Hallowe’en, celebrated on 31stOctober, marks the end of the Celtic year, and the beginning of winter. It is the point in the sun’s cycle when it reaches the lowest part of its course, and it was believed that the sun actually entered the underworld for a time. When the gates opened to admit the sun, ghosts and demons escaped to visit the mortal world – Hallowe’en is still said to be the time when the veil between our world and that of the spirits is at its thinnest.
In the 7th century, unable to find a Christian festival to replace the pagan one, the Church introduced All Saints Day for the 1st November, to honour the saints who did not have a recognised feast day of their own.
In pagan culture, Hallowe’en, the October Sabbat of Samhain (pronounced ‘ Sow-ain’) was the date of the festival of fire, and a time for honouring one’s ancestors and the souls of the dead. The grotesque pumpkin heads – the Jack o'Lantern tradition – that are now instantly recognisable as a sign of Hallowe’en are actually not intended to frighten humans, but to scare away unwanted ghosties or demons who might be out and about ... the reason behind dressing up in 'scary' costumes on Hallowe'en.
The ‘trick or treat’ custom, which has been hijacked by children ‘demanding’ sweets, originated from the tradition of offering food and drink to appease the souls of the dead who might revisit their old homes, and seek retribution if ignored.
Until the end of the 19th century, Hallowe’en in parts of England was still celebrated by dancing around large fires that were once a central feature of the pagan festival. Now, bonfires in England have become synonymous with Guy Fawkes’ failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605, and has been transferred to h November.
I like Hallowe’en … more the idea of it and what it used to represent, its pagan connotations. I heartily dislike what it’s become – yet another commercialised ‘tradition’, more about making money than marking the beginning of winter, and honouring the dead.
But let’s not end on a ‘sour’ note; here’s a bit of craft I attempted earlier … A few weeks ago, Hatty sent me a picture of a book that had been altered to look like a pumpkin – a Book Pumpkin!
“Dare I try this at home?” said I. “Yes, Joy, you do,” said Hatty :) I couldn’t access the site that had the instructions so made it up as I went along, and this is the end result, my Hallowe’en giftie to my lovely Hatty … And only now
do I discover that I do not have orange in either my inks or paints!