Oct 31, 2014

Crossing the Veil: The Pre-Christian Origins of Halloween and Samhain

Symbols of Samhain and Halloween – fire, the dead, lanterns, harvest

Halloween, or the ancient Samhain, is considered the time of year when the veil between our world and the spirit world is at its thinnest. As darkness falls and families light their pumpkin Jack-o'-lanterns, they are, perhaps unknowingly, repeating the ancient traditions of honoring the dead and marking the beginning of the ‘dark half’ of the year.
Halloween is an annual celebration held largely in the western world on October 31st. Starting in the evening, children, and sometimes adults, dress in masks and costumes, traditionally as ghostly figures, witches, or the undead – vampires, zombies, skeletons. They go knocking door-to-door, requesting treats, or else threatening a mischievous trick upon the household. Typical activities of the modern observance can include costume parties, pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating, lighting bonfires, playing pranks and more.
Hallowe’en, a shortened form of "All Hallows' Evening" is the echo of Celtic harvest festivals of pre-Christian Europe. Observed now in several countries around the world, it is the evening before ‘All Hallows Day’, when saints (hallows) and martyrs are remembered by people of many Christian denominations. This ritual, however, coincides with (and some scholars suggest co-opted) the ancient observance of Samhain.
Samhain (pronounced sah-van or sow-in) is the traditional Gaelic festival marking the change of seasons and the approach of winter. Wikipedia describes this pre-Christian custom: “Many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain. It was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter. As at Beltane, special bonfires were lit. These were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers and there were rituals involving them. Samhain (like Beltane) was seen as a liminal time, when the spirits or fairies (the Aos Sí) could more easily come into our world.” Fires, and later candles, were lit to mimic the sun and hold back the dark of the oncoming winter.
A bonfire, ancient tradition at Samhain
A bonfire, ancient tradition at Samhain (Source)
Dead and departed relatives played a central role in the tradition, as the connection between the living and dead was believed stronger at Samhain, and there was a chance to communicate. Souls of the deceased were thought to return to their homes. Feasts were held and places were set at tables as a way to welcome them home. Food and drink was offered to the unpredictable spirits and fairies to ensure continued health and good fortune.
The idea that souls return home on a certain day of the year is repeated across many cultures around the world. Día de Muertos, or the Day of the Dead is a similar holiday in Mexico celebrating and honoring family members who have died. Similarly, this falls on October 31st, and November 1st and 2nd.
Samhain saw a metamorphosis due to the early church. In The History of Halloween or Samhain, Jack Santino writes, “As a result of their efforts to wipe out ‘pagan’ holidays, such as Samhain, the Christians succeeded in effecting major transformations in it. 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 the 12th century, holy days of obligation across Europe involved town criers dressed all in black, ringing mournful bells and calling on Christians to remember the poor souls of the dead. Special ‘soul cakes’ would be baked and shared. This custom of “souling” was shared in England, Germany, Belgium, Austria and Italy, and is thought to be the early precursor of trick-or-treating.
Eventually, mumming and guising (going door-to-door in disguise and performing in exchange for food) was taken up in a depiction of these ancient customs. Pranks were a way of confounding evil spirits. Pranks at Samhain date as far back as 1736 in Scotland and Ireland, and this led to Samhain being dubbed “Mischief Night”.
Painting of a Halloween party in Ireland
Painting of a Halloween party in Ireland, 1832. By Daniel Maclise. (Wikipedia)
Many of the modern practices for Halloween date to 19th century England and North America. Fortune telling and divination played a part in celebrations. Games were played intending to divine one’s future. Nuts and fruit featured in the eating and drinking games, and soul cakes were prepared.
For Halloween, pumpkins are hollowed out, and spooky faces are carved into them, creating Jack-o'-lanterns. Candles are then lit inside the pumpkins, creating eerie lanterns, and serving as signals that a household observes Halloween. Pumpkins are frequently used today as they’re easier to carve and a symbol of harvest, but the original lanterns in Ireland and Scotland were carved from turnips. These turnip lanterns were used to frighten off evil spirits by guisers, and were a motif of the Irish Christian folk tale of Jack, a wandering soul, who was denied entry into both heaven and hell.
A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o'-lantern
A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o'-lantern from the early 20th century. (Creative Commons)
Observing Halloween is not without controversy. Some religions discourage participation, suggesting that it trivializes Samhain, it has satanic associations, or it is inappropriate tribute to paganism or the occult. However, the modern practices heavily influenced by commercialization and popular culture differ appreciably from the ancient traditions of Samhain and All Hallows’ Eve. Still, the connection exists and the history is clear - when you light a Jack-o'-lantern and brighten the darkening season, you’re carrying on an age-old tradition that bridges cultures around the world and reaffirms our connection to our departed loved ones.
Featured image: Symbols of Samhain and Halloween – fire, the dead, lanterns, harvest (Image Source)
By Liz Leafloor   

