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Russian Woman Journal
Culture

Tuesday 28 October  2008

DOUG R. (England)

Dead Connections (Halloween)

 

HalloweenAre you still connected to the dead?

Archaeological surveyors of an old trackway in eastern England recently found a very large oak tree buried vertically and upside down. The site was 2000 years older than the Pyramids, which made it Celtic. What did such an unusual discovery mean?

Were these massive roots reaching skywards in a dramatic attempt to reach heaven?
Or was it the Celtic way of reaching down to the sprits of their ancestors?

Who cares about Celts, their ancestors and their spirits? Do you?
If you are celebrating Halloween, you should think about these things.
You are renewing your connection with those ancient spirits revered in Celtic culture.
See below.

The Celtic World and November.

The modern Welsh language version for the word ‘Halloween’ is ‘Nos Galan Gaeaf’ which translates as ‘Winter’s New Year.’
Celts named the day of 1 November ‘SAMHAIN.’
This is when summer departs and winter arrives.

November is always an unpleasant time of year. It marks the change from summer to winter when the sun and brightness of summer becomes the cold and dark of winter.
To Celts this is the moment when the summer’s barriers to evil sprits are weakened, allowing them to enter our world.

Celts paid strict attention to the changing seasons. Their agricultural life depended on weather for food and general well-being.

Significant turning points were marked by festivals and various community activities.
Animals were slaughtered at Samhain, partly to preserve meat for winter food, and partly to save on the food the animals would consume.

Importance of weather in November.

In those primitive days weather lore was important. It was the experience of ancients distilled into simple phrases.

The weather on 11 November, called Martinmas Day, was considered a forerunner of what to expect.

Sayings included;
If the wind is northwest at Martinmas, expect a severe winter.

‘if the ducks do slide at Martinmas, by Christmas they will swim.
If the ducks do swim at Martinmas, by Christmas they will slide.’

Geese standing on ice at Martinmas will be in mud by Christmas.

Warm November means bad Winter.

HalloweenAfter the First World War, the date of 11 November assumed significance as Armistice Day when the millions who died in war are remembered.
Martinmas has become an unremembered relic.

Celtic Superstitions and November.

Celts believed human spirits continue to live deep down in the earth.

They would like to return to our world and try to inhabit an earthly body again.
Living deep in the earth, they prefer darkness to light and so emerge only at night.

Fire keeps evil spirits away. Therefore do not travel at night, without a burning fire torch.

Carry a piece of bread crossed with salt, because salt keeps witches away.
Black cats protect witches from hostile forces.
To meet a witch, put your clothes on inside out, and walk backwards on Halloween night.

Anglo-Saxons, Romans and November.
Later cultures merged or hi-jacked ancient ceremonies to make their arrival more acceptable to the locals.

Anglo-Saxons called November ‘wind monath’ meaning this was when cold winds began.
Another name was ‘blod monath’ to signify this was when cattle were killed .

The Romans did their own hi-jacking.
When they became the power in the land, they merged Samhain with their own ceremony to Pamona, their god of trees and fruits.
They named the month as November. ‘Novem’ is their word for nine. It is the ninth month in their calendar.

Roman Catholic Church and November.

The Roman Catholic church linked their various Holy Days to local festivals in the same old ploy of inducing the locals to accept and join in.

1 November is All Saints Day. ‘Hallow’ meant Saint or Holy Person.
A day to celebrate and remember all ‘men of goodwill’ (meaning Saints ) and outstanding Christians (meaning martyrs who died for their faith).
This conveniently replaced All Hallows, a feast day season beginning the previous evening with the ‘Eve of All Hallows.’
Hence the word ‘Halloween’ from Hallow’s Eve

It was politic to merge this date with the Celtic Samhain. This was when fire and other communal activities kept away the evil spirits who tried to emerge during the long dark winter days.
Catholics used the arguments that Jesus was the Light of the World and will therefore overcome all powers of darkness, and that goodwill always conquers evil.

2 November is All Souls Day.
Poorer church members offered prayers for the dead in return for money or ‘soul cakes’ from richer members. A soul cake is like a hot cross bun without the currants or the cross.
Children would visit houses singing a particular ‘soulers’ song and accompanied by a Hobby Horse.
(for hobby horse/hooden horse see previous articles.)
Some believed that the dead revisited their old homes on All Souls night. Candles were left outside the front door to guide the spirits to the food and wine left out for them.

4 November was Mischief Night. Public signs were changed around, gates taken off hinges, doors whitewashed, door latches tied. The main idea was to put everything where it should not be.

5 November is Bonfire Night.
Probably the most famous celebration is on November the Fifth also called Bonfire Night, when the Catholic Guy Fawkes was foiled in his attempt to blow up Parliament and the King.
For details see article ‘Noisy November’.

11 November, the day of Martinmas was always on the 11th of November. On this day farm labourers renewed contracts or looked for alternative work. Fairs were held for the purpose in most market towns. The important autumn seeding and other farm activities should have been completed. It was a moment for farmers to relax.

22 November is St Cecilia’s Day. A Roman girl martyred, as mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. She is the Patron Saint of musicians.


25 November is St Catherine’s Day. Martyred by being broken on a spiked wheel. Hence the name for Catherine Wheel fireworks.

30 November is St Andrew’s Day. St Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland.

Halloween

Other connections to the past may interest you.

Temporary lanterns are traditionally made from pumpkins, the same family as cucumbers. (Turnips were also used in the past.)
They are an excellent example of the Celtic need for a fire and light to give protection from evil spirits.
The pumpkin is scooped out, often with a face, complete with eyes and mouth. Inside is a candle. Hence demonstrating the power of light over darkness.

Note also the colour orange represents the end of harvest, black represents death.
So if the candle goes out only orange and blackness remain.

Dress Sense.
Since ghosts or spirits of the dead try to return to their old neighbourhoods, people believed if they went out at night they might meet them.
Wearing a mask would confuse the spirit into believing they were one of them.

Trick or Treat.
Children knock on doors demanding either to be give a treat (food) or a trick (money).
They would wear ‘witches’ clothes. The house owners believed they were witches and would happily give a treat or a trick just to keep them away.

So when you’re enjoying your lantern procession or party celebrations just remember you’re celebrating dead people! Just as the Celts did.


DOUG R. (England)

 

Recent articles of Doug R.:

 

Published in Woman's Magazine Russian Woman Journal  www.russianwomanjournal.com - 28 October 2008

Culture



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