Forums Forums Resources Other Resources Happy Halloween: Halloween and the history of beliefs about the after life :)

last updated by  LoriM 12 years, 8 months ago
6 voices
10 replies
  • Author
  • #62506
    Pam B

    Happy Halloween! Just for fun….a little history and culture:


    Ancient Origins

    Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

    To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

    By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of “bobbing” for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

    By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints’ Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints’, All Saints’, and All Souls’, were called Hallowmas.

    From: Learned Arts of Witches & Wizards, History and traditions of white magic

    Seasonal Correspondences for Samhain:

    Other names- Halloween, All SAints Day
    Meaning – the peace of the womb before birth and the peace of the world beyond death
    Rituals – honoring the dead
    Herbws/flowerse/plants – Sage, cornstalks
    Stones – Ruby
    Colors – Black, red
    Elements – Fire
    Platnes – Mars
    Zodiac – Scropio

    Pam B

    A few tidbits of interesting information as we head into Halloween, Hallowmas, or All Hallows’ Eve. It’s all about the Other Side :) – or is it?

    History of All Hallows’ Ever (Catholic version)
    By Jennifer Miller

    The Solemnity of All Saints is celebrated on November 1. It is a holyday of obligation, and it is the day that the Church honors all of God’s saints, even those who have not been canonized by the Church. It is a family day of celebration — we celebrate the memory of our family members (members of the Mystical Body, the communion of saints) now sharing eternal happiness in the presence of God. We rejoice that they have reached their eternal goal and ask their prayers on our behalf so that we, too, may join them in heaven and praise God through all eternity.

    The honoring of all Christian martyrs of the Faith was originally celebrated on May 13, the date established by the fourth century. Pope Boniface IV in 615 established it as the “Feast of All Martyrs” commemorating the dedication of the Pantheon, an ancient Roman temple, into a Christian church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the martyrs. In 844, Pope Gregory IV transferred the feast to November 1st. Some scholars believe this was to substitute a feast for the pagan celebrations during that time of year.

    By 741, the feast included not only martyrs, but all the saints in heaven as well, with the title changing to “Feast of All Saints” by 840. Pope Sixtus IV in 1484 established November 1 as a holyday of obligation and gave it both a vigil (known today as “All Hallows’ Eve” or “Hallowe’en”) and an eight-day period or octave to celebrate the feast. By 1955, the octave of All Saints was removed.

    Since Vatican II, some liturgical observances have been altered, one example being “fast before the feast” is no longer required. Originally, the days preceding great solemnities, like Christmas and All Saints Day, had a penitential nature, requiring abstinence from meat and fasting and prayer. Although not required by the Church, it is a good practice to prepare before great feast days, spiritually and physically.

    Feastday Customs

    In England, saints or holy people are called “hallowed”, hence the name “All Hallow’s Day” or “Hallowmas”. The evening, or “e’en” before the feast became popularly known as “All Hallows’ Eve,” or even shorter, “Hallowe’en”.

    Since the night before All Saints Day, “All Hallows Eve” (now known as Hallowe’en or Halloween), was the vigil and required fasting, many recipes and traditions have come down for this evening, such as pancakes, boxty bread and boxty pancakes (the boxty made from potatoes), barmbrack (Irish fruit bread with hidden charms), and colcannon (combination of cabbage and boiled potatoes). This was also known as “Nutcrack Night” in England, where the family gathered around the hearth to enjoy cider and nuts and apples. In England “soul cakes” are another traditional food. People would go begging for a “soul cake” and promise to pray for the donor’s departed friends and family in exchange for the treat, an early version of today’s “Trick or Treat.”

    November 2 was the date designated to pray for all the departed souls in Purgatory, the Feast of All Souls. In many countries this is an important day. Families cook special foods and made a special day’s outing to cemeteries to tend to the graves, pray for the family dead.

    The feasts of All Saints and All Souls fall back to back to express the Christian belief of the “Communion of Saints.” The Communion of Saints is the union of all the faithful on earth (the Church militant), the saints in Heaven (the Church Triumphant) and the Poor Souls in Purgatory (the Church suffering), with Christ as the Head. They are bound together by a supernatural bond, and can help one another. The Church Militant (those on earth still engaged in the struggle to save their souls) can venerate the Church Triumphant, and those saints can intercede with God for those still on earth. Both the faithful on earth and the saints in heaven can pray for the souls in Purgatory.

