Friday, September 27, 2019

I - All Hallows Eve

Let's start with Halloween. Long before "Tricking or Treating", bobbing for apples, carved pumpkins, or costumes of Ninja Turtles, the holiday had ancient origins.  

It all started with the Celts in ancient Ireland. The festival Samhain was celebrated at the end summer, the end of the harvest season, when the days became shorter bringing about more darkness, and the weather turned cold.The Celts associated this time as one of death. They believed that on this one day the dead could return to Earth.  They believed these ghosts and evil spirits destroyed crops and wrecked havoc - they caused destruction to the natural world, as the Celts knew it.

To ward off the ghosts and spirits of the dead, the Druids  (the judges, priests, teachers of the Celts) lit bonfires to light the darkness. Knowing it was the day of the dead, the Celts dressed in costumes hoping the ghosts would not see them or if they did, confuse them with other ghosts or spirits, and leave them be. So there we have (one story of) the origins of costumes on Halloween.

From the ashes and embers of these sacred bonfires, the Celts lit their hearth fires, believing this would protect them during upcoming winter.

Sometime in the 700's AD Pope Gregory III proclaimed November 1 to be the celebration of the saints - All Hallows Day (aka All Saints Day), which is still celebrated today. That made the night before (October 31)  All Hallows Eve. Later Pope Gregory included the celebration of All Martyrs Day with the celebrations of All Saints. When the Romans ruled the United Kingdom, they combined their celebration of Feralia (when they acknowledged the passing of the dead)  and the day they celebrated Pomona, the Roman goddess of the celebrations of fruits and trees. 

Throughout time traditions, customs, and superstitions of All Hallow's Eve continue. Stepping on a crack in the sidewalk, spilling salt, or breaking mirrors would bring about bad fortune. Also, walking under a ladder.  (This came from the ancient Egyptians’ belief that triangles were sacred, ergo crossing one would bring about bad fortune.) Seeing a black cat cross the street in front of you walking left to right (or right to left, I can never remember) is a bad omen. Fun fact - the fear of black cats comes from the idea in the Middle Ages that witches turned into black cats to hide in plain sight.

Basically the Celts and their descendants through time feared evil spirits and tried to attract the good spirits. Most of the old rituals or beliefs can be traced back to the Middle Ages. People were always trying to perform small rituals that would prevent bad luck and bring about goodwill and good fortune from the better spirits.

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