If you went to Knox’s Halloween Carnival this last Friday, Oct. 31, perhaps your eyes were drawn to a sign in the back corner of the Memorial Gym that read, “Blessed Samhain.” Drawing closer, your ears might pick up the sound of a tambourine, and ducking through crowds, you would find a girl dressed as a gypsy, dancing in front of three booths.
These three booths belonged to the Pagan club, who were celebrating Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”). According to paganwiccan.about.com, Samhain is the pagan holiday marking the start of the Celtic New Year. Later, the Catholic Church named Nov. 1 as All Saints Day, causing the night before to be renamed as All Hallow’s Eve. From there, it eventually became known as Halloween.
Samhain, in its original form, is a time to honor the ancestors, and, according to the Pagan club’s president, junior Ashley Atkinson, it is also an ideal time to practice divination.
“The line between the living and the dead is the thinnest,” Atkinson said.
Club members performed divination at two of the three booths. At one booth, two members of the Pagan club, including Atkinson, were giving Tarot readings. The next booth over featured bowl divination. A bit like the shell game, an object is placed under each of the four bowls, and the bowls are then shuffled. The item in the bowl you choose predicts your future. This game originated in Ireland, according to Atkinson, and the original objects were things such as a piece of grain, which indicated a good harvest. The Pagan Club chose to modernize the objects, with a candle signifying a project in your future, a coin meaning wealth, a horse figurine meaning travel, and a ring meaning that love will be found.
The last booth allowed visitors to color astrological bookmarks, which, according to Atkinson, were drawn by hand by freshman April Herbst. The Pagan club also had a pumpkin carving contest, and intended to have a costume contest at the carnival. However, Atkinson said that due to the popularity of the booths, the club is holding the costume contest at their next meeting instead.
This is not the first year that the club hosted a party. Last year, the Pagan club hosted a smaller party in Post Lobby, with only about 20 people in attendance.
“It was that awkward sort of thing,” said sophomore and secretary of the Pagan club Sundee Perkins.
When the club learned the college itself had decided to host a Halloween Party, the response was, as Ashley Atkinson said, “There’s no way we can compete.”
The club worked with Jimmy Stewart, the Assistant Director of Campus Life, to integrate their own party with the carnival. As a result, the club attracted large numbers of students, kids, and alumni to their booths.
“The kids loved it,” said Perkins.
Atkinson described the tarot card readings as being especially well received, noting that many had responded with, “That’s what I needed to hear.”
Atkinson said the club intends to hold a Halloween/Samhain party again next year. She noted that the party is a good way to introduce non-Pagans to basic information about the religion.
In addition, as Perkins said of this year’s visitors to the booths, “If nothing else, they got a free Tarot reading.”