Halloween is just around the corner. Most people believe that Halloween might seem like it's about costumes, sweet, and vacations simply — though that is relatively new to America, having this convention simply became popular in the early 1900s — Halloween has its origins in pagan beliefs dated about 2,000 years, Halloween marked the Celtic New Year and was initially called Samhain, which translates to "summer's end" in Gaelic.
Some Halloween customs, including carving Jack-o'-lanterns, are based on Irish folklore and have been carried on throughout the centuries, while others, like candy corn, are more modern Halloween addons.
1. Black Cats
Often used as symbols of bad luck, black cats linked to many Halloween decorations. The black cat's lousy reputation dates back to the Dark Ages when witch hunts were little. Old, alone women were often accused of witchcraft, and their pet cats were said to be their "familiars," or demonic creatures that were given to them by the devil.
Another medieval myth told that Satan turned himself into a cat when socializing with witches. Now, however, black cats aren't interchangeable with bad luck and mischief everywhere — in Ireland, Scotland and England, it's considered good luck for a black cat to cross your course.
An pleasing autumn doing, carving Jack-o'-lanterns actually has its sources in a frightful, dreadful fable. Celtic folklore tells the story of a drunken farmer named Jack who tricked the devil, but his trickery resulted in him being turned away from both the gates of heaven and hell after he passed away. Having no choice but to roam around the darkness of purgatory, Jack made a lantern from a turnip and a burning lump of coal the devil had thrown him from hell.
Jack used the lantern to direct his lost soul; as such, the Celts believed that placing Jack-o'-lanterns outside would help direct lost spirits house when they roam the roads on Halloween. Initially made using a hollowed-out turnip with a tiny candle indoors, Jack-o'-lanterns' frightening carved faces also functioned to scare evil spirits away. When the Irish potato famine of 1846 driven Irish families to flee to North America, the convention came with them. Since turnips were hard to come by in the states at the time, pumpkins were used as a replacement.
Medieval folklore also described bats as witches' familiar, and seeing a bat on Halloween was regarded as quite an ominous sign. One myth was that if a bat was found flying around one's house three times, it meant that someone in that house would just depart. Another myth was that if a bat flew into your house on Halloween, it was a sign your house was haunted because phantoms had let the bat in.
A common source of stress, spiders makes for creepy, crawly Halloween raw materials. They join the ranks of bats and black cats in folklore as being poor businesses of witches during medieval times. One superstition held that if a spider falls into a candle-lit lamp and is consumed by the fire, witches are nearby. And if you see a spider on Halloween, goes another superstition, this means the spirit of a deceased loved one is watching over you.
The stereotypical image of the haggard witch with a pointy black hat and warty nose stirring a magic potion in her cauldron truly comes from a pagan goddess called "the crone," who was honored during Samhain. The crone was also known as "the old one" and the "Earth mother," who symbolized wisdom, change, and the turning of the seasons. Now, the kind, all knowing old crone has morphed into the menacing, cackling nasty witch.
The pagan Celts believed that after departure, all souls went into the crone's cauldron, which symbolized the Earth mother's uterus. There, the souls anticipated reincarnation, as the goddess' stirring allowed for new souls to enter the cauldron and old souls to be reborn. That image of the cauldron of life has now been replaced by the steaming, bubbling, endangering brew.
7. Witch's Broomstick
The witch's broomstick is another superstition that is its beginnings in medieval myths. The old, self-conscious women that were accused of witchcraft were usually inferior and could not manage horses, so they browsed through the woods on foot with support from walking sticks, which were sometimes replaced by sweepers.
English folklore tells that during nighttime services, witches rubbed a "flying" potion on their bodies, close their eyes and felt as though they were flying. The hallucinogenic ointment, which caused numbness, rapid heartbeat, and confusion, gave them the delusion they were soaring through the heavens.
8. Trick Or Treat in Costumes
In olden times, it was considered that during Samhain, the veil between our world and the spirit world was most powerful and that the phantoms of the dead person could mingle with the living. The superstition was that the seeing phantoms could disguise themselves in human form, by way of example, a beggar, and rap on your own door during Samhain asking for cash or food. If you turned them away empty handed, you risked receiving the wrath of the spirit and being cursed or haunted.
Another Celtic myth was that dressing up as a ghoul would deceive the evil spirits into believing that you were one of them so they wouldn't try to take your spirit. In the U.S., trick or treating became a regular Halloween tradition around the late 1950s, after it was brought over by Irish immigrants in the early 1900s.
9. Halloween Shades
The traditional Halloween colors of orange and black actually come from the pagan celebration of autumn and the harvest, with orange symbolizing the colours of the crops and turning leaves, while black marks the "departure" of summer and the changing season. Over time, green, purple and yellowish have also been introduced into the color scheme of Halloween decorations.
10. Mischief Night
From some — particularly annoying teenagers — Halloween is, in addition, a time for neighborhood pranks. From egging and toilet-papering houses to smashing jack-o'-lanterns, "devil's night" can be full of mischief and danger.
The early Celts celebrated Samhain with bonfires, games, and comical pranks. By the 1920s and 30s, however, the celebrations became more rowdy, with rising acts of vandalism, possibly due to the pressure due to the Great Depression, according to Jack Santino's "Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life" (Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1994). To assess the vandalism, grownups began to hand out candies, reigniting the lost custom of trick or treating in costume in exchange for sweets. This successfully replaced most of the mischief elements from Oct. 31 celebrations, so the troublemakers instead embraced Oct. 30 as their official night to pull pranks and wreak havoc.
11. Candy Apples
Candy apples are popular Halloween treats, and the sugary fruit on a stick was handed out during the early days of trick or treating in North America — before misery over unwrapped sweets became a difficulty. Now, candy apples can be covered in caramel or chocolate with nuts, together with in the classic, shiny reddish syrup.
The fusion of Celtic and Roman customs is behind Halloween's candy apple custom. Samhain was around the time of the Roman holiday honoring Pamona, the goddess of fruit trees. The goddess is often symbolized by an apple, so the fruit became interchangeable with Samhain parties of the harvest.
12. Bobbing for Apples
In ancient times, the apple was viewed as a sacred fruit that could be used to predict the future. Bobbing for apples is one of the traditional games used for fortune telling on Halloween night. It was considered that the first person to pluck an apple from the water-filled pail without using their hands would be the first to wed.
If the bobber lucked out and caught an apple on the first effort, it meant they'd experience true love, while those who got an apple after many attempts would be fickle within their own amorous efforts. Another myth was that if a girl place her bobbed apple under her pillow on Halloween night, she had dream about her future husband.
13. Candy Corn
The sweet most interchangeable with Halloween, candy corn was formulated in the late 1880s and began to be mass produced in the early 1900s. The first process for making candy corn was cumbersome and time consuming, as each colour of syrup had to be heated up in large containers and carefully poured by hand into particularly shaped forms.
But the yellow, orange and white sweet — meant to resemble a corn kernel — was a tremendous success and remains a popular part of Halloween to this day.
Have a spooktacular Halloween. Love Trick or Treating!
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