Sure, there are plenty of songs for this time of year. There's "The Monster Mash" and all its brothers; there's Michael Jackson's macabre "Thriller"; there's even special "scary sound" and "haunted house" recordings one can buy from specialty shops (or, in fact, from just about any corner store around Halloween time). But what about those of us who don't think of this holiday in terms of heebie-jeebies, costumes-n-candy, and scary movies? What about those of us for whom October 31st is a holiday about the coming of winter, the last harvest, the somber communion with passed-on relatives, and the death of a god?

For me and other Pagans, October 31st marks the arrival of the Samhain season, and just like many other people we often have parties for the occasion. Usually the "parties" involve coven members instead of costumed guests, and usually the Samhain recipes differ a little from candy corn and Snickers, plus there is usually a ceremony of some sort amid whatever merrymaking comes to pass. Since one of the main themes of Samhain is communion with dead relatives and it is generally a more serious, introspective time of year for Pagan folks, the usual soundtrack for Halloween just won't do. So, for those under the Pagan umbrella who would wish to add some music to their festivities (and for those non-Pagans who nevertheless wish to get in touch with the roots of the holiday for any reason), I have collected here a list of appropriate music, with explanations. Enjoy.

  • "All Souls Night" by Loreena McKennitt: From her album The Visit. Obviously nearly any music by McKennitt is appropriate for a Pagan audience, but this song is specifically written about this mysterious time of year. It is particularly evocative with its lyrics, causing the listener to picture what she describes: "Bonfires dot the rolling hillsides. Figures dance around and around to drums that pulse out echoes of darkness, moving to the Pagan sound." A very powerful moment of the song involves her description of standing on a bridge over "the river that flows out to the sea" feeling souls pass her by; this is a metaphor for souls traveling out into the big forever . . . but on this night and this night only, the veil is particularly thin, allowing us to sense the spirits' movement. The music is of course very mood-appropriate, and it remains one of my highest recommendations for a perfect Samhain song.

  • "The Burning Times" by Rumors of the Big Wave: This Pagan band tends to detract some from their power by saying only and exactly what they mean, but in the case of this song it works very well. The song describes the ancient ancestors and their practices of Witchcraft in the times before the Crusades. "Can't you hear them chanting healing incantations, calling forth the Wise Ones, celebrating in dance and song?" The most beautiful (and catchy!) part of the song occurs when the singers begin to chant goddess names over and over, and the listener can feel almost as if these great powers are coming to attendance just through speaking Their names. (Who knows; in an incantation, maybe They are!) "Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna!" There is an urgency to this song and a sort of darkness, especially since it talks about a dark time in history when the Pagans were persecuted by those in power. Because Samhain is the traditional time of year to remember "the Burning Times" and mourn for those who were lost through ignorance and intolerance, this song is very appropriate for this holiday. (I don't agree with their almost accusatory tone toward the Christians or with their estimation that NINE MILLION women were killed during this time since that is definitely an exaggeration, but nevertheless the listener gets the point.)

  • "Spin the Circle" by Philip Riley and Jayne Elleson: On the fantastic Pagan album The Blessing Tree, Riley and Elleson show their talents with this gem. The theme is, of course, the sadness of death, but with a hope of being reunited through reincarnation. A woman mourns her dead lover, but is comforted by her belief that she can feel him in the world around her. "I can taste you in the water, sweet as honey to my tongue. I can hear you whisper through the barley, like a song as yet unsung." This is such a lovely, bittersweet song, hearing the woman urge the circle to spin--meaning she wants the years to fly by so that she can be beside her lover once more. It is a bit of depressing song, so some caution is advised in putting this on your Samhain soundtrack if you will have in attendance a recently bereaved guest who might be sensitive to such matters.

