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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Vampires and Were Wolves and Ghosties, Oh My!

Welcome to my first annual Halfway to Halloween Celebration!

You've probably heard my story, I love the month of October. All year I wait for the fall color on the trees. I look forward to carving pumpkins and trying to lure in the trick or treaters who are brave enough to venture down our spooky unlit street. But alas, traditionally, October is just a month of really bad mojo for me. Don't believe me? I promise you, check in with me six months from now to get the update on this years special event.

But more importantly, check back here daily, I promise you'll find articles from some great authors of paranormal romance, sexy excerpts, and a bundle of great recipes and craft ideas to get you started ahead of time.

But on to Halloween. It's a special time...who doesn't love Halloween? I remember when I was a very small child, we lived in El Segundo, a rather lovely area in Los Angeles County. My mother or my grandmother always made spectacular costumes for myself and my siblings. I was Bo Peep once. My brother was a hobo. My sister was a princess. We walked up and down the streets of our neighborhood, and then ventured to the next street over. That was a frightening journey, as we never left our own neighborhood on a normal day. The houses were strange and the faces were unfamiliar, it was one of the biggest adventures of my life.

So what's the deal with Halloween anyway? I don't want to weigh you down with the full academic background...I was going to, but my old notes from college are in storage...So let it be known that this is a grossly oversimplified article on the origins of a highly complex holiday. I'm not even touching any non-Celtic traditions of the day.

Personally, I believe that Samhain is part of our cultural memory. The traditions are stunningly similar from culture to culture as the holiday evolved. Mask, fire, the harvest and the association with the dead...and the undead.

Halloween is a cyclic, or calendar holiday. It happens at the same time every year. Like many holidays on the modern Western calendar, Halloween started as a pagan observation: the Celtic festival of Samhain. It later blended with Roman traditions as they forayed into the British Isles. In time, the Pope ordered that All Saints day be observed on November 1, so while Halloween is secular, there is a strong religious overtone to the holiday.

October 31 was the death of the old year, November 1 symbolized the birth of the new year. But it wasn't like the celebrations that we associate with New Year today. It was a grim, frightening time. The growing season and harvest was past and now the slow death of winter moved in. It was time to bring in the harvest and prepare for the long night ahead.
On that one single night, the veil between worlds was thin that things from the other side could make their way through and visit us. The ghosts of the dead could slip through, causing mischief, or simply stopping in to make a benevolent visit to family and loved ones.

Fire was a purifying force to the Celts. The remnants of their crops were burned in gigantic bonfires. They ritually herded their livestock between two of the gigantic bonfires. Animals were slaughtered for winter stores, and their bones were fed to the fires. Undoubtedly, more substantial animal sacrifice was made as well.

Many of the symbols that we now associate with Halloween are rooted in these times: masks, skeletons, Jack-o-lanterns, (made of roots rather than pumpkins) and various paranormal creatures such as ghosts, goblins, vampires, black cats, werewolves, and many other ominous symbols of evil and death.

Of course, over the centuries, the holiday has continued to evolve, (and grow sadly commercialized) and yet in a sense, it remains strikingly true to its ancient origins. Its a celebration of life moving forward into death, in order that life might once again arise from the Earth. It's a celebration of harvest...anyone up for bobbing for apples? How about some candy corn? Its a time when the dead may briefly mingle with the living. It is frightening, exhilarating and hopeful, all at once.

So what are your thoughts on Halloween? Any favorite memories? Do you remember a special costume or a particularly spooky incident? Leave a comment on my blog and this Sunday night I'll draw a name for a free download of Snowfire: Chrysalis.

Many thanks, and have a happy May Day! Don't forget to come back tomorrow!


lindseye said...

Halloween is very commercial and pc now and it requires some thought to find the mystery and death of the world which leads to the rebirth. Have always enjoyed the doecorations and the best part is the chocolate and other candy.

Kassandra Thrace said...

I didn't really appreciate Halloween until I met my hubby. It is his favorite time of year and quickly became mine.

Thinking back, I do actually remember one Halloween when I was in elementary school in Louisiana. My parents put together a haunted house in one of the outlying buildings for the school carnival. I was dressed as a witch and would lead the students through the building. After the carnival was over we used the props to make a haunted house in the garage for Halloween. It was really popular.

My fav part of Halloween is being someone else for the evening.

Katie Bug said...

I love Halloween! I get so into the decorating and drives my husband nuts. lol The last few years my son has also fallen for this holiday. He let me do his face makeup when he was a vampire. Took a while to do but so worth it.

My favorite part as a child was the candy. Now as an adult, it is watching all the kids enjoying themselves. I really like the newbie who are just seeing for the first time.


Belinda McBride said...

I love the chocolate and candy too! And I do agree that it's commercial, but still, most of the trappings of Halloween can easily be traced back to its origins.

And seriously, I'm still trying to figure out how the Easter Bunny lays eggs!

Savanna Kougar said...

Belinda, excellent point about Halloween being a remembrance of Druid/Celtic celebrations.
To expand a bit, everything has a frequency, or it's by the harmonic numbers... thus, Halloween, the very nature of it continues to live.

As an older child one of my favorite things about Halloween was the freedom of running the neighborhood in a costume I'd thought up, with my friends.
There was nothing like that night.
Of course, the candy was great! I was careful to make it last a long time.

MarthaE said...

Interesting article with lots of info! My mom made us some fun costumes: My brother was an upside down guy one time (shirt on his legs with a head sewn on and pants in the air) and my sister and I were a pair of dice. I don't go in for it much now...and I'm glad that our church does a Halleluia party so the kids can have fun without going out on the streets!

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi, Belinda,

Loved your post on the origins of the holiday. It provides a bit of insight into the scarier aspects that still survive.

Note that April 30/May 1 was also a pagan holiday, halfway in the round of the year.


Belinda McBride said...

You're right, Lisabet. I thought it was pretty funny that we're celebrating Samhain on Beltane!

Booksrforever123 said...

I've always loved seeing what the popular culture belives is most popular by looking to see what the kids are wearing for Halloween.

She said...

I always liked the candy. This was back when the big candy bars were a nickel and you always got big candy bars. We also got apples and homemade cookies and we didn't have to worry about things in them. It's a shame that it's so different now. A lot of the fun is gone. One of our neighbors used to stand on his roof, dressed up, and threaten to jump on the trick or treaters. He didn't but he'd make scary noises and stuff.