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BetterMost, Wyoming & Brokeback Mountain Forum  |  Our BetterMost Community  |  The Holiday Forum (Moderator: Meryl)  |  Topic: Halloween Lore and Legends 0 Residents and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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« Reply #60 on: November 01, 2017, 07:22:49 pm »

R. gave me this cute little statuette that belonged to his late wife. I'm loving it!

Also, a bumper sticker EDelMar gave me.
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« Reply #61 on: November 01, 2017, 07:47:17 pm »

Of course they don't, but some of them make a fuss; it seems to me it's similar to the fuss made about "the War on Christmas," just coming from a different place.  Angry

At least it makes a little more sense; thinking Halloween is evil or sacrilegious is at least an arguable position. The idea that Christmas is under any kind of threat is insane. The country spends a month celebrating it. It vastly overwhelms any other December holiday. It's the heaviest travel time of year, the heaviest party time of year. For retailers, it's the season that makes or breaks their entire year's revenues.

Now, if the War on Christmas forces were to object to the commercialization of the holiday, they'd potentially have a point. But that's not even their objection! To get enraged because people say "Happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is rude, intolerant and completely absurd.

Quote
Yes. But, at the risk of sounding prejudiced against Roman Catholics (OK, I admit I am sort of prejudiced against the Roman clergy), in later days the Catholic Church was particularly good at that kind of syncretism; they felt they could win more converts if they allowed the natives to adapt some of their pagan customs to Catholic Christianity. I mention this because I think it's particularly applicable to Dia de los Muertos. I seem to recall reading somewhere that customs associated with this holiday go back to pre-Christian Mexico.

... At least in North America, anyway, I think Protestants were far less tolerant of this combination of native and Christian customs. For example, I'm thinking of the Puritan clergyman the Rev. John Eliot, who was a missionary to the natives in Massachusetts, who required his converts to give up all of their native customs.

Not braggin' on the Protestants here, just sayin.'

I don't understand why it would be braggin'. I like the Catholic approach better. It blends the traditions to make them more appealing, rather than simply saying "Your traditions suck and you must abandon those and adopt ours." Rev. Eliot and the like seem to be practicing ... well, not genocide assuming they're not killing people, but culture-cide, at least.

I'm not clear on what era Christians urged pagans to combine customs, though. Because obviously at some point they started burning and otherwise killing people who didn't adopt their customs or who were suspected of violating them.

My guess was that things like All Saints Day -- and for that matter, the concept of venerating saints as a replacement for worshipping multiple deities -- and Christmas and Easter happened in the first millennium or so, give or take a couple of hundred years. The witch persecutions and Crusades and brutal fighting between Catholics and Protestants -- those less tolerant practices dominated the middle of the following millennium. Feel free to correct me if I've got it wrong; that's just what I figured.

When I was growing up, so mid-20th century, the family behind us was Catholic and the family next to us was Lutheran, and there was friction between them! And another family said that before moving into the neighborhood they drove through looking for Jewish names on the mailboxes. The Rosens almost kept them out, though to my knowledge the Rosens weren't even Jewish!  Roll Eyes


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« Reply #62 on: November 02, 2017, 07:02:24 pm »

I completely forgot to mention to everyone that October 31 was the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the church at Wittenburg Castle. Or, did he Mail them instead, as the History Channel surmises: http://www.history.com/news/martin-luther-might-not-have-nailed-his-95-theses-to-the-church-door
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« Reply #63 on: November 02, 2017, 07:49:48 pm »

I completely forgot to mention to everyone that October 31 was the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the church at Wittenburg Castle. Or, did he Mail them instead, as the History Channel surmises: http://www.history.com/news/martin-luther-might-not-have-nailed-his-95-theses-to-the-church-door

I wonder ... Do you think guys like Martin Luther even knew it was Halloween? Or would that concept not get widely popularized in mainstream society for a few hundred more years?

I guess I should know this from my study of Halloweens past, but a) I don't think I studied anything that recent and b) my college class in itself occurred around a Halloween pretty long past.  Roll Eyes

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« Reply #64 on: November 02, 2017, 08:30:52 pm »

There wasn't such a thing as Halloween back then. It was largely a late 18th century event created in the U.S.
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« Reply #65 on: November 03, 2017, 09:11:29 am »

I wonder ... Do you think guys like Martin Luther even knew it was Halloween? Or would that concept not get widely popularized in mainstream society for a few hundred more years?

It may depend on how you define Halloween. Certainly it wasn't the festival as we know it, but Luther was an Augustinian monk and a priest, so I'm sure he would have known it as the eve of All Saints' Day ("All Hallows Even").  For myself I suspect that "All Hallows" is an English usage, but still Luther would have been aware that it was the evening before All Saints' Day.

I need to check the issue date--I don't have it with me here at work--but according to Joan Accocella (I think that's who wrote the article) in TNY, scholars now think nailing the theses to the church door is a pious legend. They don't seem to dispute that the theses were quickly spread widely thanks to the social media of the day--movable-type printing. Perhaps Luther himself took them to a printer? (I wonder who paid for the printing?)

On Sunday I noticed that my home (Lutheran) church had an English translation of the theses posted next to the library door.

