Image: Milagros by Pierre Dal Corso for Contributor magazine via Fashionising
The more I learn about the origins of Halloween, the less inclined I am to celebrate it. I know it's a lot of fun for kids (and adults) to get dressed up and eat candy and go party, but lately I can't help but think of the dark and evil reasons for this holiday in the first place.
Its roots trace all the way back to the ancient cultures. Primarily, the customs associated with Halloween were derived from the beliefs of the druids, the Celtic priests of ancient Gaul and Britain. They celebrated the nights of Samhain (SOW-en), Halloween being the third night of Samhain, which occurred on October 31, marking the beginning of a new year in the ancient Celtic calendar. According to Celtic pagan religion, the druids believed that on the nights of Samhain, the veil between the earthly and the spiritual realm was the thinnest, and demons, and spirits could easily cross over. Did you know that Stonehenge is one of the most ancient temples where the druids would go and worship their gods? They would go there multiple times a year to practice human sacrifices. Did you also know that archaeologists found thousands of human skeletal remains at the site of Stonehenge? Apparently it was one of the smaller temples, reportedly there where others, one more than a mile long.
Some of the customs we commonly associate with the holiday, such as Jack-O-Lanterns and bobbing for apples, trick or treating, etc., came from Samhain, but they were not the fun and innocent rituals they are today. The druids would go door to door through the countryside collecting people to be used as human sacrifices, asking "trick or treat?" For those who would offer up a family member or household help to be sacrificed, they would leave a gourd or large turnip filled with human fat on the doorstep and light it on fire; this was supposed to protect the household from the demons they would be summoning later that night. If the household refused to give anyone up to be sacrificed, a 6 pointed star would be painted in blood on their door, targeting them for the "trick", or curse over their house. The druids would collect their human sacrifices, take them to the huge bonfire they had been burning, and lead them to the large cauldron filled with mead that had been boiling for hours over the fire. They threw apples into it and offered freedom to the people if they could stick their heads into the scolding hot substance and grasp an apple in their teeth on the first try. This was enough to burn the flesh right off their face. Those who succeeded and survived would be cut from their binds and let go with their wounds. Those who were left were sacrificed in the fire. The human remains found at Stonehenge are said to be due to "cremation burials".
The druids would also disguise themselves in costumes so the spirits/demons would think that the druids belonged to their same company. Incidentally, the druids are also where we get the "Burning Man" concept, you know the concert/event? They would build a HUGE wicker man that had cages built into it, animals and humans would be put inside these cages and it would be set on fire.
So, the Americanized/consumer driven, all-in-good-fun holiday we celebrate today was actually a very dark and evil day, and still is to some. Human sacrifices still take place (yes, even in our country) and today, on Halloween, it happens more than any other time of the year. Although the roots of this holiday are often downplayed and given a rosy coloring (not mentioning the murders and gore) history tells a dark tale, one I think it's important understand.
I'm a big fan of reality awareness. It's good to know why we do the things we do so we can act with consciousness instead of blissful ignorance. I love traditions, but some might not be as worthy as others to be passed down. And with that, have a happy and safe Wednesday! ;)