Vintage and hand-crafted witches have flown out of storage to celebrate Halloween.

A bit of history

There are different beliefs about the origin of our Halloween celebrations, but most believe the ancient tradition rooted some 2,000 years ago with an ancient Celtic pagan festival of customs and superstitions. The festival was called Samhain (pronounced SOW-ehn), which means “summer’s end,” or “Hallowtide,” the night of the great fire festival.

The festival marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of the dark winter season and was celebrated Oct. 31. In the 800s, the Christian church established a new holiday, All Saints’ Day, on Nov. 1. All Saints’ Day was also called All Hallows since "hallow" means saint or one who is holy. The evening before All Hallows was known as All Hallows’ Eve, which was soon shortened to Halloween.

Costumes were worn by the Celts to blend in with ghosts when the veil between life and death was at its thinnest. These costumes were said to be worn to scare off the spirits.

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According to the book “Halloween in America” by Stuart Schneider, “The stereotypical image of the haggard witch with a pointy black hat and warty nose stirring a magical potion in her cauldron that actually stems from a pagan goddess known as 'the crone,' who was honored during Samhain.”

As Scottish and German immigrants began to settle in America, they brought their autumn tales of ghosts, witches, elves, gnomes and more. Halloween has been a key holiday in the United States since the 1900s and is celebrated free from any religious association.

Collector and artist

Cindy Habermann, a Rochester collector and whimsy folk artist: “I became inspired to start making whimsy items around 1973 by surrounding myself with creative cards, books and vintage memorabilia, and today, I still continue to make new items and recondition a few. I have a nice collection of vintage Halloween witches with whimsical faces. Of recent, I have used a real dried gourd and a pine cone for a witch.”

Where to find them

Joan Thilges, New Generations of Harmony: “Most of our witches have flown out the door! We still have these three witches left: Lucy waiting for the Great Pumpkin ($10), a vintage tiny witch holding a pumpkin priced at $49 and not quite as vintage witch in a pumpkin for $18.”

Paul Larsen, Mantorville Square: “We have some plastic and tin litho Halloween witch items priced around $12-$42 and a cute witch on broom, priced at $20.”

Larsen also came across a witch sitting on a bench in front of a shop in Mantorville called Finds on 5th.

“I guess I thought it was sort of a sign of the times, but also very cute," he said. "The witch is masked, with a bottle of hand sanitizer next to her.”

Neil Hunt, A-Z Collectibles, Winona: “I found one lonely Russ troll in the shop — purple hair, black outfit and mask, and a trick-or-treat bag. Not sure if it is a witch, but sure looks like a witch. You would have to ask her, since I do not know troll language.”

Happy Halloween!

Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer and certified appraiser concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at life@postbulletin.com.