Pagan Society (CUPS), established in 1994, hosts a few holiday parties every year.
Samhain (pronounced Sow-en by Neo-Pagans), an ancient Celtic tradition celebrated on or around Oct. 31, is the largest and one of the most important festivals for Neo-Pagans, said Vice President Trish Murray.
The holiday has naturally been associated with the North American tradition of Halloween and there are some similarities between the two, explained Treasurer Laurie Mair.
Neo-Paganism, which derives its beliefs from pre-Christian religions, celebrates New Years around the end of fall because it is the time of year when everything dies.
Mair said, “There may be no more grain today, but we can plant again next year.”
According to the group the emphasis is not placed on dying, but rather on the fact that death isn’t the end, only a new beginning.
One Halloween tradition, which is directly taken from Paganism is trick-or-treating.
Mair said that according to ancient Celtic tradition, children went from house to house with little carved turnips around the end of October.
“They would dress in costume to disguise themselves from bad spirits,” she said.
“They were given little gifts at each house.”
The other link is that Samhain is the day when Pagans believe it is easiest to communicate with the dead.
“It is the day when the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest,” explained Murray.
Séances, divinations and tarot readings are often held at this time of year, and Samhain ceremonies often have to do with people crossing over to the other-side.
When it comes to costumes, there has been no clear association between the two traditions.
However, Terri Jo Frew, the community liaison, noted that creativity is highly valued and encouraged in Neo-Paganism.
“Festivals often have themes and people are encouraged to make costumes, just for the sake of making something,” she said.
The group agreed that the culmination of these practices has led to some negative misconceptions about Paganism.
President of the society, Jasmine Boyle-Ehsani, said, “People think Halloween is the day to worship Satan.”
David Lavigne, the group secretary added that people generally think Neo-Pagans are deviants.
The society emphasized that there are similar traditions found all over the world at this time of year, such as the Day of the Dead in Mexico and All Saints Day.
CUPS will be holding Samhain on Nov 2 at the Multifaith Chaplaincy on McKay. Festivities, including a reenactment of “The Decent of Inanna,” and a feast will begin at 6:30 p.m.