    On All Souls Day and throughout November, especially November 1-8, one can gain plenary indulgences for the Poor Souls. See Praying for the Dead and Gaining Indulgences, for more details.

    Exploring the Christian Roots of Halloween

    Throughout the centuries man has struggled to keep his focus on the one true Faith and its practices. So many times, though, the pagan superstitions creep back into practice. Although now with a holier purpose, when preparing for the huge feast of All Saints some pagan “cult of the dead” practices seeped into the mainstream.

    In our modern times it is getting harder to be “in” the world but not “of” the world. How are we to explain to our children about the top money-making over-commercialized “holiday” of the year after Christmas? We have an onslaught of Halloween witches, ghosts, ghouls, goblins, vampires, etc. everywhere we turn. How do we bring a message to our children to say that being a Christian does not mean that we cannot have fun? How do we convey that we must not constantly be negative and condemn everything?

    To answer this, we must to put on the mind of the Church. All through the centuries the Church has taken secular feasts and tried to “sanctify” or “Christianize” them. The feastday of All Saints itself came from the dedication of the Pantheon, a pagan temple, into a Christian church. This is undoubtedly another way of sanctifying the secular and pagan. Missionaries have to get to know the culture and religion of the country before they can convert the native people of that country. The missionaries have to be able find some elements in their culture that can help these people identify and understand Christianity at their level. St. Paul tried it with the Greeks. Seeing their altar to the Unknown God, he saw that through their own pagan altar, he was going to bring them to Christianity!

    Instead of just suppressing the whole celebration of Halloween and leaving a gaping hole, the Church gives a replacement focus. The Church has the mindset of “How can this be turned into good, with the focus on the one true God and His Church?” Since All Saints and All Souls feasts are together, we can shift the focus of Halloween to a focus on the Communion of Saints in action. We combine honoring the saints in heaven, remembering our loved ones and then directing the destiny of our own souls by prayer and actions. Through this we see the Mystical Body all in action.

    There are many writings to help one explore the Christian roots of the Halloween festivities. In the activities section there are ideas for All Hallows’ Eve Party to present a fun atmosphere for children living a “Catholic culture.” See also other ideas from Florence Berger’s Cooking for Christ and Mary Reed Newland’s The Year and Our Children. These ideas help use every opportunity as a moment of grace, and a teaching lesson, not a spirit of avoidance because of the pagan background of Halloween. To return to the “sanctified” traditions of Hallowe’en, one can use the opportunity to honor the saints, pray for the Poor Souls and prepare oneself spiritually for two great feastdays of the Catholic Church, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

    Pam B

    From: Culture Planet
    The Origins Of Halloween
    A History Of Samhain, All Hallows Eve & Halloween

    by Chris McGowan

    Night falls and a fierce knocking assails your quiet home. Mischievous laughter resounds outside. You open the front door and are confronted by a wicked witch, Princess Barbie, and George W. Bush. They rustle bags and yell “trick or treat.” You hand them some candy and send them on their way, to other houses decorated with spider webs, tombstones and glowing hollowed-out pumpkins. By morning, some of these dwellings (usually those with teenage inhabitants) will be decorated with shaving cream and eggs, their trees festooned with toilet paper. Meanwhile, at parties all over town, costumed adults dance and drink into the wee hours. From whence did Halloween, this peculiar and seemingly all-American holiday, derive?

    As with much of our culture, Halloween’s roots lie overseas. Its ancestor was the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, celebrated around November 1. The Celts lived in continental Europe (where the Romans called them the “Gauls”) as early as three thousand years ago, migrating after that to the British Isles. Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany have been the strongholds of Celtic language and traditions in modern times. Samhain was the most important of the Celtic fire festivals, or holy days, because it marked the New Year. The harvest had ended and winter was on the way. The last crops had been picked, a chill was in the air, and the dark half of the year was beginning.

