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The Fantasy and Folklore of All Hallows
Library of Congress ^ | 1982 | Jack Santino

Posted on 10/31/2013 6:13:05 PM PDT by Borges

Halloween had its beginnings in an ancient, pre-Christian Celtic festival of the dead. The Celtic peoples, who were once found all over Europe, divided the year by four major holidays. According to their calendar, the year began on a day corresponding to November 1st on our present calendar. The date marked the beginning of winter. Since they were pastoral people, it was a time when cattle and sheep had to be moved to closer pastures and all livestock had to be secured for the winter months. Crops were harvested and stored. The date marked both an ending and a beginning in an eternal cycle.

The festival observed at this time was called Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween). It was the biggest and most significant holiday of the Celtic year. The Celts believed that at the time of Samhain, more so than any other time of the year, the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living, because at Samhain the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the otherworld. People gathered to sacrifice animals, fruits, and vegetables. They also lit bonfires in honor of the dead, to aid them on their journey, and to keep them away from the living. On that day all manner of beings were abroad: ghosts, fairies, and demons--all part of the dark and dread.

Samhain became the Halloween we are familiar with when Christian missionaries attempted to change the religious practices of the Celtic people. In the early centuries of the first millennium A.D., before missionaries such as St. Patrick and St. Columcille converted them to Christianity, the Celts practiced an elaborate religion through their priestly caste, the Druids, who were priests, poets, scientists and scholars all at once. As religious leaders, ritual specialists, and bearers of learning, the Druids were not unlike the very missionaries and monks who were to Christianize their people and brand them evil devil worshippers.

As a result of their efforts to wipe out "pagan" holidays, such as Samhain, the Christians succeeded in effecting major transformations in it. In 601 A.D. Pope Gregory the First issued a now famous edict to his missionaries concerning the native beliefs and customs of the peoples he hoped to convert. Rather than try to obliterate native peoples' customs and beliefs, the pope instructed his missionaries to use them: if a group of people worshipped a tree, rather than cut it down, he advised them to consecrate it to Christ and allow its continued worship.

In terms of spreading Christianity, this was a brilliant concept and it became a basic approach used in Catholic missionary work. Church holy days were purposely set to coincide with native holy days. Christmas, for instance, was assigned the arbitrary date of December 25th because it corresponded with the mid-winter celebration of many peoples. Likewise, St. John's Day was set on the summer solstice.

Samhain, with its emphasis on the supernatural, was decidedly pagan. While missionaries identified their holy days with those observed by the Celts, they branded the earlier religion's supernatural deities as evil, and associated them with the devil. As representatives of the rival religion, Druids were considered evil worshippers of devilish or demonic gods and spirits. The Celtic underworld inevitably became identified with the Christian Hell.

The effects of this policy were to diminish but not totally eradicate the beliefs in the traditional gods. Celtic belief in supernatural creatures persisted, while the church made deliberate attempts to define them as being not merely dangerous, but malicious. Followers of the old religion went into hiding and were branded as witches.

The Christian feast of All Saints was assigned to November 1st. The day honored every Christian saint, especially those that did not otherwise have a special day devoted to them. This feast day was meant to substitute for Samhain, to draw the devotion of the Celtic peoples, and, finally, to replace it forever. That did not happen, but the traditional Celtic deities diminished in status, becoming fairies or leprechauns of more recent traditions.

The old beliefs associated with Samhain never died out entirely. The powerful symbolism of the traveling dead was too strong, and perhaps too basic to the human psyche, to be satisfied with the new, more abstract Catholic feast honoring saints. Recognizing that something that would subsume the original energy of Samhain was necessary, the church tried again to supplant it with a Christian feast day in the 9th century. This time it established November 2nd as All Souls Day--a day when the living prayed for the souls of all the dead. But, once again, the practice of retaining traditional customs while attempting to redefine them had a sustaining effect: the traditional beliefs and customs lived on, in new guises.

All Saints Day, otherwise known as All Hallows (hallowed means sanctified or holy), continued the ancient Celtic traditions. The evening prior to the day was the time of the most intense activity, both human and supernatural. People continued to celebrate All Hallows Eve as a time of the wandering dead, but the supernatural beings were now thought to be evil. The folk continued to propitiate those spirits (and their masked impersonators) by setting out gifts of food and drink. Subsequently, All Hallows Eve became Hallow Evening, which became Hallowe'en--an ancient Celtic, pre-Christian New Year's Day in contemporary dress.