Lost Blood by Emma Raveling Cover Reveal

Lost Blood by Emma Raveling 
(Chancer, #1) 
Publication date: TBA
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Designed by Michelle Preast.
Synopsis:
They are the Strange, those born of magic, myths, and legends. Beings who defy scientific explanation, whose physical and mental abilities far surpass the limitations of the human body.
When they first appeared, the world resisted, frightened by their powers. But after decades of bloodshed, humanity finally accepted that the Strange were here to stay.
A tenuous peace exists. For now.
WELCOME TO BRANNIGAN CITY
Seventeen-year-old Delaney Corbeau is one of the Skilled. As a Chancer, she uses her magic to help humans find everything from misplaced keys and hidden heirlooms to lost pets.
She can find anyone and anything…except the two people she needs the most.
Liam Connelly is an Earth Shifter and son of Brannigan City’s Alpha. When his older brother goes missing, he must turn to his former childhood friend for help. Delaney’s the only person who can locate him.
The problem is they haven’t spoken in four years.
When a reclusive art collector hires Delaney to locate a stolen antique Japanese book, her path crosses with Liam once again. Soon, the simple retrieval job becomes something much more terrifying.
An old evil is stirring and it’s determined to punish every living being in Brannigan City, both Strange and human.
Delaney and Liam will have to work together if they want to survive.
Lost Blood is the first book in Emma Raveling’s new Chancer series, featuring two unlikely allies and a mysterious, thrilling adventure set in a dark world full of monsters and magic.


AUTHOR BIO:
(No author photo)
Emma Raveling writes a wide variety of fiction for teens and adults. She is the author of the young adult urban / contemporary fantasy series, the Ondine Quartet, and Lost Blood, the first installment of the forthcoming young adult urban fantasy series, Chancer. She’s also working on the first book in her new Steel Magic series for adults.

An avid traveler hopelessly addicted to diet coke and coffee, she currently resides in Honolulu, Hawaii with her husband and German shepherd.

Author Links:

The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden Trailer Reveal

The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden
(The Casquette Girls #1)
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Synopsis:
Seven girls tied by time.
Five powers that bind.
One curse to lock the horror away.
One attic to keep the monsters at bay.
* * *
After the Storm of the Century rips apart New Orleans, Adele Le Moyne and her father are among the first to return to the city following the mandatory evacuation. Adele wants nothing more than for life to return to normal, but with the silent city resembling a mold-infested war zone, a parish-wide curfew, and mysterious new faces lurking in the abandoned French Quarter, normal will have to be redefined.
Events too unnatural – even for New Orleans – lead Adele to an attic that has been sealed for three hundred years, and the chaos she unleashes threatens not only her life but everyone she knows.
Caught suddenly in a hurricane of eighteenth-century myths and monsters, Adele must quickly untangle a web of magic that links the climbing murder rate back to her own ancestors. But who can you trust in a city where everyone has a secret, and where keeping them can be a matter of life and death – unless, that is, you’re immortal.








AUTHOR BIO:

ALYS ARDEN grew up in the Vieux Carré, cut her teeth on the streets of New York, and has worked all around the world since. She still plans to run away with the circus one day.



