It’s Halloween! All Hallow’s Eve. And I won’t be home tonight to see all the trick or treaters, even though I have a great howling ghost who wails wickedly and flies up in the air whenever a goblin ambles by. And I bought all that lovely candy, too. Well, sugar, someone will have to eat it, I guess. Chocolate, tons of lovely chocolate. Can’t imagine who’d be interested.
Anyway, for a change, I actually know a little history I can pull out of my hat for this blog. The Celts are a favorite subject of my research. They were a fascinating, mysterious race, and if I had a time travel ship, I’d love to drop by and find out where they came from and how they learned so many fascinating things. The Celts are the origin of many intriguing legends, but Samhain (pronounced sa-win)is one of their holidays that we’re celebrating today. I’m not entirely certain how the celebration of an ancient new year, a laying to rest of an old harvest, became associated with demons and witches, but the night between the old year and the new one—October 31st—was traditionally the time when the boundaries between the living and the dead became thin enough to cross.
The Celts thought this was a night where prophesy became possible, and they raised huge bonfires for all the reasons humans light bonfires, and religion was probably the least of it, although I’m sure history books will disagree with me. <G> They also reportedly wore costumes, probably to scare off the ghosts walking the night, or maybe just to fool their lovers into telling them their fortunes. We might like to sound scholarly and recite all the rhetoric about scaring ghosts or worshipping the dead, but people are people. We want romance and sex and horror stories and religion and if we can wrap it all in one fun night, go for it.
When the Romans overran Celtic lands, they pulled the usual stunt of combining their religious holidays with the Celts in some attempt to force the pagans to be uh…more pagan? The Romans had two holidays in October, one for commemorating the dead, and another celebrating a goddess whose symbol was the apple. So gradually, the Samhain ghosts became part of the Roman celebration of the dead, and somehow apple bobbing got tossed in there.
And then along came the Christians—so Halloween isn’t totally an unChristian event for those who might like to think so. The Christians celebrated November 1 as All Saint’s Day, and in Middle English, All-hallowmas, which eventually was corrupted into All Hallow’s Eve for the night before.
So while I’m attending a gardening class this evening, the ghosts will be out walking among the trick-or-treaters, and maybe a whisper of prophecy will fall into the ears of those who know to listen. Do any of you have special Halloween tricks or treats? What legends have you heard that relate to it? There is far more than I’ve written about above, and it’s all fascinating to weave together. Share!