Halloween be thy name

by Sue DeGregorio-Rosen, RN, CLNC, Contributing Editor


The festival of Samhain has an ancient quality and has been explored examined and or dissect its initial origins and subsequent rituals. It’s also known as Halloween, and to Medievalists as Reformation Day.  It has links to the healing profession, such as nursing today, albeit obscure, the seemingly magical qualities of herbs and herbal medicine possess curative properties. The more we discover of diet the more we realize how closely related it is to our health, both physical and mental.

Halloween itself is a fun time full of costumes and mischief but it was a centuries old celebration of Celtic tradition.  It was a celebration of the end of summer and the beginning of winter.  Celtic traditions were viewed as paganism. Roman Catholicism actually added some of the Pagan feast days to their calendars to rally some of those who were not members to convert to Catholicism.  Both All Saints Day and All Souls day became the days that Christian’s began to honor the faithfully departed and actually celebrate a connection from the living to the dead, or the witches hollow.

Around 500 C.E. the Romans (who were Christians, and for the most part Roman Catholics), conquered the Celts that lived mainly in Northwestern Europe, which we now know as Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Most of that world believed the witch tales, that is, witches were seen as evil entities or enigmatic at best and were initiated by those same Christians.  They became part of the Halloween celebration of the dead. Witches were known to be either pagans or practiced wiccan. However, many were simply natural healers who created herbal medicines and remedies from the earth, holistic care givers and were what was really known as “wise women, midwives and doulas” whose choice of profession was misunderstood. Paganism is the term used for non-traditionalreligions, by Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  Wicca is a subset, a divinity of nature that has a recurring theme taking responsibility for one’s own beliefs.

Witches in part became feared throughout Europe and parts of the United States. The infamous Salem witch trials took place in l Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft, or the Devil’s magic, and 20 women were burned at the stake. Much of the hysteria is addressed in the scholarly work, The Devil’s Snare by Mary Beth Norton.

Eventually, the colony admitted the trials were a mistake and made restitution to the families of those convicted. Since then, the story of the trials have become hand in hand with paranoia and injustice as in the recent Roe v. Wade ruling, and it continues to fascinate our imaginations in both literature and also in politics (i.e.: political “witch hunts”) more than 300 years later along with “alternative truths.”

 My profession of nursing, is that of healing with an emphasis on the whole person; it’s a scientific extension of was what professed by healers in the past the overlay of medicine and natural healing

Women, herbal medicine, birth, death, fear………these healing women, whose practice was holistic care, and if you read anything about the origin of nursing, their history states that nursing is based on holistic care……..so just as in everything else that evolves, the same women, generations later who were dubbed as “witches”.

As holistic practitioners, nurses, we rub eucalyptus oil on your feet when you are congested at home……..at the bedside in a hospital, the first thing we are taught is skin integrity, proper nutrition, spirituality………we clean your wounds because it’s important.

The arrival of the modern-day nursing profession is an ingredient in that overlay science and holistic care. Holistic healing addresses the interconnectedness of the mind, body, spirit, social/cultural, emotions, relationships, context, and environment.

Primarily a women’s profession, today we are beginning to see more and more men take on this rewarding, yet very difficult and necessary role, and it is not a profession for the faint of heart.  It is a tough and demanding practice.   Nursing is based on holistic care and continues to promote natural healing treatments such as the use of salt caves, cupping, acupuncture and cleansing in mineral baths just to name a few, along with modern day medicine as we know it.

The highest educational level a nurse can pursue is the doctoral level.  These are our Advanced Nurse Practitioners who, while working within the scope of their practice, and as licensed independent practitioners, ANPs practice autonomously and in coordination with healthcare professionals and other individuals. Nursing is an essential part of healthcare.

As both a professional registered nurse, and yes, I am a witch, born on the witch’s hollow, I am proud to belong to such a special breed of practitioners ……….Happy Halloween to all, may you have a healthy and happy new year!