THE PUNKIN KING by Sean Hayden

jack-o-lantern1

THE PUNKIN KING 

One of the spooky stories from FLASHY FICTION

It’s that time of year again. I freakin’ LOVE HALLOWEEN. So to celebrate my mostest favorite time of year, I decided to post one of my stories from FLASHY FICTION VOL 1&2. ENJOY! Or he’ll come for your soul.
“Mom, I like this one!” Jack pointed down at a rather robust looking gourd. His mother walked over to where he stood. She looked down and gasped. The pumpkin prices this year were astounding. The one at her little boy’s feet had to weigh at least twenty-five pounds. She quickly did the math in her head and groaned at the price. Twelve dollars for a pumpkin was just a little more than she was willing to spend.
“Jack, that one’s a little too heavy, baby. Come on. Let’s go find another.”
“No, Mommy. I want this one. It perdy.”
“Jack, I said no. Come on.” She reached down and grabbed his pudgy little hand. She tried to pull him away from the pumpkin, but he stood rooted to the ground. She yanked again but couldn’tbudge him. She looked at his face as he just stared at the pumpkin smiling. “Jack?”
“Yes, Mommy?”
“Come on, sweetie. Let’s go find a prettier pumpkin,” Nancy said nervously.
“No, Mommy. I like this one and it really wants to go home with us.” Jack bent down and picked the pumpkin up off the ground without any trouble at all. Nancy’s mouth opened in shock.
“Okay, baby. We’ll get this one, but let me carry it.” Nancy bent down and touched her hands to the smooth surface of the pumpkin. She hissed in shock as the orange flesh burned her skin. “What the hell?”
“Are you okay, Mommy?”
Nancy looked at her hands. The flesh wasn’t even pink. It showed no signs of burns either. She shook her head and chalked the feeling up to being overtired. “I’m fine, sweetie,” she said and reached down to take the pumpkin again. She noticed Jack’s little smile as he watched her hands. She paused midway. “Are you sure you can carry such a big pumpkin, Jack?”
“I’m sure, Mommy.”
She shrugged her shoulders and led her five year old son to the check out register. It had been set up at the entrance to the tented pumpkin patch. Every year they’d stop at the same place along the old highway that led from Lazy Days Daycare center to their tiny two bedroom house on the outskirts of town.
“That’s a mighty fine pumpkin you got there, son. You picked out a winner,” the old man behind the register said. He reached down with gloved hands and plucked the massive gourd from the hands of Jack and set it on a large silver scale. The red needle swooped from zero to thirty five pounds.
Nancy stared at Jack in shock. “So much for twelve dollars,” she muttered under her breath.
“That will be three dollars, ma’am.”
Nancy stopped digging through her purse for a twenty dollar bill and stared at the man like he had grown an extra head. She opened her mouth to say something but just smiled instead. She pulled out a five and handed it to him. She looked back at the scale. The needle had settled right on the six pound mark. She rubbed her eyes to make sure she’d read it right and then at the large pumpkin on the scale. “No wonder he could carry it,” she whispered and looked down at a smiling Jack.
“Here’s your change, ma’am.” The old man smiled and handed her two dollars. She pocketed the change and picked up the pumpkin to hand to Jack. She nearly dropped it. It weighed more than her son did.
“Careful, ma’am. They can get slippery.”
She turned and nodded wide-eyed at the man. Jack reached up and took the pumpkin like it weighed no more than an inflatable beach ball. She stared at him as he ran toward their green minivan.
They made the trip home in record time. Nancy shut off the radio because she couldn’t find a decent song to save her life. Instead she smiled and listened to Jack as he rambled on like he was having a conversation with the pumpkin strapped into the seat next to him.
By the time they pulled into the driveway she was starting to worry. Jack’s conversation had turned into a full blown, one sided argument. Apparently the pumpkin was winning, too.
“Fine. Be that way,” Jack yelled and slammed the back door shut after he got out, leaving the pumpkin alone in the back seat.
“Are you going to carry your pumpkin inside, Jack?”
“No! He wants you to carry him in,” he said and stormed into the house.
Nancy shrugged and took it from the seat. She strained to get it inside the house, but she finally managed. Jack sat on the couch watching cartoons about undersea creatures with annoying voices. Nanc y personally hated the show. “Are you going to help me carve it?”
“Carve what?”
“The pumpkin. Tomorrow’s Halloween. We won’t have time to carve it after you get home from scho–” The look of horror on Jack’s face stopped Nancy from finishing her sentence.
“Carve it? Carve it? Mommy you can’t kill Necrostophiles,” Jack said slowly, stumbling over the name.
“Necrowho?”
“Stophiles. That’s his name. If you kill him the other punkins will be very mad.”
“Okay, Jack. Why don’t you go get into bed? You’ve got a big day tomorrow. School and then trick or treats.”
Jack nodded and hugged his mother. She helped him get is pajamas on and got him tucked in. “G’night, Mommy.”
“Goodnight, Jackie. Sweet dreams,” she said and flipped the light switch by his door.
She made her way into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of red wine. She managed not to spill the over-full glass as she made her way back to the small living-room. She sighed wearily as she sat down on the couch in the spot Jack had vacated. She took a sip, realized she was watching cartoons, and flipped on the news. Story after story threatened to send her mood spiraling into the abyss. “The crazies are out early this year.”
She flipped off the TV, checked on the sleeping Jack, and made her way back into the kitchen. She drained the rest of her wine and set the empty glass on the kitchenette table holding Necrowhateverhisnamewas. She gave the pumpkin the middle finger and put her hands on her hips. She stared at it for a full minute before deciding she’d had enough. She opened the drawer under the microwave and pulled out a serrated kitchen knife.
She walked over to the pumpkin and put the tip of the knife about three inches from the stem. She smiled as she drove the blade into the pumpkin all the way to the hilt. The pumpkin screamed. Maybe it was her. Either way, she let go of the handle and backed up against the kitchen counter behind her. Blood, as red as the wine that had been in her glass, began pouring freely from the wound in the top of the pumpkin.
A low moaning noise filled her ears as the blood formed a pool on the table and began falling to the floor in a miniature red waterfall. Nancy turned to run and saw Jack standing in the entrance to the kitchen looking very angry.
“Mommy, I told you no!” He ran over to the pumpkin and began rubbing his hand gently over it and whispering to it softly. Nancy screamed and grabbed Jack’s arm. She tried to yank him away, but just like at the pumpkin patch, she couldn’t move him. He looked up at her and a single tear slid down his cheek. “You killed him, Mommy. I asked you not to, but you did it anyway. The others are coming. I won’t stop them either.
“Who’s coming?”
“The other punkins. You killed their king.”
Nancy put her hands over her mouth and stifled a scream as the first vine shot through the kitchen window. She ducked as it shot straight for her. She managed to dodge it, but a second, thicker vine managed to wrap itself around her neck. She grasped futilely at it as it kept tightening. Fighting to breathe, she reached into the drawer next to her and grabbed a butcher knife. She slashed at the vine and cut through it with one swing. The vine slipped from her neck. She ran back to Jack to grab him and run. She stopped before she touched him. His skin had turned a dark, brownish-green. His face started turning orange. His eyes glowed like twin candles and his nose sank into his face. He opened his mouth and flames flashed between his shrinking lips as his mouth curled in an insanely large smile that spread from ear to ear. She watched as her tiny son began to grow before her eyes. He towered over her, at least seven feet tall.
She started screaming.
Jack’s skeletal brown hand wrapped around her throat.
“I begged you not to kill him, Mommy,” he said in a demonic voice. “Now I am the Punkin King.”

