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HAPPY HALLOWEEN

by Richard Poe
Thursday, October 31, 2002

1:12 pm Eastern Time
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Here’s a reminder from ForteanTimes.com of what this eeriest of all holidays really means:

31 October. Hallowe’en (All Hallows’ Eve). It was once the Eve of Samhain, named for the Aryan Lord of Death, Samana, the Grim Reaper. The fracture of space and time when the seasons changed was supposed to allow contact between the worlds of the dead and the living. The dead might reappear and the living disappear. The tawdry trappings of plastic skeletons and witches’ hats are a continuation of this solemn festival. It was customary to practise divination, reading the future with witches’ mirrors and nutshell ashes. Girls might see their future husbands by peeling an apple before a mirror.

UPDATE 11.01.02: I didn’t have time to write this yesterday, but I must make one comment about the Fortean Times‘ otherwise excellent encapsulation of the meaning of Halloween.

I doubt very much that our modern Halloween customs are more “tawdry” than those of the pagan Celts. Many “modern” Halloween customs, such as ducking for apples, descend directly from ancient Celtic practice. This is a pretty good indicator that the old Celts did not observe Halloween by moping around in white robes with solemn looks on their faces. My guess would be that the only reason they did not make plastic skeletons is that plastic had not yet been invented.

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