It’s Halloween time and the best parts of the season are yet to come. 50% off candy, wacky and provocative costumes and pumpkin spiced everything. Including your mom.
Before we get into the fun stuff, here’s a bit of a history lesson. Halloween is a Celtic holiday. Yep. Yep. It’s not just a day for candy and anonymous sex. It’s also not just a neo-pagan or Wiccan religion. It, like many other Christian holidays, was a real holiday celebrated as the New Year for the ancient Celts.
Tara Brooch from 700 AD at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin
A brief history of Halloween
Halloween is a holiday despite what the candy companies, greeting cards and Big 3 religions want you to believe. It’s an ancient holiday that was once called Samhain by the Celts (think before 10th century). It means November and roughly broken down and translated means “Summer’s End”. It was the New Year for the Irish, Scots and Manx Celts. It was a time to take stock of your harvest and prepare for the new year and oncoming cold. You would slaughter your livestock during this time in order to prepare and keep others that could handle the oncoming time. It was pretty much about preparing for surviving and honoring what took place in the last year. Including the dead.
According to Peter Berresford Ellis in his book “The Celts” the celebration of Samhain was:
“[The}…one day of the year when the Otherworld could become visible to this world: on the feast of Samhain, the eve of 31 October to 1 November. This was a time when the supernatural boundary between the two worlds was broken down and people, the living and the dead, could move freely between the two lands. IT was a time when those who had been wronged by the living could return and haunt them. Christianity, unable to suppress the belief, adopted it. 1 November became All Hallows Day or All Souls Day and the evening before, ‘Hallowe’en’.”
The custom of wearing costumes and masks as to trick the evil spirits by pretending to be one of them (sort of like in zombie movies when someone tries to act like a zombie so they don’t get eaten by the real zombies) or to ward them off.
“The Gaelic custom of wearing costumes and masks was an attempt to copy the evil spirits or ward them off. In Scotland the dead were impersonated by young men with masked, veiled or blackened faces, dressed in white. Candle lanterns, carved from turnips, were part of the traditional festival. Large turnips (also known as rutabaga or swedes) were hollowed out, carved with faces, placed in windows to ward off evil spirits” – Wikipedia
In the 11th century, the church adopted the Holiday and made it a bit more religious and soon after began the propaganda that the holiday was a time for demons, devils and evil to leak out and shouldn’t be celebrated.
Pumpkins were actually an American thing that started in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Why? The British Isles and Ireland don’t have pumpkins silly. They do have turnips and rutabagas and other stuff that I would never eat and would prefer to carve up into a slightly creepy mannequin face. The Celts didn’t even carve these things until later into Christian Conversion of the holiday around the earlier part of the 20th century. They used them as wards for the ‘evil spirits’.
A creepy ass Turnip that was carved in the early 20th century and is currently on display at the Museum of Country Life, Ireland.
“The tradition of carving a lantern started in Scotland and Ireland where it was traditionally carved from a turnip, and in England where a beet was used. They were created on All Hallows’ Eve and left on the door step to ward off evil spirits. An offering or, as we now know it, a “treat”, would also be commonly left to placate roaming sprites and evil spirits — otherwise they might ‘fiddle’ with property or livestock (play a “trick”).” – Wikipedia
Costumes used to be scary or representational and later on they became silly. Now it’s pretty much an excuse to dress up in nothing but a loincloth or a thong and go parading around the city.
Before that though, costumes were part of the holiday so that they could trick or ward off the spirits coming from the Otherworld. Not all of them were bad but sometimes a lass just wants to be left alone and go about her business.
In Scotland, young men called Guisers put on a costumes that were”…masked, veiled or blackened faces, dressed in white” (Wiki) and went around town. In the 16th century and on, the costumes wore worn by all and the young’uns would troll the neighborhoods, knocking on thatch doors for treats or they would pull a trick. Please note, they never threw eggs or any of the really mean pranks kids these days pull (yes, I just realized how old I sound. Move on).
If you want to know more about Samhain/Halloween:
Chalice Center – it’s a religious/spiritual site it does a good job explaining without trying to convert. It also shows you the traditions that have carried through like Bobbing for Apples (apples were a very sacred symbol and important fruit for the Celts)