Have I told this story before? Many, many years ago, as a memorial, somebody gave the church a bronze statue called "Christ Ascending"; it was placed on a wall in the narthex. When the church built a new entryway, an elevator was installed for easier access for parishioners unable to climb stairs. The statue was moved. It now hangs directly over the elevator door.  Grin

Even the pastor didn't think of that until I pointed it out to him one Sunday.  Grin
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« Reply #66 on: November 03, 2017, 09:59:42 am »

There wasn't such a thing as Halloween back then. It was largely a late 18th century event created in the U.S.

It may depend on how you define Halloween. Certainly it wasn't the festival as we know it, but Luther was an Augustinian monk and a priest, so I'm sure he would have known it as the eve of All Saints' Day ("All Hallows Even").  For myself I suspect that "All Hallows" is an English usage, but still Luther would have been aware that it was the evening before All Saints' Day.

Yes, Halloween has ancient, pre-Christian roots, as I was saying in previous comments. It didn't spring up out of nowhere in the post-industrial U.S., with people suddenly deciding to dress up as sexy witches and celebrities and make deviled eggs topped with spiders of cut-up kalamata olives. It's based on ancient Celtic customs.

From History.com:

Quote
Halloween is an annual holiday, celebrated each year on October 31, that has roots in age-old European traditions. It originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints; soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating and carving jack-o-lanterns. Around the world, as days grow shorter and nights get colder, people continue to usher in the season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats.

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.

This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.

When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.


This was exactly the stuff my college newspaper story talked about, except turned into Good Housekeeping-style "you should try this!" language.

So I wasn't asking whether, as Luther was going about publicizing the theses (by whatever method), was he also fretting about what to go as for the Halloween party that night and whether to try making those deviled eggs? No. I didn't mean Halloween 500 years ago was just like Halloween now.

My question was more like, then what was it? Obviously it started 2,000 years ago and never died out entirely. Our modern customs of dressing in costumes, carving gourds with faces and believing that scary otherwordly creatures were roaming around -- those all date back to pre-Christian Europe. It seems unlikely that modern partiers did the research and decided to revive millennia-old customs; they must have lingered in some form throughout the centuries.

So I know what they did 2,000 years ago. And I know what they do today. But in between, as in Luther's time, I wonder what form it took -- who carried on the practices and in what ways, so that they remained in the culture and yet weren't as offensive as you'd think they would have been to the Catholic Church in 1517, or apparently to my college journalism teacher in 1980.



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« Reply #67 on: November 03, 2017, 12:44:05 pm »

So I know what they did 2,000 years ago. And I know what they do today. But in between, as in Luther's time, I wonder what form it took -- who carried on the practices and in what ways, so that they remained in the culture and yet weren't as offensive as you'd think they would have been to the Catholic Church in 1517, or apparently to my college journalism teacher in 1980.

My guess, and it is just a guess, is that it would be country folk, poorly educated (if at all), and less under the immediate supervision of the Church than city-dwellers would be, who carried on a lot of the ancestral customs (just not what particular customs they carried on, or how they carried them on). And I think the customs would have been offensive to the Church, especially to the Church hierarchy. The Church just wasn't able to stamp them out in remote rural areas.

Probably there would have been a village Catholic priest, but he probably came from the same background as his parishioners and was hardly better educated than them, maybe with barely enough Latin to celebrate Mass (no Jesuit universities to train educated priests in them days). In the 16th century one of the complaints of the Reformers was the ignorance of the country clergy.

And of course, along with the village priest, there would have been a village wise woman. I guess--again, just a guess--she might have known more lore passed down from the ancestors than just the use of herbs, etc., to treat sick people and sick livestock.

I am certain of what I wrote about the complaints of the Reformers concerning ignorant clergy (at least in England, but I doubt it would have much different on the Continent). The rest--my guessing--may be rooted in vague memories of books read in college and graduate school. I still have in my library a book called Religion and the Decline of Magic, by Keith Thomas, which I read in grad school. I haven't looked into that book in years, but maybe some of what I'm guessing above is rooted in memories of Thomas.
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« Reply #68 on: November 03, 2017, 01:06:12 pm »

Your account is similar to what I've found, Jeff. The early 1500s were actually part of the Middle Ages when there was much superstition and infighting among the religious sects. In Scotland, for instance, the catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, made witchcraft illegal in 1563, punishable by burning at the stake. So, if the old Samhain rituals were still practiced, it must have been way out in the middle of nowhere.

In fact, the more I read about it, the more Scottish magic and its practitioners seem to have had similar experiences as those growing up gay in 1960s Wyoming.  Undecided

More details here: http://skyelander.orgfree.com/witch1.html
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« Reply #69 on: November 03, 2017, 03:46:33 pm »

Here's what I wrote about it in 2011:
What is this holiday known as Halloween anyway? According to History.com, it "originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween."

Wikipedia says, it has "origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, whose original spelling was Samuin (pronounced sow-an or sow-in)".[1] The name of the festival historically kept by the Gaels and Celts in the British Isles which is derived from Old Irish and means roughly "summer's end".[1][2][3]

However, according to the Oxford Dictionary of English folk lore: "Certainly Samhain was a time for festive gatherings, and medieval Irish texts and later Irish, Welsh, and Scottish folklore use it as a setting for supernatural encounters, but there is no evidence that it was connected with the dead in pre-Christian times, or that pagan religious ceremonies were held." [4]

The Irish myths which mention Samhain were written in the 10th and 11th centuries by Christian monks. This is around 200 years after the Catholic church inaugurated All Saints Day and at least 400 year after Ireland became Christian."
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