Many supernatural creatures became associated with All Hallows. In Ireland fairies were numbered among the legendary creatures who roamed on Halloween. An old folk ballad called "Allison Gross" tells the story of how the fairy queen saved a man from a witch's spell on Halloween.

O Allison Gross, that lives in yon tower the ugliest witch int he North Country... She's turned me into an ugly worm and gard me toddle around a tree... But as it fell out last Hallow even When the seely [fairy] court was riding by, the Queen lighted down on a gowany bank Not far from the tree where I wont to lie... She's change me again to my own proper shape And I no more toddle about the tree. In old England cakes were made for the wandering souls, and people went "a' soulin'" for these "soul cakes." Halloween, a time of magic, also became a day of divination, with a host of magical beliefs: for instance, if persons hold a mirror on Halloween and walk backwards down the stairs to the basement, the face that appears in the mirror will be their next lover.

Virtually all present Halloween traditions can be traced to the ancient Celtic day of the dead. Halloween is a holiday of many mysterious customs, but each one has a history, or at least a story behind it. The wearing of costumes, for instance, and roaming from door to door demanding treats can be traced to the Celtic period and the first few centuries of the Christian era, when it was thought that the souls of the dead were out and around, along with fairies, witches, and demons. Offerings of food and drink were left out to placate them. As the centuries wore on, people began dressing like these dreadful creatures, performing antics in exchange for food and drink. This practice is called mumming, from which the practice of trick-or-treating evolved. To this day, witches, ghosts, and skeleton figures of the dead are among the favorite disguises. Halloween also retains some features that harken back to the original harvest holiday of Samhain, such as the customs of bobbing for apples and carving vegetables, as well as the fruits, nuts, and spices cider associated with the day.

Today Halloween is becoming once again an adult holiday or masquerade, like mardi Gras. Men and women in every disguise imaginable are taking to the streets of big American cities and parading past grinningly carved, candlelit jack o'lanterns, re- enacting customs with a lengthy pedigree. Their masked antics challenge, mock, tease, and appease the dread forces of the night, of the soul, and of the otherworld that becomes our world on this night of reversible possibilities, inverted roles, and transcendency. In so doing, they are reaffirming death and its place as a part of life in an exhilarating celebration of a holy and magic evening.

TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: allhallows; allhallowseve; celts; christians; halloween; legends; lore; origins

1 posted on 10/31/2013 6:13:05 PM PDT by Borges
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To: Borges


2 posted on 10/31/2013 6:20:18 PM PDT by EveningStar
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To: Borges; EveningStar

Happy Halloween and/or Reformation Day.

H’mmm — Name the 95 types of candy that Martin Luther nail to the door of the Wittenberg Church for the trick
or treaters?

And remembering All Saints Day tomorrow.

Answer: These’s Pieces & Gummi Worms (from the Diet of Worms)

3 posted on 10/31/2013 6:23:01 PM PDT by GreyFriar (Spearhead - 3rd Armored Division 75-78 & 83-87)
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To: Borges

We’ve all heard the allegations: Halloween is a pagan rite dating back to some pre-Christian festival among the Celtic Druids that escaped church suppression. Even today modern pagans and witches continue to celebrate this ancient festival. If you let your kids go trick-or-treating, they will be worshiping the devil and pagan gods.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The origins of Halloween are, in fact, very Christian and rather American. Halloween falls on October 31 because of a pope, and its observances are the result of medieval Catholic piety.

4 posted on 10/31/2013 6:25:12 PM PDT by Ben Mugged (The number one enemy of liberalism is reality.)
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To: Ben Mugged

It not surprising that different religious ‘special days’ seem to cluster around certain periods of the year, particularly the season changes signifying a change in daily routines for many. Many in the earlier history of man that is.

Autumn and Spring Equinoxes and their full moons — coincide with the transition from Farmer to hunter, then hunter to Farmer.

5 posted on 10/31/2013 6:40:53 PM PDT by Usagi_yo
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To: Borges

I’m pretty comfortable with the concept that early BC practices all over the world were a prophesy of Christ.

6 posted on 10/31/2013 7:02:44 PM PDT by Mercat
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To: Borges

7 posted on 10/31/2013 7:04:16 PM PDT by RckyRaCoCo (Shall Not Be Infringed)
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To: Borges
Halloween had its beginnings in an ancient, pre-Christian Celtic festival of the dead.

