The ancient tradition of Hallowe’en

The ancient Celts/Gaels and the Druid priests who guided them called the day Samhain (Sowain).  For them, it was the gathering of the harvest, the changing of the seasons and a pleading to the Godsin ritual for a bountiful harvest of the next year.  Post Druidic history and with the advent of Christianity;  it was claimed by Christians that Druids would lead a party of fearful pagans around with lighted gourds (pumpkins) to scare off the spirits at this time of year.  Granted that with the changing of the seasons, it was indeed believed by primitive man that spirits could roam at will with the thinning of the walls between their world and the worlds that could be found in other realms, but that not all spirits were the ghosts of ancestral past.  And that some spirits came from realms beyond their ken.  Such as the Sidh.

The trick or treat saga has its beginnings with factually propitiating the Sidh so that they wouldn’t trick you at the time of Samhain.  By asking them to share in your bounty with gifts of food, they would honor your hospitality by leaving you and your household very much alone.  Just as gifts of bounty from your harvest was also left out for the prior dead as a remembrance for the family members who had gone before you.  Today, children who dress up in costumes and go door to door looking for candy are factually continuing the tradition of the Sidh who trick the people who refuse to share their bounty and honor the people who do.  That is the only continuing “pagan” relationship to Hallowe’en.

Today, Hallowe’en carries other more scary traditions; precisely, those created by Christians.  Samhain has become All Hallows eve, or the Devil’s night out.  It is no longer about the final gathering of the harvest but about the ghoulies and ghosties and all other things that go bump in the night.  In short, we could keep man’s fear of other realms beyond his ken and remember nothing about what this time of year was all about, the gathering of the harvest.  Until of course, politically speaking; Christians would turn to Samhain and try to claim a Druidic tradition as their own.  And only that part of the Druidic tradition that most pleased them, without of course adding visits from the Sidh or one’s dead relatives to the mix.  In the process; devaluing completely their own rich Hallowe’en tradition while creating an empty shadow of more ancient and “pagan” beliefs.

It has to be remembered that the werewolf, the vampire, and other demonic creatures that crowded mens’ fears of the dark could survive very well into the Christian era because the church itself found a great use for them.  If a frightened people led by Christian priests could search out graves and put stakes in the hearts of the recently buried  dead because it was feared that grand dad had come back and was now feeding on my kids’ blood; well, the church wasn’t likely to correct this violation of the sanctity of the grave or to presume that grand dad might have actually been a righteous man in his lifetime.  From the perspective of the church, you were suspect from birth to death and beyond.  And just how many indulgences could you proffer to the church coffers to take you off the suspect list?  No where in the bible do you find actual tales of the vampire.  But from the Christian tradition, you do find pre-Christian fears of the supernatural crowding the pantheon of Christian terrors.  It was quite remarkable really, a church that claims an association with a Jewish Rabbi that was supposed to lead them to a new light and a new hope would instead for centuries afterwards, walk the path of dark fear.  Just how many ordinary humans died by being mistaken for werewolves?  Just how many Christian women died by being mistaken for witches?  By some counts, in the thousands to millions.

Today, we make a fiction of these dark fears.  We write novels and short stories about werewolves and vampires; the terrors of dark powers from evil witches.  We even put our fears of the evil dead into such films as Chucky who becomes a murderous toy doll.  And when our demons out of our long past weren’t enough to scare us silly, simply try the absolutely demented human such as Hannibal the cannibal.  Slaughter films such as the Hallowe’en series or “Scream.”  Then go beyond twisted with “Saw…”

We like being frightened to death  We haven’t moved away as a human race refusing to  keep company with the many forms of demonic forces—both human and beyond human.  And so today’s Christianized version of Samhain would strive to do just that.  To sanitize us of our fears that Christians had themselves only exploited over many centuries.  Unless of course, Hallowe’en can be yet politically exploited to demonize “the other” who is the opposition.  And Christians produced the political “Hell Houses” where they could have those of their ilk cheering on the dragging into hell the woman who had an abortion (she might have miscarried and required a doctor’s care).  Whether Christians of today like it or not, they continue to carry on the ancient church tradition of putting their fellow man on the suspect list from birth to death and beyond.

So what indulgences should a person put in the church coffers of today to not only fund a harvest bounty that excludes hospitality and not be a caricature of the miserable hell bound in a church hell house?

Quite frankly, I’d prefer the company of the Sidh; they are far more predictable and delight in the hospitality that you provide them through your bounty.  The critters beyond our ken that are also easy to please.

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5 Responses to “The ancient tradition of Hallowe’en”

  1. Hank Says:

    I think this is analogous to your Religious Coercion post which I got to thinking–in itself, a usually harmless activity but that’s another story. As I see it, the meaning of Halloween today is costumes, decorations, candy and parties. In other words, it’s mostly about buying stuff and having a good time. All this talk of druids and spirits is interesting history, but the meaning and purpose of Halloween has morphed over time much like crosses, swastikas, Christmas, etc.

    Anyway, just makin’ an observation. I enjoy your posts immensely.

  2. Hank Says:

    That should be:

    “I think this is analogous to your Religious Coercion post which got me to thinking–in itself, a usually harmless activity but that’s another story.”

    A hazard of editing the same paragraph multiple times in a haphazard way.

  3. Ancient Traditions Live On In Celtic Tungsten Rings | Online Dating Advice Says:

    […] The ancient tradition of Hallowe'en « Jeh15's Weblog […]

  4. DenzelWNet Says:

    Hi , Hey! How are you? Happy late Haloween! :D!!

  5. HixDixIntesse Says:

    Lots of of guys blog about this topic but you said some true words.

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