    In his book The Pagan Mysteries Of Halloween, Jean Markale describes Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”) as an important festival that served many purposes: spiritual, agricultural, social, political, and military. It was a holiday of obligation to unite the tribe. To commemorate the new year, fires all over the Celtic world were extinguished the night of Samhain, then relighted from ceremonial blazes kindled by Druids (the religious and intellectual leaders of the pre-Christian Celts). Animals were slaughtered and sacrificed to Celtic deities. Some claim the offerings on Samhain included humans, but there is no evidence to support this. Indeed, such a practice was probably rare at any time. In his exhaustive study The Druids, Peter Ellis writes, “The deduction one is really drawn to is that the idea of widespread human sacrifice among the Celts was mere Roman propaganda to support their imperial power in their invasion of Celtic lands and destruction of the Druids.”

    In addition, Samhain was not a bloody rite dedicated to “Samhain, the Lord of the Dead,” as claimed by many Catholics and fundamentalist Christians. There was no “Samhain” deity in Celtic religion, although this fallacy continues to be perpetuated, notes author Isaac Bonewits, a specialist in ancient and modern Druidism. There may have been an obscure character named Samain or Sawan in Celtic mythology, whose main claim to fame was his magical cow. He was not a god or “lord of the dead,” however.

    Celtic sagas tell of many important heroic and prophetic events occurring on Samhain. It was a sacred time, during which warriors were ordered to lay down arms and observe a peace. During Samhain, there was great feasting and ritualized drunkenness. Revelers consumed huge quantities of mead and beer. Once the Romans invaded England in the first century A.D., their festivals for Feralia (which commemorated the dead) and Pomona (the Roman goddess of fruits and trees) may have added traditions to Samhain such as apple-bobbing. Yet it was a serious event: anyone who missed the festival ran the risk of going mad and dying, according to legend.

    “In marking the onset of winter, Samhain was closely associated with darkness and the supernatural,” adds Nicholas Rogers, a York University history professor and author of Halloween: From Pagan Ritual To Party Night. “The festival was closely related with prophecy and story-telling.” It was a time out of time, “charged with a peculiar preternatural energy.” Samhain was considered a period “between years,” a magical interval during which the spirits of the dead spilled out of the sidhe, the ancient burial mounds of the Celts, and walked among the living. “It was an intensely spiritual time, for it was the one period when the Otherworld became visible to mankind,” writes Peter Ellis in The Dictionary Of Celtic Mythology.

    The old ways began to change as the Celts converted to Christianity, a process that began in England in the 4th century and in Ireland (with the arrival of St. Patrick) in the 5th century A.D. The Christian Church could not utterly abolish Samhain celebrations, so they co-opted them. In 731 A.D., Pope Gregory III had dedicated a chapel to the saints in Saint Peter’s Church of Rome. In the 9th century, Pope Gregory IV changed the date of this observance to November 1 and made All Saint’s Day an official feast day. It was known as All Hallow Mass or Hallowmas in England and the night of October 31 became All Hallows Eve. “Hallows Evening” was eventually condensed to “Halloween.” Although November 1 was now a Christian feast day, the night before retained the otherworldly spirit of Samhain.

    In 998, the French monastic order of Cluny initiated a mass for souls of the Christian dead, which later was moved to the day after All Saints Day. The new feast day of All Souls, devoted to all the dead, held further resonance for Celts accustomed to Samhain. “By the end of the twelfth century, the linked festivals of All Saints’ and All Souls’, Todos Santos or Tots Sants in Spanish, or Hallowtide in English, were well-established liturgical moments in the Christian year,” writes Rogers.

    Samhain’s idea that spirits were on the loose, and that communication was possible between this world and the other world, survived in All Hallows Eve. On that night, “the world of the dead was open to the living and vice versa; time was abolished; and ghosts, a convenient term for spiritual entities seeking contact with humans, could temporarily materialize and engage in dialogue with their relatives, friends, and even strangers who had the gift of second sight,” adds Markale. A few rituals of Samhain, like fire rites and divination, were transferred to All Hallows Eve.

    The church masses of Hallowtide served as insurance against hauntings, according to Rogers, “for ghosts were generally understood to be dead relatives who visited their kin to rectify wrongs committed against them while alive and to enforce the obligations of kinship.” As night fell and All Souls’ Day arrived, “bells were rung for the souls in purgatory.” Across Catholic Europe, “food was laid out for the dead, whose souls were expected to return to their former abodes on All Souls’ Day,” a practice we see today in Mexico’s Day Of The Dead. In England, candle and torch-lit processions honored the deceased and bonfires in graveyards discouraged the visitation of malicious spirits.

