Well, summer is definitely over, the Blue Jays have been knocked out of the playoffs so for me that’s the end of the season. It’s time to turn my attention to the fun and frolic of Halloween, the spookiest time of year. So let’s learn the language of the day (and night) of the dead.
Halloween/Samhain: Just as the harvest season turns to winter, and the plants and other things wither and die, the birds flee south and other animals go to sleep for the winter. Canadians on the other hand can’t wait to go play in the snow and the ice and the cold, mostly concerned with hockey. On the wet coast, soggy standbys dutifully line up in the pouring chilly rain, Timmy’s double-double in hand, to watch their children risking pneumonia at soccer practice. But seriously, (are we ever?) let’s look at the occult aspects which come from the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in) which is the new year as marked on November 1. The Celts believed that on the night before, the veil between the spirit and earthly realms dissolved allowing the ghosts of the dead to return and party. Nowadays the only veil is between the dental defenders and the candy-makers which dissolves, allowing for the invasion of candy snatchers, something you can get your teeth into.
Halloween: In 609 AD (how time flies) Pope Boniface IV (that’s the Roman numeral – number for 4) decided that November 1 would be a good day for a holiday; All Martyrs Day. As the Church of Rome spread out, they appropriated local holidays and just like the inhabitants converted them to Christian ways to replace the Celtic Festival of the Dead with All Souls Day. Oh, and the ghostly night before? That became the eve of All Hallows Day, Hallows Eve morphed into Halloween.
Spooks, the word originates in the Dutch language and means ghost, apparition or spectre. The Swedish word is spok, and means scarecrow. I doubt the Vulcan would be amused about that. Other meanings are to frighten or unnerve someone. Another application of the term is for Spies because of their ability to operate undercover, like a will-o’-the-wisp, which is defined as anything that deludes or misleads by luring the innocent spirit, also an elusive thing or person.
Pumpkins/Jack o lanterns: Because of the Irish potato famine in the 1800’s, hundreds of thousands of folks fled to the new world bringing a tradition of carving lanterns out of potatoes, beets and turnips illuminated with a burning lumps of coal. Imagine how pleased they were with all that extra space in the pumpkin, which is enormous by comparison. You could almost have a bonfire inside. And speaking of bonfires…
Bonfire: a wonderful tradition of capturing the light in a gigantic fire. In the early days, that’s the 1960’s in Dunbar, our bonfire would be the chance to party, roast chestnuts, bake potatoes and rid ourselves of all the leaves. Welcome to the 21st Century, curb fires aren’t allowed anymore because that aromatic smoke is considered an attack on the climate (they’ll be outlawing volcanoes next), leaves (they haven’t outlawed those yet) are now scooped into big paper “garden” bags and left on the curb where the fires used to be, you can’t find chestnuts anymore and all the potatoes are genetically modified. Bahhhhh!
Trick or Treat: At least we can all dress up in costumes and prowl the neighbourhoods begging for candy, threatening dire consequences on anyone who doesn’t fork over the bon-bons. The Smithsonian says it began as “guising” (from “disguising”) traditions, in the Middle-Ages, children and poor adults would dress up in costumes and go door to door during Hallowmas begging for food or money in exchange for songs and prayers, often said on behalf of the dead. This was called “souling” and the children were called “soulers.” Thus was born the soul man, BB King and the age of soul music!
Have a soulful Happy Halloween everyone!