  • "We All Come From the Goddess" by Moonstruck or by Moving Breath: The lyrics to this were actually written by Z. Budapest (well-known feminism and Paganism advocate from way back), but the band Moonstruck performs this poem as a song very well, as does the normally a cappella women's group Moving Breath. Either arrangement is wonderful: "We all come from the Goddess, and to Her we shall return, like a drop of rain flowing to the ocean." Moonstruck's version is longer and a bit more lulling (with instrumentals), while Moving Breath's is more rousing but disturbingly short. Either way, it is a nice reminder of the complete circle of life which includes death, since we are talking about a time of year where the death part of the cycle is emphasized and honored.

  • "Dark Mother" by Inkubus Sukkubus: This song is undeniably appropriate for the season and some may like its sound. They sound a bit like Heart with a sort of hard-rock female-lead-vocals sound with full band. For this reason I would take this suggestion with a grain of salt; it is likely to interrupt the flow of the songs since most of the others are more meditative while this one is definitely fast-tempo and rousing. "Our dark mother, Queen of the Night, through Death's door guide us to the light, through the pain set us free, our dark mother Queen of the Night . . . let us be reborn again!" It is because of the emphasis on the Mother's role in reincarnation that I include this song.

  • "The Old Ways" by Loreena McKennitt: Not strictly a Samhain song, actually, but definitely a reminder of the past, which is an influence this time of year. The chorus describes having the sea calling the speaker "home." It is nostalgic and also speaks of partings, and since wanings and endings are themes of the Samhain season, it is doubly appropriate. "Suddenly I knew that you'd have to go; your world was not mine, your eyes told me so. Yet it was there I felt the crossroads of time, and I wondered why."

  • "Samain Night" by Loreena McKennitt: The beauty of this song is a bit indescribable, but I can try. Loreena showcases her upper range and somehow seems to carry in her voice those "moonsbreaths" she mentions in the song. It is mostly a song of togetherness at night; while partings are a theme of Samhain, that does not mean togetherness cannot be enjoyed in these stark nights under the moon; the delicious darkness is shared in this song. "You offered me an eagle's wing, that to the sun might soar and sing. And if I heard the owl's cry, into the forest I would fly, and in its darkness find you by."

  • "The Wild Hunt" by Tamarra James: A quintessential Samhain song. "The Wild Hunt" is based on a myth that a figure of death (the god Herne) runs through the forest on this night, snatching the souls of any who would dare to look upon his face. This song tells a story of a woman whose lover made that mistake last year, and now she waits for their parade to go by so that she can join this time. Though macabre, it is also sort of sweet that she wants to shuffle off the mortal coil to be with her love, now that she knows where he has gone. "But now the hunt's returning. I wait within the glade to meet my love this Samhain, and I'll run beside his shade." Tamarra James's voice is low and rich and very powerful to carry this song's heavy subject. She leaves you with the word of advice to look away when you hear the sounds of the hunt, or you'll be taken away as well "at the dying of the year."

  • "Hecate, Cerridwen" by Patricia Witt: This is quite simply a chant, not a song proper, but it is nevertheless very powerful for any Samhain circle or gathering, perhaps for use as a communion with the dark Crone goddess aspect that is in control this time of year. Hecate and Cerridwen are both Crone goddesses who are said to control the underworld and the mortals' passages through the cauldron of death and rebirth. "Hecate, Cerridwen, let us be reborn."

  • "Book of Shadows" by Coven 13: This band, as far as I know, is now called Seven 13, but I believe they recorded this song when they were still Coven 13. This song is not necessarily Samhain-oriented, but the mood is exactly right. It is about working magick with the cooperation of the deities, and it sort of has a "dark" sound to it. "Secret places never seen, stories never told; one by one I write them down, here within my book of shadows."

  • "Hecate" by Seridina: Well, if you can get over how painfully melodramatic the artist is in her spoken introduction, you might enjoy the faintly tribal musical portion in which the dark goddess Hecate is praised and solicited for communion. It is multiple female voices (though they are just the artist's voice layered over itself, not actual separate people as far as I can tell). "Hecate, to thee I pray, guide me through my darkness; Hecate, to thee I pray, hold me in the night." This is appropriate because it involves communion with the darkness, the waning moon, and the mysteries (Hecate is a goddess of wisdom).