    In England and elsewhere, it was a custom for the rich to give out food in return for prayers, a practice called “souling.” Bread or “soul cakes” (square biscuits with currants) were baked and given to relatives, poor neighbors or beggars on All Souls’ Day. In return, the recipients promised to pray for the dead relatives of the donors. It was felt their prayers could speed a soul’s passage to heaven. While “soulers” went door to door during Hallowtide, less solemn revelers also took to the streets.

    Costumed folk began a “season of misrule” full of “disguisings, masks and mummeries” (folk plays or skits), according to Rogers. They sang, danced, drank, rode hobby horses, cross-dressed, and impersonated officials, inverting the established order. Full of masquerades, role reversals, shaming rituals and street music, Hallowtide could have a little of the atmosphere of Carnival or Mardi Gras. Celebrants demanded food, ale and coins from their neighbors and mocked those who wouldn’t comply. The use of masks on Hallows Eve probably started with these merrymakers; and mummers and soulers asking for donations clearly set the stage for trick-or-treating.

    Hallowmas fell out of favor in England during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, and All Souls’ Day was eliminated from the calendar. Yet devotions to the dead persisted, and Catholics continued to light bonfires on hilltops and ring church bells for the departed. Souling was important to the hungry poor and survived in many parts. All Hallows Eve, which became popularly known as Halloween in the 18th Century, continued as a time of “supernatural intensity,” notes Rogers.

    In Ireland and Scotland, “Halloween was largely untouched by the Protestant Reformation,” writes Rogers. “From the seventeenth century onward, the folklore associated with Halloween flourished without much intervention, sometimes accenting and rejuvenating older pagan customs. In the Scottish highlands, Hallow fires blazed from cairns and hilltops. Their ashes were later placed in magical circles around with people danced. In some areas, there were torchlight processions around the fields to ensure their fertility or to ward off evil spirits and witches…many of these customs recalled the fire rituals of Samhain that were to be found in the ancient Celtic sagas.”

    Witches, said to be in league with the devil, were feared because of the teachings of the medieval Church. Actually, in “pagan times” (i.e., pre-Christian), witches practiced healing, herbalism and magic, and had nothing to do with Christian belief systems. Eventually, the witch with the black hat and broomstick would become an indelible Halloween motif, their images further developed by literature and movies.

    Mummery and begging for treats on Halloween continued. In Scottish villages “it was not the deceased themselves who returned but young people who personified the spirits of the dead by hiding their faces under masks and wearing long white robes or grotesque costumes made from straw. Little by little it was the children who picked up the baton in these masquerades…they went in search of treats, treats that, of course, represented the offerings made to the deceased,” writes Markale. He adds that some carried hollowed-out turnips with a candle inside, representing a wandering spirit. These were called “jack-o’-lanterns” after an Irish legend about Jack, a man who was not accepted in either heaven or hell and was doomed to wander the earth eternally.

    Halloween was associated with divinatory rituals, omens that foretold marriages or deaths, and premonitory dreams. Over time, it underwent a transformation into ritualized amusement, albeit with eerie undertones. Families and young woman enjoyed fortunetelling games in the parlor. Rogers notes, “Halloween acquired a special significance as a courtship ritual or augury for marriage. The way stones settled in bonfires, the way nuts cracked in the heat, the shape of kale stalks pulled from the ground, the people or sounds one encountered at the midnight hour at a crossroads or stile — all were windows to the future.” The Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) described many divination games in his famed poem “Halloween.” Meanwhile, outside the warm parlor, in the dark night, high-spirited boys were on the loose. They assumed the roles of mischievous goblins, fairies and witches, unhinging farm gates, moving horses to different fields, and playing other jokes on their neighbors.

    In North America, Halloween arrived in force in the 1840s. Rural immigrants from Ireland flooded into America and Canada because of the Great Potato Famine, and brought Halloween customs from their homeland. Nearly two million Irish men and women lived in the United States by 1890. A steady stream of Scots also carried Celtic traditions to the New World. The restless energy of “mischief night” found expression in new surroundings: rowdy boys knocked down fences, tipped over outhouses, and wreaked other havoc. Families upgraded a harmless custom, thanks to the new land’s plant life, making jack-o’-lanterns out of pumpkins, easily carved into large, grinning demonic faces.

