Friday, March 4, 2011

Halloween traditions stem from spirited past (From the Archives)

WWW, 2006 (Archived) - The gnarled toothed witch, jack-o'-lanterns with a menacing glare and trays of caramel apples are all Halloween traditions, but many people don't know the symbols of this fright night began with religious intent.

"Halloween is All Hallows Day, a holy day, and people should notice that," said Father Mark Inglot, a priest at St. John's Student Parish, 327 M.A.C. Ave.

Halloween is based in the Celtic Pagan festival Samhain, which marks the final harvest, the darkening of days and commemorates the dead.

In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III adopted Halloween to convert pagans and attempted to replace the darker aspects with celebrations of saints, said Jason Mankey, former member of Green Spiral, a pagan group on campus.

Dawne Botke-Coe, co-owner of the Triple Goddess Bookstore, 2142 Hamilton Road in Okemos, said the rituals of Samhain have been overshadowed by the modern symbols that came from them.

Originally, the witch was a goddess, mourning the death of the Crown God at the end of the last harvest. An important feature of this image is the presence of the cauldron.

"She's like a Halloween witch, stirring her cauldron, which was part of the Celtic belief that the soul goes to the cauldron to wait for reincarnation," said Botke-Coe, who identifies as a neo-pagan goddess worshiper.

The idea of the goddess as a healer and holy person was destroyed with witch burning and Christianity, she said.

Household items such as brooms, chalices and cauldrons were used by some Celts to continue their religious rituals.

Today, however, these items are symbols of darkness and are generally viewed as instruments of evil.

"Some things that survived, that were really used, have been vilified and are only hauled out on Halloween, but it's simply history," Botke-Coe said.

The religious origins of the jack-o'-lantern are harder to pinpoint.

Botke-Coe said Celts used to hollow-out gourds to keep negative spirits away during the night when the veil between the living and the dead world is weak.

The pumpkin was introduced when the Irish immigrated to the United States in the 1800s and replaced the gourds with the larger vegetable.

But Mankey said the jack-o'-lantern is more of a Christian tradition than pagan, representing a soul trapped in purgatory.

Inglot agrees that the jack-o'-lantern could be viewed as a Christian symbol, used to convey a religious message.

The idea has been put forth, Inglot said, of the emptied-out gourd as a metaphor of a human being.

The candle placed within is supposed to be the soul placed by god, illuminating the vessel.

Celebrating the harvest is the main explanation given for the presence of apples during Halloween festivities.

"The Celts used to observe Samhain by celebrating the harvest - all of the things we use to decorate for Halloween are harvest symbols," Mankey said.

"You're thanking the Earth for the abundance given to us."

Apples were also used by the Celts for divination, which was often done to predict a girl's future spouse.

Botke-Coe said she prefers to use tarot cards to communicate with her dead loved ones. During Samhain she performs divination, which includes a solitary reading to her ancestors.

There is also the idea that bobbing for apples was a version of baptism for the Celts, placed in a cauldron, which was viewed as a homely and holy item, Botke-Coe said.


No comments:

Post a Comment

The Babylon Observer welcomes your comments and stimulates exchange of ideas and opinions, but will refuse personal attacks, spam and off-topic material.

Latest Publications From The Babylon Observer Forum


In case the article(s) on this page was quoted from another source, the two following statements apply:
-1- Fair Use policy applies since the quote is for non-profit educational and research purposes only. For more information, go to:
-2- The Babylon Observer has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of the articles nor is The Babylon Observer endorsed or sponsored by the originator.