  • "So Spricht Das Leben" by Mediæval Bæbes: The English title is "So Sayeth Life," but it might as well also be called "So Sayeth Death," because that is the theme of the song. In a spoken chant-like narration, Life and Death argue about who owns the world. Accompanied lightly by harp (or something similar), this song exemplifies the way Life and Death give and take from each other, which is a prime theme of the holiday of Samhain. "You can build great tombs of marble and stone, but love you can never entomb. . . . I've made a tomb for all mankind."

  • "Shadowfest" by Steve Reel: This is an instrumental from a CD called Wheel of the Year. The mood works well for Samhain celebrations, especially since its background effects make it echoey and just-slightly-spooky, but it seems to keep in mind the fact that though somber, Samhain is a holiday, because the music is rather merry. Seems to be played on marimba for that great plunky sound.

I am quite sure there are more, but these are the songs that stood out to me from my own collection. I would be glad to hear suggestions for songs to add to the list, but I am not interested in songs that are just about death in a general way, are morbid beyond the level of appropriateness, or are just silly monster tunes.
Some years ago, I deejay'd for an online radio station which doesn't exist any longer. On my show, I took to doing themes. Around September eleventh of one year, I played all the songs located on Clear Channel's list of questionable songs, including a half dozen or so songs by Rage Against The Machine. When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit, I played as many songs as I could find which had something to do with weather. That was fun. One October, I decided to go for the Halloween theme for a couple weeks, so I amassed the list below.

A list of this sort is an intermittent (pseudo-annual) work in progress, but this list is arguably one of the more extensive you will find on the Internet. I welcome any and all suggestions for inclusions or commentary about present inclusions. I posted this list elsewhere on the Web when I started it, but I've noticed that E2 is one of the few places that didn't either disappear off the web or remove my list after some cobwebs developed. I've decided I'm going to break this list up into two groups. The first is Artists, and the second is Songs.

The first list contains talented bands or people whose work largely falls into the macabre or the suspenseful. With obvious exceptions, almost everything these artists churn out will fit in with your own Halloween festivities. Even if a song doesn't actually have in its lyrics Halloweeny words, it will probably still help set the mood or tone for any October gathering. I created the Artists list because there's some talents who have so many great examples for Halloween it's just hard to choose which is best. The second list consists of talents who have in their repertoire one or two songs which contribute to this theme well, but the rest of their stuff may or may not be as welcome at a spooky party. The chosen song titles are those which in my not so humble opinion, no Halloween party should be without. They're the halloween songs that are unquestionably of the season. If you're with a group of people, chances are some of them have heard it before, and they'll be appreciative, and the ones who haven't heard it before will be quickly educated by those who have.

Admittedly, this list is very commercial and not at all pagan inspired, like the other node entry. This is simply a different approach to the idea of Halloween songs, and it's not intended to diminish the other list which is equally valid, or yet still other lists which others may offer in the future.

    Most anything by these artists and bands will work for Halloween. I will note a few examples, but you'd be best served by reviewing their discographies..