    By the late 1800s in North America, Halloween had developed into a family festival full of parties, seasonal foods (pumpkins, maize and apples), and costumes. Ghost stories were told, contests were held, and games were played. Masks for Halloween were on sale in Ontario, Canada as early as 1874, notes Rogers. Retailers advertised candies and nuts for the night. Black cats and bats became Halloween motifs, apparently because of the influence of Edgar Allen Poe and gothic writers.

    Halloween lost its religious overtones and changed into a secular, community-oriented celebration. It was no longer regarded as primarily an Irish or Scottish festival, and became a fixture in the North American calendar. Such acceptance did not diminish the pranking committed by young males that night, who now saw Halloween as their best opportunity to let loose. Other American and Canadian holidays had become all too respectable, tame and institutionalized. By the 1920s, there was public concern about how wild the night was getting. Mischief often veered into vandalism: signs were removed, roads barricaded, street lights knocked out, and automobile tires deflated. There were even youth riots in a few cities. Towns and clubs began to organize “safe” Halloween events — carnivals, dances and street fairs — to keep youngsters occupied.

    The Halloween decorations of the time were similar to those of today: “Black cats, bats, Jack’o’Lanterns, ghosts and witches predominate. Autumn leaves, corn-stalks, fruits and vegetables carry the idea of a harvest celebration. Orange and black crepe paper are indispensable in decorating,” observes an instructional booklet from Boston, quoted by Rogers. Costumes were typically homemade, often from sacks, old clothes, soot and shoe polish. Yet, even in the ’30s, pop culture was having an effect, with some celebrants imitating well-known figures like Charlie Chaplin, Mae West, Mickey Mouse, and Dick Tracy.

    While the practice of begging for, or demanding, food on Hallow’s Eve was centuries old, the words “trick or treat” came into use around 1939, according to Rogers. The words first appeared in the files of Merriam Webster, Inc., in 1941, after being used as the title of a poem in the Saturday Evening Post, according to Washington Post writers Ken Erickson and Patricia Sunderland. Trick-or treating picked up momentum in the 1940s and ’50s. Rogers writes, “Trick-or-treating radically altered the dynamics of festive license without eliminating its masking or playful features.” The custom “sought to marginalize adolescent pranking and to defuse the antagonism inherent in the festive tribute, transforming the exchange into a rite of consumption.” The holiday became a boon for food manufacturers and retailers.

    During the 1960s and ’70s, Halloween became a thoroughly secular, consumer-oriented event. The booming plastics industry made it possible to cheaply sell realistic masks, noses, fangs and props. Hollywood monster movies influenced the costumes and decorations of the holiday. Middle-class parents bought full Halloween getups at mass-market stores for the family, and also rented more expensive outfits for themselves. Parents were not content merely to place a glowing pumpkin on the porch; many added elaborate graveyard and haunted-mansion decor. For children, the main point of Halloween became to dress up and collect as much tasty candy as possible. There wasn’t much sense of actually dealing out nasty “tricks” to people who didn’t offer sufficient goodies, but many boys harassed friends, neighbors and random victims with armaments like eggs, toilet paper and shaving cream.

    That 1970s saw a hint of danger return to Halloween night when widespread fear broke out that evil persons were handing children poisoned candy or apples with razor blades inside. Since then, trick or treating has become a more supervised activity, as American parents worry about tampered treats or strangers harming their children. The ’70s also were arguably the time when Halloween costume parties became a much more popular adult activity, as parents saw the night as a great excuse for a get-together and an opportunity to dress up in a silly or sexy fashion.

    Today’s Halloween is a thoroughly commercialized affair, and it has become popular in many places outside of North America and the U.K. In America, suburban homes have bigger and spookier lawn displays each year. Celebrity, politician and slasher-movie masks complement monster, ghost and witch outfits. Office cubicles are festooned with orange and black crepe paper and bowls of candy. Hundreds of thousands show up at work in full Halloween garb. Costume parties for adults are commonplace, and Halloween has become the occasion for various “alternative lifestyle” balls and parades. “Haunted houses” are popular seasonal attractions. The merchandising for the holiday is enormous, second only to that of Christmas, and takes over large sections of stores during October. Halloween is big business, worth nearly $6.9 billion annually, according to Time magazine reporter Michael Elliott. Samhain and Hallows Eve have been possessed by Hollywood and Wallmart.