* * *

Lately, I’ve been having some seriously sleepless nights. I blame it on all the stress on my life. While the lack of sleep isn’t very beneficial to my sanity, it does help me come up with some outrageous stories. I wrote this one around Halloween. I write a lot of horror, but I’ve been focusing a lot more on writing steampunk. I was feeling a little nostalgic for some creepy stories, so I penned The Punkin King. I fell asleep right after with a grin on my face that spread from ear to ear. I do so love Halloween.
 * * *

authorphotoBorn the son of a fire chief, Sean naturally developed a love of playing with fire. His family and friends quickly found other outlets for his destructive creativity. Writing is his latest endeavor.
Always a fan of the macabre, mythical, and magical, Sean found a love of urban fantasy and horror. After writing several novels in this genre, he found, fell in love with, and immersed himself in steampunk. He has always wanted to rewrite history and steampunk gave him that opportunity.
Sean currently lives in Florida as a fiber-optic engineer as well as an author. He was blessed with the two most amazing children he could ever hope for, has met the absolute love of his life, who coincidentally is his partner in everything. His hobbies include grand designs on world domination as well as a starring role in his own television sitcom.

About Halloween and concepts

Jack-o'-Lantern 2003-10-31.jpg 

Halloween
a contraction of "All Hallows' Evening") also known as AllhalloweenAll Hallows' Eve, or All Saints' Eve, is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows' Day. It initiates the triduum of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers. Within Allhallowtide, the traditional focus of All Hallows' Eve revolves around the theme of using "humor and ridicule to confront the power of death."
According to many scholars, All Hallows' Eve is a Christianized feast initially influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, with possible pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic Samhain. Other scholars maintain that it originated independently of Samhain and has solely Christian roots.
Typical festive Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (or the related "guising"), attending costume parties, decorating, carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, visiting haunted house attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, and watching horror films. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows' Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular, although in other locations, these solemn customs are less pronounced in favour of a more commercialized and secularized celebration.
Because many Western Christian denominations encourage, although no longer require, abstinence from meat on All Hallows' Eve , the tradition of eating certain vegetarian foods for this vigil day developed, including the consumption of apples, colcannon, cider, potato pancakes, and soul cakes.

