Halloween

masks-of-the-spirit

Hallowe’en is celebrated on the evening of the last day of October. 

Why is this?  Where did this tradition come from?

    

Halloween (Jack Santino)    …   [Note:  In Ireland, the month of November is called Samhain (Gaelic:  pronounced ‘sow-in’ in Ireland, or ‘sow-een’ in Wales, or ‘sav-en’ in Scotland).  Samhain means “Summer’s End.”  The celebration of Samhain occurs on the last evening of October.]
 
…In 601 A.D. Pope Gregory the First issued a now famous edict to his missionaries concerning the native beliefs and customs of the peoples he hoped to convert. Rather than try to obliterate native peoples’ customs and beliefs, the pope instructed his missionaries to use them: if a group of people worshipped a tree, rather than cut it down, he advised them to consecrate it to Christ and allow its continued worship.
 

In terms of spreading Christianity, this was a brilliant concept and it became a basic approach used in Catholic missionary work. Church holy days were purposely set to coincide with native holy days. Christmas, for instance, was assigned the arbitrary date of December 25th because it corresponded with the mid-winter celebration of many peoples. Likewise, St. John’s Day was set on the summer solstice.

Samhain, with its emphasis on the supernatural, was decidedly pagan. While missionaries identified their holy days with those observed by the Celts, they branded the earlier religion’s supernatural deities as evil, and associated them with the devil. As representatives of the rival religion, Druids were considered evil worshippers of devilish or demonic gods and spirits. The Celtic underworld inevitably became identified with the Christian Hell. 

The effects of this policy were to diminish but not totally eradicate the beliefs in the traditional gods. Celtic belief in supernatural creatures persisted, while the church made deliberate attempts to define them as being not merely dangerous, but malicious. Followers of the old religion went into hiding and were branded as witches. 

The Christian feast of All Saints was assigned to November 1st. The day honored every Christian saint, especially those that did not otherwise have a special day devoted to them. This feast day was meant to substitute for Samhain, to draw the devotion of the Celtic peoples, and, finally, to replace it forever. That did not happen, but the traditional Celtic deities diminished in status, becoming fairies or leprechauns of more recent traditions….

 

 The Evolution of Death (Michael Colebrook)      In the Irish tradition, Samhain sees the celebration of the Sacred Marriage between the Daghda, the God/King of the People of Dannan and the Morrigan, an aspect of the triple Goddess. 

The sacred marriage between king and goddess is a fairly widespread element in the cultures of the ancient world. Probably the best known story involving the sacred marriage is that of Odysseus and Penelope. Odysseus claims the kingship of Ithaca by virtue of his marriage to the earthmother/goddess Penelope and their marriage was celebrated in a bed whose kingpost was carved from a living olive tree still rooted in the earth. The sacred marriage is more than simply a union between king and goddess. It also usually includes an element of relationship with the land or with a particular place. 

In the Irish story, the Dagda and the Morrigan are not permitted the comfort of a bed, they have to stand astride a river with their feet on each bank. 

The Morrigan is clearly in the classic triple-goddess tradition. She is also a bird Goddess, common in the neolithic cultures of Old Europe and the Middle-East, linking her back to Lilith and Inanna and forward to Mother Goose and Halloween witches. In her various aspects the Morrigan is goddess of birth and death and fertility. 

The Daghda carries a massive club the business end of which kills while the other end heals. He also owns a cauldron of plenty. 

Looking at the attributes of The Daghda and The Morrigan they are clearly linked to birth, death, and fertility and they are both fairly wild and unpredictable characters.  One of their daughters conceived at Samhain is Bridget who is associated with the re-birth festival of Imbolc. 

The sacred marriage celebrated at Samhain re-enacts the union between the divine, the human and the land, between male and female, between life and death, it celebrates the turning of the year. For the Celts the eight seasonal festivals represent transitions and ‘between’ times when boundaries become transparent and borders can be crossed. Hence the sacred marriage celebrated with feet on either side of a river. At Samhain the crossable border is that between life and death. The idea has been carried over into the Christian tradition of Halloween when all sorts of spirits are abroad, followed by All Saints day when, in many Catholic countries, it is customary to visit the graves of close relatives.

  

Perception of Scary Halloween Masks by Zoo Animals and Humans   …   For most of their evolution, humans were prey objects, and it is only recently that they became the master predators of the animal world…..Even though Halloween masks often take the form of supernatural entities such as witches, werewolves, and vampires, these typically have certain facial configurations resembling universal predatory features, such as wide open mouths with big canine teeth, and large glaring eyes with frowning eyebrows….

 

Death:  A Special Report on the Inevitable     … terror management theory: the idea that most of what we do and most of what we believe is motivated by the fear of death.

• The evolution of funerals
• The blurred line between dead and alive
• Why we should be grateful for it
• The natural history of corpses
• Don’t fear the reaper
 

 

Masks of the Spirit (Markham & Markham)   …   The full document of this most excellent volume may be read here.   

 

 

Obituary for a Spook
Edwin P. Wilson, gunrunner and manager of CIA front companies, died on September 10th, aged 84. 

…The companies on the card he flashed from his pocket, Consultants International, or World Marine, Inc., or any of five dozen others, sounded plausible….
…He sold Muammar Qaddafi firearms…. He offered him plans for making a nuclear bomb, but only to find out how Libya’s own bomb-making was going….He recruited ex-Green Berets to train Qaddafi’s intelligence officers, and to teach them to make bombs disguised as bedside lamps and radios….

…in 1977 he shipped to Libya 20 tons of C4 plastic explosives. This was almost the whole of America’s stockpile, flown out of Houston in a DC-8 charter in barrels marked “oil-drilling mud”…. 
The CIA’s story was that he had gone rogue….

…In 2003 his conviction for the explosives-shipping was overturned because, wrote the judge, the government had lied….


This year, for Halloween, I think I’ll go out as a… Big Bad Wolf.


Little Red Riding Hood (Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs) 
 

 
Trick, or Treat?

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