    The Halloween of this century has pretty much lost its uncanny power, unless one is four years old and terrified of an uncle dressed as Count Dracula. There aren’t many Americans now who believe that the spirits of the dead are on the loose the night of October 31, or who are lighting fires to keep evil ghosts away. Although death is the central theme of Halloween, and plentiful mock blood, plastic bones and gruesome adornments are on display, celebrants deal with the grim reaper only on a superficial level. Yet perhaps this somehow helps children cope with the most fearful realities of life. “We create a special and safe moment during which danger and death, skeletons and strangers can safely be part of our experience. Then we lock our doors again and return to our everyday, safe American lives,” write Erickson and Sunderland.

    For adults, it may be that Halloween is evolving into a masquerade event like Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Carnival in other countries. These are “inversion rituals,” in which ordinary people can break the rules, flout convention, and mock authority for a few days, until the normal social order reasserts itself. Halloween has been such a ritual for centuries, yet no longer retains the sense of awe and wonder associated with Hallows Eve and Samhain in the past. If one wishes to commune with the spirits in a more serious way, one must now travel south of the border or to our own Mexican-American communities on All Soul’s Day. There, one will encounter a festival on November 2 that is also growing in international popularity: The Day Of The Dead.

    Primary Book Sources:
    The History Of Halloween: From Pagan Ritual To Party Night
    by Nicholas Rogers (Oxford University Press, 2002)
    The Pagan Mysteries Of Halloween: Celebrating The Dark Half Of The Year
    by Jean Markale (Inner Traditions, 2001)
    The Druids
    by Peter Berresford Ellis (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994)
    Dictionary Of Celtic Mythology
    by Perer Berresford Ellis (Oxford University Press, 1992)
    Collins Gem Irish Dictionary
    (Harpers Collins, 1995)

    Primary Article Sources:
    “Boo, Humbug!” by Michael Elliot (Time magazine, October 27, 2003)
    “Old Tricks, New Treats” by Buck Wolf (, October 22, 2003)
    “What’s Behind Halloween” by Ken C. Erickson and Patricia Sunderland
    (Washington Post, October 14, 1998)
    “The History Of Halloween” (
    “The Development Of Christian Society In Early England” (
    “The Celtic Year” (
    “The Real Origins Of Halloween” by Isaac Bonewits (
    “Halloween And Its Christian Roots” (
    “The Myth Of Samhain: Celtic God Of The Dead” (

    Pam B

    Another version,

    The history of ‘All hallows eve’ (Halloween)

    Halloween is a yearly celebration but of what you may ask?? Is a it a satanic form of worship? Or is it a harmless ancient pagan ritual? The word halloween comes from the catholic church. It is called all hallows eve or all saints day, November 1 is a catholic day in observance in honor of saints. But in 5th century BC, in celtic Ireland, summer officially ended October 31st. The holiday was called Samhain (sow-en) , the celtic new year. It is told that on that day, the disembodied spirits of those who had died the proceding year would come back to possess the bodies of the living to be their only hope for the afterlife. The celtics believed that during this time the spirit could intermingle with the living.

    To avoid being possessed, on the night of October 31st, the villagers would make their homes damp, dark, and undesirable, while dressing in the most frightening costumes. They would loudly parade around the neigborhood to frighten off the spirits and protect themselves. They would put out their housefires as well but some tribes did so to relight their fires for a common source, the druidic fire that was kept burning in the middle of Ireland. Some stories are told that burning people at the stake was common who were thought to be possessed as a lesson. Other accounts say they were only myths.

    The Romans adopted the Celtic practices as their own. In the first century AD, they refused to burn human sacrifices in favor of burning effiges. Over the course of time it became more ritualized.The practice of dressing up like witches, goblins, monsters, and ghosts took a more ceremonial role.