Samhain

(pronounced /ˈsɑːwɪn/ SAH-win or /ˈs.ɪn/ SOW-in

Samain or Samuin was the name of the feis or festival marking the beginning of winter in Gaelic Ireland. It is attested in some of the earliest Old Irish literature, from the 10th century onward. It was one of four Gaelic seasonal festivals: Samhain (~1 November), Imbolc (~1 February), Beltane (~1 May) and Lughnasadh (~1 August). Samhain and Beltane, at the witherward side of the year from each other, are thought to have been the most important.
1 May and 1 November are of little importance to European crop-growers, but of great importance to herdsmen. It is at the beginning of summer that cattle is driven to the upland summer pastures and the beginning of winter that they are led back. Thus, Frazer suggests that halving the year at 1 May and 1 November dates from a time when the Celts were mainly a pastoral people, dependent on their herds.  In medieval Ireland the festival marked the end of the season for trade and warfare and was an ideal date for tribal gatherings. These gatherings are a popular setting for early Irish tales
According to Irish mythology, Samhain (like Beltane) was a time when the doorways to the Otherworld opened, allowing the spirits and the dead to come into our world; but while Beltane was a summer festival for the living, Samhain "was essentially a festival for the dead."
The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn says that the sídhe (fairy mounds or portals to the Otherworld) "were always open at Samhain."Like Beltane, Lughnasadh and Imbolc, Samhain also involved great feasts. Mythology suggests that drinking alcohol was part of the feast, and it is noteworthy that every tale that features drunkenness is said to take place at Samhain.
Traditionally, Samhain was a time to take stock of the herds and food supplies. Cattle were brought down to the winter pastures after six months in the higher summer pastures. It was also the time to choose which animals would need to be slaughtered for the winter. This custom is still observed by many who farm and raise livestock  because it is when meat will keep since the freeze has come and also since summer grass is gone and free foraging is no longer possible. It is thought that some of the rituals associated with the slaughter have been transferred to other holidays.
As at Beltane, bonfires were lit on hilltops at Samhain and there were rituals involving them. It is suggested that the fires were a kind of imitative or sympathetic magic – they mimicked the Sun, helping the "powers of growth" and holding back the decay and darkness of winter.
They may also have served to symbolically "burn up and destroy all harmful influences". Accounts from the 18th and 19th centuries suggest that the fires (as well as their smoke and ashes) were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers.
In Moray, boys asked for bonfire fuel from each house in the village. When the fire was lit, "one after another of the youths laid himself down on the ground as near to the fire as possible so as not to be burned, and in such a position as to let the smoke roll over him. The others ran through the smoke and jumped over him". When the bonfire burnt down, they scattered the ashes, vying with each other who should scatter them most.] Sometimes, two bonfires would be built side by side, and the people – sometimes with their livestock – would walk between them as a cleansing ritual. The bones of slaughtered cattle were said to have been cast upon bonfires. In the pre-Christian Gaelic world, cattle were the main form of wealth and were the center of agricultural and pastoral life.
People also took flames from the bonfire back to their homes. In northeastern Scotland, they carried burning fir around their fields to protect them, and on South Uist they did likewise with burning turf.
In some places, people doused their hearth fires on Samhain night. Each family then solemnly re-lit its hearth from the communal bonfire, thus bonding the families of the village together. Dousing the old fire and bringing in the new may have been a way of banishing evil, which was done at New Year festivals in many countries

