Hi and Happy Halloween!
Welcome to today’s post
where I’m going to share what I’ll be doing along with a little bit
of history of the day… and of course some lovely handmade treats!
Although it isn’t
celebrated as keenly as it is in the US, Halloween originates from
over here in the UK. The oldest stories reach back to the Celtic
festival of Samhain (pronounced Sah-Ween) which marks the final
harvest and the end of Summer. The Celts held any time of change or
transition in high regard and believed that these times were magical
and spirits could wander freely. Those that had died in the previous
year could pass across to the otherworld and those already passed
could travel back through to earth. Fires were lit in their honour
and costumes were made from hollowed out animal heads and skins to
represent the Gods of Nature.
Today, I’m going to be
busy carving pumpkins with my kids, and they want angry birds… I
think they’re being a bit hopeful of my capabilities!
The tradition of
carving pumpkins or Jack O’ lanterns comes from Ireland where there
lived a man known as Stingy Jack. He was well known for being mean
and playing tricks on those around him and also for being a terrible
drunk. One evening in a bar, he met the devil.
Not being easily
intimidated, he asked him to join him in a drink. But being stingy,
he didn’t want to pay for them, so he convinced the devil to turn in
to a sixpence to pay the bill in return for his soul. But rather than
settle up, Stingy Jack decided to keep the coin and put it in his
purse where he kept a cross. The devil was trapped and couldn’t
return to his original form. Jack agreed to let the devil go free if
he promised not to bother him for a year. A year later, Jack again
met the devil, this time while walking home. He convinced the devil
to climb up in to a tree to pick him an apple. While he was up there,
Jack carved crosses in the tree preventing the devil from climbing
down again. This time, he agreed to free the devil if he promised to
leave him alone for 10 years.
Before his 10 years
were up, Stingy Jack died and went up to heaven. He was turned away
at the gates due to his mean ways on Earth, so he travelled down to
hell. The devil refused him entry as he had promised not to take his
soul for 10 years and wasn’t happy about being tricked, so Stingy
Jack had no place to rest. As he left he asked what he should do…
the devil threw him a burning ember, which he put inside a hollow
turnip to light his way as he roamed for eternity looking for a
So with the pumpkins
carved, it will be time to dress up, this year we’re going with
skeletons. Traditionally costumes have been worn to hide from the
faeries or spirits alleged to run free on the night of Halloween.
Disguised as beggars, they visit houses asking for treats and
handouts. They will reward those who give food, but those who refuse
will be tricked. Other stories say that pumpkins are left outside
houses to guide the souls of those lost through the year home, and
the scary faces are carved to scare away evil spirits.
Ours will be going in
the garden while we go out looking for ghosts, and bats, and witches on
Witches for modern
Halloween are usually portrayed haggard old ladies with warts and
green faces, cackling around a cauldron. But the first witches were
much kinder people.
The word witch, derives from ‘Wicca’ meaning
‘Wise one’. These women were originally known as wise as they were
healers. They practised early forms of medicine, making natural
remedies to assist with pain and other ailments and were well
respected in their communities.
With the spread of
Christianity through Europe, practising medicine was frowned upon and
considered to be practising against God’s will, so witches were cast
as evil, horrible old hags doing the work of the devil, and mass hysteria ensued. Accusations flew and people were accused of witchcraft for things as simple as having a birthmark or mole, considered to be marks of the devil. Those leading the witch hunts would offer the accused salvation in return for their confession and naming of the other witches in their coven. Faced with the choice of a nasty painful death, or being saved by naming a few others, the accused usually put forth the names in order to save themselves. This lead to hundreds of people being falsely accused and many put to death. This spread across continents with the migration of the Irish and led to events such as the Salem witch trials.
And finally, we can’t have a Halloween post without a cat! Now a symbol of good luck, the black cat was once feared as a figure of darkness. It was said that witches could transfer between their human form and that of their familiar to travel incognito, that the devil often appeared as a black cat when associating with witches, and even that they were gifts given by the devil. Cats were accused along with the witches of practising the dark arts and unfortunately many suffered the same fate as their owners. Thankfully we’re a little more open minded about our pets now!
Well it’s time for me
to go and carve some pumpkins…
I hope you enjoyed
reading, and whatever you’re doing and whatever you believe, I hope
you have a very Happy Halloween!