  • Alice Cooper - Two obvious examples are Welcome to My Nightmare and Teenage Frankenstein but frankly, anything that has ever passed this man's lips rings Hallow. This man personifies the holiday in a way that no one else can. If James Brown is the godfather of soul, Alice Cooper is the godfather of reap.
  • Bernard Herrmann - theme from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, music for Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast and the film Citizen Kane, his work for Cape Fear, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Day The Earth Stood Still, and anything he did for Ray Harryhausen. Let's face it, this composer knew how to chill us to our bones. Repeatedly.
  • Danny Elfman - motion picture soundtracks for Army of Darkness, Batman, Batman Returns, Beetlejuice, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Darkman, Edward Scissorhands, Mars Attacks!, Nightmare Before Christmas, Sleepy Hollow, Tales From The Crypt, and others (see also Oingo Boingo). I honestly don't know if this guy can compose music that isn't deliciously dark and creepy. Even when he's being light and happy, like in the theme song to the Simpsons or his work for Pee Wee Herman movies, Elfman's got one foot in the clouds and one foot in the grave.
  • David Seville - Witch Doctor is an absolute must, and to a lesser extent I recommend any random pop covers by Alvin and the Chipmunks (just not the xmas album). I recommend this with mild hesitation. You should incorporate Seville into your Halloween music in small doses only, mixed in with all this other stuff; otherwise you may start a riot.
  • Elvira, Mistress of the Dark - aka Cassandra Peterson, has been since 1981 the penultimate queen of bad horror movies, bad jokes about blood, gore, cleavage, and all things that bump around at night. Though more widely known for her *ahem* visual presentations, she recorded five albums worth of comedy and music for the Rino records label. She's also done radio spots, and other random things. If you can find anything with Elvira's voice on it, you should make it a part of your personal Halloween collection.
  • Mark Mothersbaugh was the lead singer for DEVO in its heyday and has since done his share of composing for film and television. Like Elfman, Mothersbaugh's work has always embraced the shadows. I would suggest Whip It for a mainstream audience. A more thorough Halloween collection might include music from the film Mystery Men, or the cartoons Rugrats, or Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get a Clue.
  • Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath - definitive examples include Bark At The Moon, and Children Of The Grave, but anything by Black Sabbath when Ozzy was with them is a certainty. Anything by either Ozzy or Black Sabbath after the breakup is probably worthy of Halloween, with few exceptions.
  • Tim Curry - early in his career, Mr. Curry portrayed Frankfurter for the motion picture version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Of course Sweet Transvestite belongs on this list. In the years since RHPS, Curry has built a career in film and music that is unparallelled, including three albums in the late 70s and early 80s. Although not always Halloween-oriented, Curry's unmistakable voice is welcome on any list focusing on the harvesting season. I recommend "I Do The Rock," and his cover of Bob Dylan's "Simple Twist of Fate." He also did a song for the movie Ferngully called Toxic Love which is deliciously creepy. Oh, and long ago he did a strangely fun low-budget video (high quality effects for the time tho) where he actually sings about Halloween. If you can find that, you're set.


Share and enjoy. =)

All input regarding this list is appreciated. Here's some input I've gotten thus far.

Andromache01 says Erm. re: Halloween songs : The Smashing Pumpkins song you have listed is actually titled "Bullet With Butterfly Wings". And you didn't mention any of the big name psychobilly bands: the Nekromantix, the Cramps, Mad Sin, the Horrorpops, or Demented Are Go!, for starters. Given that most of them specialize in songs about the undead, I would have thought they were shoe-ins.

drownzsurf says re Halloween songs : You have to mention the oldie, Dinner with Drac by a guy named Zacherly, seriously. And, The Monster Mash did you have 'I put a spell on you' CCR? Where's 'Highway to Hell' You have Kiss, but no Genesis? Voodoo Chile by Hendrix and or Stevie Ray Vaughn?

izubachi says re Halloween songs : I'm sad to see Type O Negative's "Creepy Green Light" didn't make it on there, as it's one of my traditional "pop it up on the mp3 player and talk a walk through the Halloween night" songs, but then again, nearly everything I've heard of Type O Negative's could fit the theme. Nice work.

General Wesc says re Halloween songs: Rammstein's Mein Teil may be worthy of this list.

Loreena McKennitt - All Souls Night
Loreena McKennitt - The Old Ways
Loreena McKennitt - Samhain Night
Inkubus Sukkubus - Dark Mother
Philip Riley and Jayne Elleson - Spin The Circle
Rumors of the Big Wave - Burning Times
Moonstruck - We All Come From the Goddess
Moving Breath - We All Come From the Goddess
Tamarra James - Wild Hunt
Coven 13 - Book of Shadows
Steve Reel - Shadowfest

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