All Souls' Day

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Day of the Dead (1859).jpg

Some believe that the origins of All Souls' Day in European folklore and folk belief are related to customs of ancestor veneration practiced worldwide, through events such as the Chinese Ghost Festival, the Japanese Bon Festival. The Roman custom was that of the Lemuria.
The formal commemoration of the saints and martyrs (All Saints' Day) existed in the early Christian church since its legalization, and alongside that developed a day for commemoration of all the dead (All Souls' Day). The modern date of All Souls' Day was first popularized in the early eleventh century after Abbot Odilo established it as a day for the monks of Cluny and associated monasteries to pray for the souls in purgatory. However, it was only much later in the Medieval period, when Europeans began to mix the two celebrations, that many traditions now associated with All Souls' Day are first recorded.
Many of these European traditions reflect the dogma of purgatory. For example, ringing bells for the dead was believed to comfort them in their cleansing there, while the sharing of soul cakes with the poor helped to buy the dead a bit of respite from the suffering of purgatory. In the same way, lighting candles was meant to kindle a light for the dead souls languishing in the darkness. Out of this grew the traditions of "going souling" and the baking of special types of bread or cakes.
In Tirol, cakes are left for them on the table and the room kept warm for their comfort. In Brittany, people flock to the cemeteries at nightfall to kneel, bareheaded, at the graves of their loved ones, and to anoint the hollow of the tombstone with holy water or to pour libations of milk on it. At bedtime, the supper is left on the table for the souls.
In Bolivia, many people believe that the dead eat the food that is left out for them. In Brazil people attend a Mass or visit the cemetery taking flowers to decorate their relatives' grave, but no food is involved.
In Malta many people make pilgrimages to graveyards, not just to visit the graves of their dead relatives, but to experience the special day in all its significance. Visits are not restricted to this day alone. During the month of November, Malta's cemeteries are frequented by families of the departed. Mass is also said throughout the month, with certain Catholic parishes organizing special events at cemetery chapels.




The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to a pre-Columbian past. Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors had been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2,500–3,000 years. In the pre-Hispanic era skulls were commonly kept as trophies and displayed during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth.
The festival that became the modern Day of the Dead fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, about the beginning of August, and was celebrated for an entire month. The festivities were dedicated to the goddess known as the "Lady of the Dead", corresponding to the modern Catrina.
In most regions of Mexico November 1 is to honor children and infants, whereas deceased adults are honored on November 2. This is indicated by generally referring to November 1 mainly as Día de los Inocentes ("Day of the Innocents") but also as Día de los Angelitos ("Day of the Little Angels") and November 2 as Día de los Muertos or Día de los Difuntos ("Day of the Dead")
On October 31, All Hallows Eve, the children make a children's altar to invite the angelitos (spirits of dead children) to come back for a visit. November 1 is All Saints Day, and the adult spirits will come to visit. November 2 is All Souls Day, when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives. The three-day fiesta filled with marigolds, the flowers of the dead; muertos (the bread of the dead); sugar skulls; cardboard skeletons; tissue paper decorations; fruit and nuts; incense, and other traditional foods and decorations.
Catrinas 2.jpg

Trick-or-treating


 
The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays dates back to the Middle Ages and includes Christmas wassailing.
Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling, when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). It originated in Ireland and Britain, although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy.
Shakespeare mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593), when Speed accuses his master of "puling [whimpering or whining] like a beggar at Hallowmas." The custom of wearing costumes and masks at Halloween goes back to Celtic traditions of attempting to copy the evil spirits or placate them, in Scotland for instance where the dead were impersonated by young men with masked, veiled or blackened faces, dressed in white.
Guising at Halloween in Scotland is recorded in 1895, where masqueraders in disguise carrying lanterns made out of scooped out turnips, visit homes to be rewarded with cakes, fruit and money. The practice of Guising at Halloween in North America is first recorded in 1911, where a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario reported children going "guising" around the neighborhood.
American historian and author Ruth Edna Kelley of Massachusetts wrote the first book length history of the holiday in the US; The Book of Hallowe'en (1919), and references souling in the chapter "Hallowe'en in America";

The taste in Hallowe'en festivities now is to study old traditions, and hold a Scotch party, using Burn's poem Hallowe'en as a guide; or to go a-souling as the English used. In short, no custom that was once honored at Hallowe'en is out of fashion now.[
Kelley lived in Lynn, Massachusetts, a town with 4,500 Irish immigrants, 1,900 English immigrants, and 700 Scottish immigrants in 1920.  In her book, Kelley touches on customs that arrived from across the Atlantic; "Americans have fostered them, and are making this an occasion something like what it must have been in its best days overseas. All Hallowe'en customs in the United States are borrowed directly or adapted from those of other countries". 

