Halloween

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: The Imaginarium
A short essay on the origins of Halloween.

Submitted: October 18, 2016

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Submitted: October 18, 2016

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Halloween.

 

The celebration of Halloween originated from ancient Celtic lore. The Celtic year was divided into two parts – light and dark. May 1st is known as Beltaine, which signifies the end of the dark half; Samhain (pronounced sow-en) is celebrated on 31st October and signifies summer’s end. It is this that has come to be known as Halloween.

 

It is also known as Oiche na Sprideanna which translated means Spirit Night. The Celts believed that on this night the barriers between the human world, the spirit world and the faerie realm (Tir Na Nog) are at their weakest and can more easily be crossed. You don’t want to go wandering around the faerie mounds on this night most of all, because if you enter accidentally you are not likely to find your way out.

 

Traditionally, places were set at the dinner table for those that had passed on to the spirit world. Food would be served, the same as to anyone actually present, and would be left there untouched until the following day. If somebody were to help themselves to that food, they would bring upon themselves the wrath of the spirits.

 

Food also placed a role in appeasing the faerie folk. A small portion of food should be placed outside the door before retiring to bed. Hospitality, or lack of it, would be noted; and faeries were believed to be incredibly powerful. An enraged one could, it was believed, ruin crops or bring disease to cattle, and in an agricultural country that was seen as power in deed. For the same reason, if out that night and coming across a stranger, politeness was essential – you could never tell if it was one of the faerie folk in disguise.

 

The custom of dressing up for Halloween also originated with the Celts. When the Celtic priests had to walk the roads they dressed up in disguise, as ghosts or devils, to confuse any they might meet and safeguard themselves from being seized. Now mostly children dress up and pretend to be those faerie folk or spirits – reward with a treat and all will be well, ignore and be prepared to face the consequences. And also, of course, they are well disguised should they come across any of the real thing.

 

Some other customs were the making of a Parshell. This was a kind of wooden cross that was then woven with reeds, straw or similar. It was essential that it was made on October 31st itself, not even one day before, if it was to offer protection. It was hung above the inside of the door and was said to offer protection for an entire year.

 

If you were out wandering and came across a group with human hostages, you were to bend down, pick up dust from beneath your feet and throw it at them. They would then be obliged to free the hostages.

 

One final word – the pumpkin lanterns originated in the USA. The lanterns did exist before the tradition was taken over, there but they were made from turnips or mangle wurzels – don’t you just love that name!

 

 

522 words.

 

 

 

 


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