    Trick or Treating came from a European custom called souling. On November 2nd, all souls day, early christians would go village to village begging for soul cakes made of bread with currants. The more cakes a beggar received, the more prayers they would promise say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donars. At this time, people believed the dead remained in limbo for a time after death and a prayer could send them on to heaven.

    The Jack-O-Latern comes from Irish folklore. The tale is told, a man named Jack who was a notorious drunk and trickster tricked the devil into climbing a tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree. According to the tale, after Jack died, he could not enter heaven because of his evil ways. But he could enter hell either because he had tricked the devil. so the devil gave him a ember to light his way through the darkness. It was placed in a hallow turnip to keep it glowing longer. But when immigrants went to America, they discovered pumpkins were much better so used them instead.

    And though cults and satanic worshippers have adopted halloween as their holiday, it did not grow out of evil practices as you can see. it came from celebrating a new year and midieval prayer rituals of the Europeans.

    Pam B

    Formerly at (currently unavailable)

    Los Dias De Los Muertos
    Celebrating the Mexican Holiday
    The Days of the Dead

    Every autumn Monarch Butterflies, which have summered up north in the United States and Canada, return to Mexico for the winter protection of the oyamel fir trees. The locale inhabitants welcome back the returning butterflies, which they believe bear the spirits of their departed. The spirits to be honored during Los Dias de los Muertos.
    Los Dias de los Muertos, the Days of the Dead, is a traditional Mexico holiday honoring the dead. It is celebrated every year at the same time as Halloween and the Christian holy days of All Saints Day and All Souls Day (November 1st and 2nd). Los Dias de los Muertos is not a sad time, but instead a time of remembering and rejoicing.

    The townspeople dress up as ghouls, ghosts, mummies and skeletons and parade through the town carrying an open coffin. The “corpse” within smiles as it is carried through the narrow streets of town. The local vendors toss oranges inside as the procession makes its way past their markets. Lucky “corpses” can also catch flowers, fruits, and candies.

    ofrenda or altar In the homes families arrange ofrenda’s or “altars” with flowers, bread, fruit and candy. Pictures of the deceased family members are added. In the late afternoon special all night burning candles are lit – it is time to remember the departed – the old ones, their parents and grandparents.

    The next day the families travel to the cemetery. They arrive with hoes, picks and shovels. They also carry flowers, candles, blankets, and picnic baskets. They have come to clean the graves of their loved ones. The grave sites are weeded and the dirt raked smooth. The Crypts are scrubbed and swept. Colorful flowers, bread, fruit and candles are placed on the graves. Some bring guitars and radios to listen to. The families will spend the entire night in the cemeteries.

    Skeletons and skulls are found everywhere. Chocolate skulls, marzipan coffins, and white chocolate skeletons. Special loaves of bread are baked, called pan de muertos, and decorated with “bones.

    Handmade skeleton figurines, called calacas, are especially popular. Calacas usually show an active and joyful afterlife. Figures of musicians, generals on horseback, even skeletal brides, in their white bridal gowns marching down the aisles with their boney grooms.

    The celebration of Los Dias de los Muertos, like the customs of Halloween, evolved with the influences of the Celtics, the Romans, and the Christian holy days of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. But with added influences from the Aztec people of Mexico.

    The Aztecs believed in an afterlife where the spirits of their dead would return as hummingbirds and butterflies. Even images carved in the ancient Aztec monuments show this belief – the linking the spirits of the dead and the Monarch butterfly.

    Other links:

    What do Mexicans celebrate on the “Day of the Dead?”

    Through the Eyes of the Soul: Day of the Dead in Mexico


    Wow, Pam! Thanks for posting all this interesting stuff! As a sacristan at my Parish, I just got back from setting up the tables for the feast of All Soul’s where the people put the pictures of their departed loved ones. We also have a large Hispanic contingent at our parish, so we have a statue of Mary that is a skeleton in robes, very Mexican traditional.

    But All Soul’s is also to celebrate the soul’s here as well as there (ALL!) and so it is like a big CAV day!

    So, happy All Soul’s to everyone on both sides!


    Pam B

    Happy Halloween!


    :hearts: Happy Halloween to all!:hearts:


    Happy Halloween!!!


    8_1_225.gif HAPPY HALLOWEEN!



    :eek: … lil fella scared me half to death!

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.