That's what I said, spooks and spectres feck off!!! I am on my soapbox again, about Halloween this time.
My problem being, in a seasonal nutshell, taking a look at the history of Halloween; what was once, at least, in part, an authentic celebration, in harmony with the Earth and her cycles, is now, little more than a mercenary exploitation of our misguided fascination with the macabre and an excuse to flog candy, plus it’s depressing to-boot!
So, where did it all start you might ask?
With the Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago, in Ireland, the UK and Northern France, who celebrated the great Fire Festival of Samhain on November 1st, between the Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice, a day which marked the end of Summertime and the start of the 'dark' half of the year, also harvest time. Huge bonfire's were lit by Druids, the Celtic priesthood, and the people attired in costume, gathered to burn animal sacrifices to their Gods, before re-lighting their hearth fires, from the sacred fire, to protect them during the Wintertime. Being totally, dependent on the natural world they also associated the time with death and believed that on the night of the 31st October, the seperation between this world and the next was blurred, allowing the spirits of their ancestors to roam the Earth and making it a good time for fortune telling and such.
Fast forward to 43 A.D and the Roman Empire had conquered most of Celtic world so that, the Roman festivals of Feralia (when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead) and Pomona (in honor of the Roman Goddess Pomona, of fruit and trees, which explains the tradition of “bobbing” for apples) merged with the traditional Samhain and later still, the Celtic rites were replaced by All Saints Day on November 1st and All Souls Day on the 2nd, the Christian celebration also being called All-hallows (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, ‘All-hallows Eve’ hence, ‘Halloween’ as we know it today.
Later still, a distinctly American version of the festival began to emerge, in colonial America, involving celebrations of the harvest, where neighbours would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, sing and dance, but it was not yet a tradition, celebrated everywhere in the country. Then, in the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants, including millions of Irish fleeing Ireland’s potato famine of 1846, who helped to popularize the celebration nationally and the tradition of dressing up in costumes and going house to house asking for food or money began, the origin of today’s 'trick or treating'. A new national holiday was born, which is now celebrated throughout the Western world, today’s Halloween.
So, elaborating on my problem with todays version of ‘Halloween’;
1. The Celts engaged in gruesome animal sacrafices, in their limited understanding of the forces which ruled over the natural world, but initially in the American Halloween tradition, costumes were more festive than malevolent, whereas today’s seasonal ‘dress up’ and decorations are, becoming increasingly disturbing, in line and influenced by horror films and their counterparts, in the electronic gaming industry (another blog for another day perhaps!). As well, as finding all this, as above just God awful, depressing (apologies to lovers of the grotesque horror genre, but I personally have no interest in desensitzing myself, so that I consider skeletons as cheery front door décor, or gruesome bloody images amusing. I mean, seriously, what’s with this whole zombie culture anyway? ) I would also posit that only a culture, very much out of touch with the natural world and the human spirit, the Earths offspring! could entertain such horrors, as entertainment. As I personally believe that it is possible that the rituals we collectively engage in, may have some real effect in the world. I mean, it’s already, been proven beyond doubt, that when large groups of people meditate in various cities, the crime rate drops! So, let’s just say I can’t see Halloween having the same auspicious effect. Call me superstitious if you like.
(A note here that I am referring to the ‘horror genre’ and not benign, ghost stories;interesting article, deffereniating betweem the two here: http://www.vox.com/2015/10/17/9559359/crimson-peak-review-not-scary)
2. Halloween, like every other holiday, has morphed into little more than exploitation for profit. It is the second highest biggest commercial holiday in the US after Christmas, grossing a mindboggling 7.4 million in 2014, 2 billion on candy alone, one quarter of all candy sold in the U.S annually, being at Halloween. It has become a meaningless exercise, out of touch with its begginnings. I mean, the Celts, if limited in their undertstanding, believing that had to appease primitive Gods, at least understood that it was Mother Nature they relied upon for their survival.
3. Not only that but the majority of costumes and decorative items, sold at Halloween today, is plastic, non biodegradable and harmful for the Planet!
4. Its totally out of touch with its seasonal significance, not to mention its symbolic potential and could be such a magical time!
We are handed down customs and traditions, which are sometimes wonderful, sometimes dreadful and sometimes simply outdated. Traditions are afterall, nothing more than manners of behaving, carried forward, by group consesus, and not set in stone, so that a generation can choose to discard or adapt any tradition.
For me, Halloween, is one of the outdated ones, and pretty daft, as we celebrate it today, devoid of any meaning. After learning about the origins of Halloween, I now undertsand it, as time of year for reaping what has been sown, releasing the old and new begginnings. So, being a positivity junkie, spooks are not allowed on my watch.
Ps. I’ll be blogging tomorrow evening about I’m celebrating Halloween myself this year and yes, you’ve guessed, it does involve alcohol so check back if you’re interested in some seasonal cocktails : ) that don’t involve blood n’ guts or spiders!