(182) Sat 26 Sep 92 17:24 By: Christopher Baker To: Dan Eastman Re: The Origins of Hallowe

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(182) Sat 26 Sep 92 17:24 By: Christopher Baker To: Dan Eastman Re: The Origins of Halloween ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ [this is available as an orange flyer/handout from American Atheist Press as their stock #8377, 20 for $2.00. their address appears at the end of this message.] Copyright 1991 by American Atheist Press, Austin, Texas. At Halloween it's fun to dress up in scary costumes and decorate with black cats and orange pumpkins. You know it's make-believe. But the ideas behind Jack-O-Lanterns, ghosts and witches go back to a time when people lived in dread of goblins, demons and Warlocks. Halloween's origins reach all the way back to hunting societies. Animals were sometimes sacrificed at a festival which marked the beginning of the winter animal breeding season. The people hoped to increase births in the season to come. Since in winter there would be a shortage of fodder for cattle, in later times cattle were killed instead and a great feast was held. More than 2,000 years ago, the Celts (pronounced KELTZ) practiced cruel religious rites on the evening of October 31, some of which can be traced back to the Cult of Dionysus of ancient Greece. Their priests were called Druids (DROO-IDZ). The Druids lit huge bonfires to celebrate their most important festival of the year. They burned alive prisoners of war, criminals or animals in weirdly shaped baskets. By observing the way they died, the Druids thought they could foretell the future (fortune telling). The Celts believed Samhain (SAH'WIN) "Lord of the Dead," controlled the souls of those who had died. People who had not lived good lives on earth would become animals, while those who deserved it would be given human form (reincarnation). The very wicked took the form of black cats. The souls of the dead were thought to come back to visit with the living at the death of the old year, which was October 31. The beginning of the new year (Nov. 1) was a joyful harvest festival. The Druids burned animals and humans both as gifts to Samhain and in hopes that the spirits would be too busy with the souls of the new dead to bother the living. Bonfires (from bone fire) were also believed to frighten off raging demons, witches and ghosts. People put out sweets and other good things to eat to attempt to placate the evil spirits. They would gather around the bonfire and tell about the strange sights they had seen on Oct. 31 (storytelling). Some, hoping to fool the demons, disguised themselves. Others wore masquerade costumes made from animal heads and skins in Samhain processions to scare away evil spirits. About 2,000 years ago, Roman armies invaded Great Britain and Gaul, as France was called then. During the 400 years that they ruled, the Roman festival for the dead (the Feralia) and their early November festival honoring Pomona (the goddess of the orchards) gradually blended with the Samhain Vigil. They played games, held races, and pictured Pomona with a crown of apples on her head. Some of the Roman soldiers adopted the beliefs of the Druids. This disturbed the Roman emperors and they banned the Druid religion. Many Druid priests were killed, but the Celts believed that the spirits would harm anyone who failed to honor them and so they continued to build bonfires and prepare for the arrival of spirits on the eve of Samhain. Large turnips and potatoes were hollowed out and used as holders to help carry the candles to the fields without dripping hot wax. Slits were cut to let more light through. The name Jack-O-Lantern came from an Irish story about a man named Jack. He tricked the devil so many times that he was doomed to wander forever in lonely places, waving his lantern. In the meantime, a new religion, Christianity, had started. It was hard to convince people that their old gods were evil and to wipe out their rites and symbols, so the Christian church gave the old symbols new names. Rites for Samhain were combined with the Greek Feast of the Unknown Gods, which was held to ensure that they didn't miss honoring one of their many gods. The Christians changed that to All Saints Day, also know as All Hallows, to honor all dead saints who didn't have a day of their own. This was originally celebrated in May, but in 900 CE [Common Era] it was changed to Nov. 1. The evening before became All Hallow's Even, later shortened to Halloween. As much as the early church leaders wished the pagan rituals of Pomona Day and the Vigil of Samhain would be covered up by their new day, they were not. While All Hallows was a day for religious thought and church services, All Hallow's Even remained a night for magic. The people went on expecting the arrival of ghosts. They still left food out on the night of Samhain. They continued celebrating the harvest by feasting on nuts and apples, telling fortunes, dancing, and playing games. During the Middle Ages, witchcraft emerged as an organized cult opposed to the Roman Catholic Church. The witches were originally respected as they knew how to heal the sick with herbs and plants, and other secrets of nature. The word witch comes from the Old English wicce (WITCH-uh), which means a wise woman. Since the Christian religion did not allow witchcraft, they had to meet secretly at night, wearing black clothes. They would gather to mock the coming of the Church's festival of All Saint's Day by performing unholy acts. Halloween became known as the Night of the Witch. Sickness, bad luck, fires, storms, and ruined crops were all blamed on witch's spells. The custom of children Trick or Treating from house to house comes from Celtic (KEL-tick) boys asking people for sticks or logs for the Druid's bonfires. Later, children went from house to house asking for money to buy Soul Cakes. Eating the cakes was supposed to ease the sufferings of the souls of those who had died. Poor farmers in Ireland went to rich homes to ask for food. If the rich would not give them any food, the farmers played tricks on them. People thought ghosts had played the tricks. They decided to be nicer so the ghosts would leave them alone. They gave food to the farmers and the ghosts stayed away! As people learned more about science and nature, they were no longer afraid of the unknown. The customs of Halloween became merrier. Now when you use the black and orange colors of Halloween, you will be reminded of the holiday's mixed origins, with black as the color of the night and orange representing the harvest crops. REFERENCES: Autumn Festivals by M. Rosen; Celebrating Nature by E. Heffman; Halloween by J. Kessel; Halloween by L. Patterson; Halloween by C. Sandak; Light the Candles! Beat the Drums by J. Sarnoff & R. Ruffins; Red Letter Days by E. Sechrist; Weird by P. Limburg; and Witches, Pumpkins and Grinning Ghosts by E. Barth. -30- American Atheist Press PO Box 140195 Austin TX 78714-0195 Telephone orders: 1-512-467-9525, 24 hour order line. their catalog contains many hard to find publications and a full range of gifts and cards as well as stickers and bumper stickers. hope this helps you in your search for Halloween info. [grin] TTFN. Chris --- DB 1.38/001027 * Origin: Rights On! - Religion Free Always! - Titusville_FL_USA (1:374/14)

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