Monday, October 31, 2016

The Roots of Halloween (video)

Christopher Nyerges (; Stuff; Crystal Quintero, Dhr. Seven, Pat Macpherson, CC Liu (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; Edvard Grieg "In the Hall of the Mountain King"; Apocalyptica

Peter, come into the Hall of the Mtn. King
Here's a look back at a centuries-old holiday that’s come a long way from its original intent.

We wondered: How was the holiday (holy day) Halloween commemorated before it was commercialized into a night of trick or treating?

More to the point of our discussion, Is it possible to observe it in a way similar to that of our ancestors?
Let’s begin with the day itself. It is believed that the ancient Celts observed something called a “Samhain [sao-win] festival” toward the end of October.

The redheads of Ireland gather (TG).
According to World Book Encyclopedia, the Celts believed that the dead [Buddhist pretas] could walk among the living at this time of year, when dark and cold would begin enveloping much of the Western world for the next several months.

Elements of these customs can be traced to a Druid ceremony in pre-Christian times. The Celts had festivals for two major gods -- one governing the sun and Samhain, God of the Dead, whose festival was held on Nov. 1st, the beginning of the Celtic New Year.

This day, or period, was to mark the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter.

(Stuff They Don't Want You To Know) In the United States, Halloween is replete with ancient traditions that may seem bizarre to outsiders. Why do we carve faces on pumpkins or dunk our heads in water trying to bite apples? Here are the origins of our traditions, how they became what they are today, and how religious syncretism has blended different beliefs, myths, and rituals.
(Apocalyptica) Norwegian black metal version of Ed Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King"
Samhain (“summer’s end” and also the name of the god) is seen by some Wiccans as a time to celebrate the lives of those who have died, often involving paying respect to ancestors [the grateful dead], family members, elders of the faith, friends, pets, and other loved ones who have passed on. In some rituals, the spirits of the dead are invited to attend the festivities.
Various sorts of activities on Samhain have been described over the centuries. In Ireland, Samhain was a time to take stock of herds and food supplies. Cattle were brought to the winter pastures after six months in higher summer lands. Then, the people chose which animals to slaughter before the winter. After this, there was feasting.

Catholic intervention
Let's take over this party for Rome!
The Catholic Church was aware of all the so-called “pagan” observances and had their own day to commemorate the dead or dearly departed, May 13th.

This began in 609 or 610 C.E., when Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon -- the Roman temple of all the Roman gods -- to the Virgin Mary [the Mother Goddess, Kwan Yin, the Mother of all the Orishas in Yoruba, etc.] and all of the martyrs.

That date was changed by Pope Gregory III (731-741 CE). He dedicated a chapel in Rome to all of the saints and ordered that they be honored on Nov. 1st. This was done, in part, to overshadow the pre-existing Samhain commemorations.
In the 11th century, Nov. 2nd was assigned “All Souls Day” in commemoration of the dead. This began the use of the term All Halloweds’ Eve, or Hallowe’en for October 31, the day before All Saints Day.

The Day of the Dead
Hallowe’en customs are similar to the observance of Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, commonly practiced in Mexico and traceable to early Aztec times.

Apparently, this “Day of the Dead” was originally commemorated in Mexico in May and was changed to Nov. 2nd sometime after Spanish contact in order to correspond with the Christian tradition.
Food and Gifting
Hey, Beavis, let's go get candy and break stuff.
Trick or treating in modern times goes back to leaving food and wine for roaming spirits.

The custom was referred to as “going a-souling” and was eventually practiced only by the children who would visit the houses in their neighborhoods and be given gifts of ale, food, and money.

It was believed the spirits of the dead returned to visit their old homes during this time, so in ancient times people left food out for them and arranged chairs so that the dead would be able to rest.

Treats called “soul cakes” were given out in memory of the departed. The practice in the Middle Ages of souling -- going door to door begging for food in exchange for prayers -- became popular and is even referenced by William Shakespeare in 1593.

This is obviously the root of the modern “trick or treating” -- threatening pranks and mischief in exchange for mini Snickers bars and sugar in all forms, a practice every dentist loves.
Seasonal foods such as apples and nuts were often used in the Samhain rituals. Apples were peeled and the remains were tossed over the shoulder, their shapes examined to see they formed the first letter of a future spouse’s name.
Nuts were roasted on the hearth and then interpreted: If the nuts stayed together so, too, would the couple. Egg whites were dropped in water; the shapes foretold the number of future children. Children would also chase crows and divine some of these things from the number of birds or the direction they flew.
“Mumming” and “Guising”
Hey, I know! I'll be a clown this year!
Celts would wear masks when they left their homes during the night hours during Samhain days because they hoped they would avoid being recognized by the ghosts and be mistaken merely for fellow ghosts.

“Mumming” and “guising” were a part of Samhain from at least the 16th century and was recorded in parts of Ireland, Scotland, Mann, and Wales. More

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