During the equinoxes, the fabric of space and time becomes thinner and the atmosphere becomes more porous. And, of course, Halloween (also known as All Hallows’ Eve) and All Saints’ Day occur at the time of the time of the fall equinox, when the boundaries between dimensions are more transparent and disembodied spirits can move more freely between the world of gross and subtle forms. We know that many disembodied souls exist in other dimensions only looking for an opportunity to find a body to possess.
It is a great privilege to have a body because it is easier to work out karma when you have one. With only an astral, or etheric, body, it is much more difficult to resolve your karmas. All disembodied spirits know that life in a physical body is precious, something to value, unlike some of us who take our lives for granted, neglecting or not appreciating the body. In some traditions, these disembodied souls are referred to as “hungry ghosts.” They are hungry for a body and want the experience of life, which offers the means to resolve their karmas, so they can be at peace.
On All Hallows’ Eve, these hungry ghosts can be seen in the world of the living, as they are able, on that night, to pierce through the boundaries that normally separate the dimensions. They can make mischief as only hungry spirits looking for bodies to possess can. They want to feel what living beings feel, and they can be demanding about it, saying, “I want this, I need this, give me this.”
In the past, people anticipated the arrival of these ravenous ghosts by preparing food offerings for them. They wanted the food to be so delectable that the ghosts would be completely sated and forget about trying to possess their bodies, so they made sure their offerings were very tasty, that they would be a treat for the spirits. This tradition is still practiced in many parts of the world. In India and Ireland, for instance, people leave food on their doorsteps for spirits at certain times of the year. In India and parts of Indonesia, people also hang scary, demon-faced masks above their front doors to scare away unwanted guests. It is best to choose a mask that is scarier than the demons, so that it scares them away and they leave you alone.
When you know the origin of this particular holiday (holy-day), you can see how it evolved into what it is today. For example, when delectable offerings were left on the doorstep of every home in every village, some people who might have been hungrier than they were afraid ventured out to steal their neighbor’s food. To ensure that they weren’t caught or recognized, they might have thrown a cloak over themselves or masqueraded as a demon or ghost. If someone happened to hear a noise and peered out a window, that person would think he or she had seen a hungry ghost taking the delicious food that had been left for just that purpose.
Nowadays, the tradition on Halloween night has become one of going out dressed in costume rather than staying home and praying to the saints for protection. There are basically two camps of masquerade: the demons and the saints. You see lots of vampires, ghosts and headless corpses, as well as fairies, nuns and winged superheroes. Millions of kids dress up and go door-to-door asking for candy, or treats.
In the old days, no sane individual would have gone outside on that night. People would probably have spent all of Halloween night locked up inside their houses praying to the saints, gods and goddesses, or their ancestors to protect them from possession by hungry spirits. If someone survived the night of being harassed by the hungry ghosts, and in the morning still retained the familiar form of his or her own body, it was because he or she had had the protection and help of holy beings-saints, angels and ancestors. That person would then spend the whole rest of this next day in gratitude, thanking those saints for protection the night before. This is why the day after All Hallows’ Eve is set aside for remembrance of the saints and is called All Saints’ Day.