There's nothing like the smell of B.S. in the morning. . .

8 posted on 10/31/2013 8:15:44 PM PDT by SamuraiScot
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To: SamuraiScot
Halloween had its beginnings in an ancient, pre-Christian Celtic festival of the dead.

And another thing: Back in reality, the Feast of All Saints was already being celebrated in 373 A.D. to commemorate all the martyrs—those known and those "known but to God." At this time, most Celts were not Christian at all, but were painting themselves blue, and would continue to do so for another hundred years. All Hallows Eve is the vigil of All Hallows (i.e., All Saints). Big Catholic feasts were always celebrated with a vigil—such as Christmas Eve, the Easter Vigil, and Midsummer Night.

9 posted on 10/31/2013 9:05:54 PM PDT by SamuraiScot
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To: Borges
And now the other side of the story.

Reclaim All Hallows’ Eve [Ecumenical]
Halloween and Catholicism
Traditional Catholic Sacrifice of the Holy Latin Mass on Halloween Night
Faith Facts: All Hallows' Eve
Be Not Afraid: The Surprisingly Holy Origins of Halloween

Hallowe'en (with facts and recipes)
How Halloween Can Be Redeemed (from Catholic Update)
History of Halloween
Bishops’ Halloween Advice: Dress Children Up as Saints, Not Witches
Halloween (CNA Video)
All Hallows' Eve
Celebrating 'All Hallows Eve' and the 'Feast of All Saints' in a Pre-Christian West
Halloween Prayers: Prayers and Collects for All Hallows Eve
Holiday Hysteria (a Christian defense of Halloween)
Hallowe'en - Eve of All Saints - Suggestions for Reclaiming this Christian Feast

10 posted on 10/31/2013 9:08:02 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Borges; TNMountainMan; alphadog; infool7; Heart-Rest; HoosierDammit; red irish; fastrock; ...

Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic List:

Add me / Remove me

Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of general interest.

11 posted on 10/31/2013 9:09:40 PM PDT by narses (... unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.)
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To: SamuraiScot
At this time, most Celts were not Christian at all, but were painting themselves blue, and would continue to do so for another hundred years.

What? We ended that practice? No wonder people look at me strangely.

12 posted on 10/31/2013 9:18:30 PM PDT by Robwin
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To: SamuraiScot

Yes, the Feast of All Saints predates the Christianization of the Celts, but it did not fall on 1 November. In the Christian East, the Feast of All Saints is a movable feast falling on the Sunday following Pentecost, and in the West it was originally a fixed feast falling in the Spring. The Patriarchate of Rome moved it to 1 November after the Christianization of the Celts (and before their schism) while the rest of the Church continued celebrating it in the spring.

13 posted on 10/31/2013 10:32:42 PM PDT by The_Reader_David (And when they behead your own people in the wars which are to come, then you will know...)
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To: GreyFriar

All hail Halloween...I will guess Milk Duds...for no particular reason other than I like um. :-)

14 posted on 10/31/2013 11:56:34 PM PDT by Conservative4Ever (A pox on the House of Apple and the ios7 horse they rode in on.)
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To: The_Reader_David; Robwin
after the Christianization of the Celts (and before their schism)

Huh? Robwin, did you get a load of that? We stopped painting ourselves blue and we had a schism? What schism? Nobody tells me anything.

And here I thought the East had the schism. . .

15 posted on 11/01/2013 5:29:03 AM PDT by SamuraiScot
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To: The_Reader_David; Robwin
"However, there are some who maintain the belief that it has origins in the pagan observation of 13 May, the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated. Liturgiologists base the idea that this Lemuria festival was the origin of that of All Saints on their identical dates and on the similar theme of 'all the dead. . .' "

This is why I am suspicious of most claims of "originally a pagan observance," which mostly have their origin in modern-day, middle-aged divorcees and unattached males looking for an excuse to bay at the moon and jump over fires unattractively naked. They seem to follow Christian feasts around the year like a bad smell. I guess Our Lord is flattered by the attention.

In the example above (from Wikipedia), you see the writer laboring to connect overweight witches with the spring observance of All Saints—because of a different claimed pagan observance of the dead. Heck of a coincidence. Maybe the pagans needed observances of the dead throughout the year because of all the human sacrifice. . .

16 posted on 11/01/2013 5:52:17 AM PDT by SamuraiScot
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