Witches, Ravens, Ghosts and Ghouls…
Halloween: Its Roots, Evolution and Symbolic Meaning in Sandplay
Presented by: Joan C. Concannon, LMFT, JA, CST
“As a rule I am all for walking in two worlds at once since we are gifted with two legs…”
CG Jung, Letters, Vol 2. Page 459
Halloween conjures up images of witches, skeletons, candy and fun. It is a time to don the costume of an alter ego and play a frightening or forbidden role. Yet most people are unaware of the deeper pagan roots of Halloween.
Originating from an ancient Celtic festival named Samhain, meaning summer’s end, this three-day celebration marks the beginning of winter and New Years. Samhain is a liminal time when the doors of the Otherworld open, allowing the ancestors to commune with the living, as well as the fairies to crossover and create mischief. Food offerings, bonfires, divination and other rituals were part of the festivities. Eventually, the Catholic All Saint’s Day and All Souls’ Day became incorporated into the holiday. In general sacred rituals evolve over time, becoming formed by the movement of the objective psyche. We will consider the collective shift away from the naturalistic religious attitude and the effect that has had on the modern psyche.
Some of the images associated with Halloween include the witch, crow/raven, skeletons, and ghosts, and death. As with all symbols, these images carry a variety of meanings, yet often express a dark aspect of the shadow and/or the alchemical nigredo. We will explore the psychological meaning of these symbols, as experienced in dreams and sandplay processes of several female patients.
Historically masks have been worn to ward off possession by evil spirits. Robert Johnson has suggested that ritualistic engagement with the shadow has the apotropaic effect of containing the energy. He writes, “we can aspire to beauty and goodness—and pay out that darkness in a symbolic way.” In an effort to honor Halloween and the shadow, this day will include an experiential process of mask making and shadow play.
1. Describe the historical roots of Halloween and its evolution.
2. Discuss the development away from the naturalistic religious attitude and the impact that has had on the modern psyche.
3. Consider the symbolic meaning of various Halloween images and how they express the shadow or alchemical nigredo.
4. Explore the psychological meaning of these symbols, as experienced in dreams and sandplay processes of several female patients.
5. Discuss the value of ritualistic engagement of the shadow.
6. Engage in an experiential process of masking making and shadow play.
Joan C. Concannon is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist, Certified Jungian Analyst (IAAP), a Certified Sandplay Therapist (STA/ISST), and a member of the Sandplay Community of the Greater Los Angeles Area (SPCLA). Her recent article, Symbolism of the Crow and Raven in Mythology, Alchemy and Sandplay was published in the Journal of Sandplay Therapy. She has presented seminars for the Sandplay Therapists of America, C.G. Jung Study Center of Southern California and the C.G. Jung Institute in Los Angeles. As a teaching a member of the C.G. Jung Study Center of Southern California, she has taught Dream Interpretation and Jungian Theory & Practice. The interweaving of sandplay and dream interpretation is a major focus in her analytic practice. Joan has a private practice in Calabasas, California, where she works with adults and children and conducts clinical dream groups and seminars.
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