top of page
Blurred Trees Event Banner.png

The Urban American Indian Collective- FIND YOUR TRIBE!

The Indigenous American Origins Of Halloween



Halloween is a very old tradition, about 2,000 years old, born as Samhain among the Celts, who believed that the dead returned on November 1, and so would light bonfires, hide behind costumes, and make sacrifices to deities for protection. Druid priests would commune with the dead to divine the future.The Roman Catholic Church, unable to shut down the observance, expanded the feast of All Martyrs Day to All Saints Day and moved it from May 13 to November 1. Begun as a religious observance, with Christian religion co-opting pagan religion, Halloween is now the second most commercial holiday in terms of money spent, behind only Christmas, another holiday syncretized by the Roman Catholic Church with pagan rituals and gone more commercial than sacred in modern times.

The Day of the Dead is half again older than Halloween and a tradition #indigenous to the Americas. The observance of the return of the dead once occupied the entire month of August, but the Roman Catholic Church was able to squeeze it into November 2 and 3, to coincide with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, the latter being the closest in concept to El Dia de los Muertos(The Day Of The Dead), because on that day the devout are tasked to pray for the souls of the dead.The indigenous observance remains around a home altar, the offrenda, where the spirits of dead children,angelitos, visit with their families for 24 hours on November 1, and are welcomed with sweets and toys. On November 2, the adult dead are offered tobacco and alcoholic beverages. The living move the party to cemeteries, where they clean the graves and leave flowers to the tune of music. The Vodou festival of Fete Gede is the religion’s version of Day of the Dead also taking place on Novemeber 2. Rituals are done in the capital of Haiti's largest cemetery to honor Baron Samedi where the people bring him offereings involving candles, bottles of rum and flowers.

Halloween was born out of fear, however, the indigenous American tradition was born of celebration, a reunion with those who have walked on, and recognition of death as part of a natural cycle, nothing to be feared. The tradition is much older than the #Aztec Empire, which is where the Spanish found it.

This article was originally published in 2015. Since, we've like to add more updated research.

Aboriginal culture connections us where geography may make it seem impossible. Ancestral memory is ancestral memory.

The cultural connections between the West Papua Austro-Melanesian people and the death rituals of the Voodoo culture in Haiti (specifically the "Fete Gede") and the Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations are intriguing, despite geographical and historical distances. While these cultures are distinct, there are some noteworthy similarities and differences in their death rituals

1. Ancestral Veneration: Both West Papua Austro-Melanesian people and the Voodoo culture in Haiti share a profound respect for their ancestors. In West Papua, ancestor worship is a central part of their belief system, and they often hold ceremonies to honor the deceased. Similarly, in Haiti, the "Fete Gede" is dedicated to paying tribute to the spirits of the dead, particularly the Barons and Mamas, who are considered ancestors.

2. Connection to the Spirit World: In both cultures, there's a belief in the connection between the living and the spirit world. In West Papua, rituals and dances are performed to communicate with ancestors and receive their guidance. In Haitian Voodoo, the "Fete Gede" involves elaborate rituals, including trance-like dances, to invoke the spirits and gain their wisdom.

3. Celebration and Remembrance: The Mexican Day of the Dead and the "Fete Gede" both involve a vibrant and colorful celebration of the deceased. In Mexico, people create elaborate ofrendas (altars) adorned with the favorite foods and possessions of the departed. Similarly, during "Fete Gede," offerings such as food, alcohol, and cigarettes are made to the spirits, along with lively music and dancing.

4. Differences:Welllll, that depends on who colonized these indigenouscultures. Despite these similarities, there are cultural and religious distinctions. West Papua Austro-Melanesian people often practice Christianity alongside their traditional beliefs, while Voodoo is a distinct Afro-Caribbean religion with its own deities. In Mexico, the Day of the Dead is influenced by afro indigenous Aztec beliefs, mixed with Catholicism.

Omo Masalai Celebration among Papua New Guinea tribes.

Furthering the connections:

Syncretism: Both Hoodoo and the practices of the Gullah Geechee people, as well as West Papua, are influenced by syncretism. This means they have absorbed elements from various sources, such as African, Native American, and European traditions. Hoodoo, for instance, incorporates elements of African spirituality, Christianity, and Native American practices. Similarly, West Papua has absorbed elements from various neighboring cultures over time.

Rituals and Ceremonies: Both Hoodoo and West Papua rituals involve elements like song, dance, and drumming. In the Gullah Geechee culture, rituals such as "setting lights" or creating spiritual baths are common. In West Papua, dances and music play a significant role in connecting with the spirit world.

Protection and Healing: Hoodoo and Gullah Geechee practices often include protective charms, amulets, and healing rituals. In West Papua, similar practices exist to protect individuals and communities from negative forces and illnesses.


Despite geographical and cultural differences, the connections between these practices may indicate common human themes related to spirituality, ancestral reverence, and the use of nature's resources in rituals. These connections showcase the adaptability and diversity of cultural practices across different regions and communities.

 




Like our collective? Donate to help fund our research efforts.

Copyright © 2014-2022 UAIC & Aboriginal Excellence

bottom of page