While the first reference to "guising" in North America occurs in 1911, another reference to ritual begging on Halloween appears, place unknown, in 1915, with a third reference in Chicago in 1920.
The earliest known use in print of the term "trick or treat" appears in 1927, from Blackie, Alberta:

Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun. No real damage was done except to the temper of some who had to hunt for wagon wheels, gates, wagons, barrels, etc., much of which decorated the front street. The youthful tormentors were at back door and front demanding edible plunder by the word “trick or treat” to which the inmates gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing.
It's Punkie Night tonight
It's Punkie Night tonight
Adam and Eve would not believe
It's Punkie Night tonight

Jack-o'-lantern

A jack-o'-lantern is a carved pumpkin, or turnip, associated chiefly with the holiday of Halloween, and was named after the phenomenon of strange light flickering over peat bogs, called will-o'-the-wisp or jack-o'-lantern. In a jack-o'-lantern, the top is cut off to form a lid, and the inside flesh then scooped out; an image, usually a monstrous face, is carved out of the pumpkin's rind to expose the hollow interior. To create the lantern effect, a light source is placed within before the lid is closed. This is traditionally a flame or electric candle, though pumpkin lights featuring various colors and flickering effects are also marketed specifically for this purpose. It is common to see jack-o'-lanterns on doorsteps and otherwise used as decorations during Halloween.
The origin of Jack o' Lantern carving is uncertain. The carving of vegetables has been a common practice in many parts of the world, with gourds being the earliest plant species domesticated by humans c. 10,000 years ago, primarily for their carving potential.
Gourds were used to carve lanterns by the Maori over 700 years ago, with the Māori word for a gourd also used to describe a lampshade. There is a common belief that the custom of carving jack-o'-lanterns at Hallowe'en originated in Ireland, where turnips, mangelwurzel or beets were supposedly used.
The story of the Jack-O'-lantern comes in many variants and is similar to the story of Will-o'-the-wisp retold in different forms across Western Europe, with variations being present in the folklore of Norway, Sweden, England, Ireland, Wales, Germany, Italy and Spain.
An old Irish folk tale from the mid-19th Century tells of Stingy Jack, a lazy yet shrewd blacksmith who uses a cross to trap Satan. One story says that Jack tricked Satan into climbing an apple tree, and once he was up there Jack quickly placed crosses around the trunk or carved a cross into the bark, so that Satan couldn't get down. Another tale[ says that Jack put a key in Satan's pocket while he was suspended upside-down.
Another version of the story says that Jack was getting chased by some villagers from whom he had stolen, when he met Satan, who claimed it was time for him to die. However, the thief stalled his death by tempting Satan with a chance to bedevil the church-going villagers chasing him. Jack told Satan to turn into a coin with which he would pay for the stolen goods (Satan could take on any shape he wanted); later, when the coin (Satan) disappeared, the Christian villagers would fight over who had stolen it. The Devil agreed to this plan. He turned himself into a silver coin and jumped into Jack's wallet, only to find himself next to a cross Jack had also picked up in the village. Jack had closed the wallet tight, and the cross stripped the Devil of his powers; and so he was trapped.
In both folktales, Jack only lets Satan go when he agrees never to take his soul. After a while the thief died, as all living things do. Of course, his life had been too sinful for Jack to go to heaven; however, Satan had promised not to take his soul, and so he was barred from hell as well. Jack now had nowhere to go. He asked how he would see where to go, as he had no light, and Satan mockingly tossed him an ember from the flames of Hades, that would never burn out. Jack carved out one of his turnips (which were his favorite food), put the ember inside it, and began endlessly wandering the Earth for a resting place. He became known as "Jack of the Lantern", or Jack-o'-lantern.
Typical of Jack, he was drunk and wandering through the countryside at night when he came upon a body on his cobblestone path. The body with an eerie grimace on its face turned out to be Satan. Jack realized somberly this was his end; Satan had finally come to collect his malevolent soul. Jack made a last request: he asked Satan to let him drink ale before he departed to Hades. Finding no reason not to acquiesce the request, Satan took Jack to the local pub and supplied him with many alcoholic beverages. Upon quenching his thirst, Jack asked Satan to pay the tab on the ale, to Satan's surprise. Jack convinced Satan to metamorphose into a silver coin with which to pay the bartender (impressed upon by Jack's unyielding nefarious tactics). Shrewdly, Jack stuck the now transmogrified Satan (coin) into his pocket, which also contained a crucifix. The crucifix's presence kept Satan from escaping his form. This coerced Satan to agree to Jack's demand: in exchange for Satan's freedom, he had to spare Jack's soul for ten years.
Ten years later to the date when Jack originally struck his deal, he found himself once again in Satan's presence. Jack happened upon Satan in the same setting as before and seemingly accepted it was his time to go to Hades for good. As the Satan prepared to take him to Hades, Jack asked if he could have one apple to feed his starving belly. Foolishly Satan once again agreed to this request. As Satan climbed up the branches of a nearby apple tree, Jack surrounded its base with crucifixes. Satan, frustrated at the fact that he been entrapped again, demanded his release. As Jack did before, he made a demand: that his soul never be taken by Satan into Hades. Satan agreed and was set free.
Eventually the drinking and unstable lifestyle took its toll on Jack; he died the way he lived. As Jack's soul prepared to enter Heaven through the gates of St. Peter he was stopped. Jack was told by God that because of his sinful lifestyle of deceitfulness and drinking, he was not allowed into Heaven. The dreary Jack went before the Gates of Hades and begged for commission into underworld. Satan, fulfilling his obligation to Jack, could not take his soul. To warn others, he gave Jack an ember, marking him a denizen of the netherworld. From that day on until eternity's end, Jack is doomed to roam the world between the planes of good and evil, with only an ember inside a hollowed turnip ("turnip" actually referring to a large swede) to light his way.
Jack-o-lanterns were also a way of protecting your home against the Undead. Superstitious people used them specifically to ward away vampires. They thought this because it was said that the Jack-o-lantern's light was a way of identifying vampires and, once their identity was known, they would give up their hunt for you

