Ghoulies And Ghosties And Long-Legged Beasties

This period of the year is known by the old name of Samhain...pro. Sow...as in female pig...en. So Sowen, the time when the veil between the world of the living and the Netherworld is at its most fragile, cumulating in Halloween.

Nowadays Halloween is centred around children I suppose...dressed up in ghoulish costumes bought from supermarkets, they go from door to door seeking sweets from the neighbours and have illicit bonfires in back gardens with charred sausages to eat...

Loutish teenagers delight in playing practical jokes, which I daresay they imagine to be hilarious, with the favourite one of all...egging. Throwing eggs on car windscreens or people's front doors then running away, laughing like drains...

Frightening themselves witless, roaming around graveyards uttering howls and whoops intended to alarm old men out walking their dogs, who've seen and heard it all before and pay no heed.

Teenage gangs causing mayhem on Halloween is not new...the New York Police department put extra men on the beat in the early 1900's because of the trouble they caused. Setting fires and robbing passers-by was one of their ways of enjoying the evening...

There are those who call Halloween the Devil's work and priests give sermons warning their parishioners to steer clear of any revelry...no bobbing for apples or partaking of a slice of rich gingerbread...certainly no attempt must be made to carve a Jack O Lantern from a Pumpkin...

But sometimes the Church quite forgets that it incorporated the ancient Pagan ways into its Christian calendar...

The supermarket has shelves piled high with bright orange Pumpkins begging to be carved and displayed on windowsills and gateposts...sales of ready-made Colcannon will increase and feverish searches made on the net to find a recipe for Fadge...Halloween Bracks dominate the cake display...a rich bread with dried fruit, the centre reveals a gold ring wrapped in a scrap of greaseproof paper...one of those Bracks will contain a real gold ring.

This is the time to put a lighted candle in the window for the souls long departed...to play match-making games...to buy and sell livestock at busy fairs held in the streets of small towns...a spit in the hand and the deal is struck for a high-stepping pony or a crate of hens...it's the day to renew leases on reedy fields that no-one wants but you and sign contracts for farm building work or a man with a machine for ditching.

Fat Spring lambs go to market and make good prices while it's the last day to move outdoor cattle into slatted houses for the winter months and still keep your Rural Farmer Grant.

Maybe years ago ghost stories were told around the hearth...sending shivers down the backs of stout farming men and frightening their children witless...maybe those children huddled together on their straw mattress in the roof space and jumped when the cat landed on their bed...imagining Ghouls and Ghosts tapping on the back door when it was only the dog scratching to be let out...

Perhaps television will broadcast a horror film and maybe Radio 4 will have a spine-tingling ghost story read by an actor...you could indulge in Edgar Allan Poe and have a stock of sweets at the ready for small people calling at your door...parents hovering anxiously at the garden gate...or you could draw the curtains and switch off the outside lights and pretend you're not at home.

Halloween goes way back into the mists of time...back to the days of intense superstition about deceased ancestors...of the belief the dead were intent on coming back to disrupt the lives of those who lived after them...they needed to be appeased and acknowledged through ritual...the lighting of outdoor fires, the baking and eating of particular foods...the carving of Turnips...the lit candle in the window.

However you choose to celebrate or deliberately not celebrate, you are acknowledging an event as old as the hills.

9 Replies

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  • You got into the spirit of the season there Vashti.

    It was only when we moved to Scotland over 40 years ago that I encountered Trick or Treat for the first time....quite small children would dress up and sing a song or tell a joke in return for pieces of sweet tablet. They would carry carved turnips or swedes.

    Now in the North East Midlands , little kids dress up but there is also mischief night ...which is a bit rougher!

    Another piece for your Book of Days there.

  • Just another money making scheme, its the only reason I can think why we bother with it,I understand it is an American ritual anyway.

  • Ah no...it's an ancient Celtic belief...going way back to the days of Druids and such-like...nothing to do with Americans!...lol

  • Well I never knew that, Thank you for the info.

  • Wikipedia has a good ....long......explanation of Halloween .

  • Ah.... full mulled and savoury vashti at your best - sooooo atmospheric. I love Halloween. Think I love it precisely because it's frowned on by the church. I don't really hold with religious views - but each to his own. "Having a religion's a bit like having a penis - it's okay to have one but don't wave it in my face!" Ha ha. Seriously though - a lovely piece of writing - AGAIN - Vashti. Thank you. x piggi x

  • Oh that's funny Piggi, I must remember that saying. Lol

  • Well put Vashti. I don't object to Halloween.....it's Guy Fawkes night I hate! Why on earth do we still celebrate an occasion that never happened? Guy Fawkes himself was just one of the "gang" and happened to be the first to get caught - not the leader, so why him? Personally I think someone should try again, and with success, we really would have something to celebrate for years to come. Lol :--D

  • I get so annoyed when people, usually our US cousins refer to it as "Holloween" - a page on facebook last year demonstrated that many had no idea what they were celebrating! The Christian church was so good at high-jacking the old Druidic/Pagan festivals - reminds me a lot of today's spin doctors, easier to recycle it than remove it; got to hand it to them, it worked!

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