Will-o'-the-wisp

A will-o'-the-wisp  are atmospheric ghost lights seen by travellers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes. It resembles a flickering lamp and is said to recede if approached, drawing travellers from the safe paths. The phenomenon is known by a variety of names, including jack-o'-lantern, friars's lantern, hinkypunk, and hobby lantern in English folk belief, well attested in English folklore and in much of European folklore
The term "will-o'-the-wisp" comes from "wisp", a bundle of sticks or paper sometimes used as a torch, and the name "Will": thus, "Will-of-the-torch". The term jack-o'-lantern "Jack of [the] lantern" has a similar meaning.
In the United States, they are often called "spook-lights", "ghost-lights", or "orbs" by folklorists and paranormal enthusiasts
In European folklore, these lights are held to be either mischievous spirits of the dead, or other supernatural beings or spirits such as fairies, attempting to lead travellers astray.
A modern Americanized adaptation of this travellers' association frequently places swaying ghost-lights along roadsides and railroad tracks. Here a swaying movement of the lights is alleged to be that of 19th- and early 20th-century railway workers supposedly killed on the job.
Sometimes the lights are believed to be the spirits of unbaptized or stillborn children, flitting between heaven and hell. Modern occultist elaborations, which follow the alchemical writings of Paracelsus, bracket them with the salamander, a type of spirit wholly independent from humans (unlike ghosts, which are presumed to have been humans at some point in the past .

Soul cake

A soul cake is a small round cake which is traditionally made for All Saints Day or All Souls' Day to celebrate the dead, The cakes, often simply referred to as souls, were given out to soulers (mainly consisting of children and the poor) who would go from door to door on Halloween singing and saying prayers for the dead. Each cake eaten would represent a soul being freed from Purgatory. The practice of giving and eating soul cakes is often seen as the origin of modern trick-or-treating. In Lancashire and in the North-east of England they were also known as Harcakes.
The tradition of giving soul cakes was celebrated in Britain or Ireland during the Middle Ages, although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy.

The cakes were usually filled with allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger or other sweet spices, raisins or currants, and before baking were topped with the mark of a cross to signify that these were alms.
A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missis, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul
Three for Him who made us all.

In 1963, the American folk group Peter, Paul and Mary recorded a version of this traditional song, titled "A' Soalin", whose verses include the following:

Soul, soul, a soul cake!
I pray thee, good missus, a soul cake!
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for Him what made us all!
Soul cake, soul cake, please good missus, a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry, any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul, and three for Him who made us all.




American Hallowe'en composer Kristen Lawrence found two historical tunes associated with soul cakes as she was researching souling songs for her 2009 A Broom With A View album.
As Lawrence heard the traditional Cheshire tune, she was struck that the beginning notes were the same as the mediaeval plainchant Dies Irae, "Day of Judgment", calling the people to repent and pray for the dead. It seemed plausible that the Cheshire tune could be a folk corruption of the chant as children and beggars asked for cakes in return for praying for the dead.




The song "Soul Cake" from British rock musician Sting's 2009 album If on a Winter's Night... seems to be an adaptation of the Peter, Paul, and Mary version, in that both depart from historical accuracy by referring to Christmas rather than All Saints' Day or All Souls' Day.



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