Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Curious History of Halloween


The paranormal aura and mystique surrounding Halloween connects to a series of beliefs, traditions and superstitions. What is the actual origin of Halloween?  It appears to date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.  By Celts we refer to the people who lived approximately 2,000 years ago in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrating their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer harvest and the beginning of dark, cold winter, a time of year often associated with human death.

Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, believing that ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future.  The Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.

During these celebrations, Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they put out earlier that evening. This symbolic lighting was done from the sacred bonfire to serve as a protection during the coming winter.

By 43 A.D., the Romans had conquered a majority of Celtic territory. During the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

By the 800’s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 as All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. The pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in 1000 A.D., the church designated November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils.

Tales of the supernatural are ever popular during the Halloween season. Right now, publisher Clean Reads 
is offering THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, a paranormal novel, for just
99 cents through Halloween, October 31st, on Amazon Kindle.

You can check it out here:

Also available, DARK MOON RISING, Gothic romantic suspense from Luminosity, available in All e-book formats and print.










Are there any books that you would like to recommend as good Halloween reading choices?








18 comments:

  1. Thanks for this history -- some of it I knew and some I didn't. Halloween is certainly more than donning costumes and collecting candy, isn't it?

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    1. Yes, it is. Lots of interesting traditions, legends and history makes Halloween special.

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  2. I love all things Celtic! Thanks for the history lesson and Happy Halloween to you!

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  3. Great article, Jacquie. Samhain has long been one of my favorite Celtic "holidays." It's mentioned/described in many Irish poems and plays by Synge, Yeats, Lady Gregory and others. I've set a murderous scene during Samhain in my mystery, Midnight Fires, so it's a great night for mystery lovers!

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    1. Hi, Nancy,

      Great atmosphere for mystery and horror fiction!

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  4. Fantastic blog, Jacqueline! :) Like the others on here, some of the facts I knew, some I didn't :) It's interesting how we always blend traditions and holidays, isn't it? :) I'm drifting to Amazon and having a look at the books mentioned on here. I already have Dark Moon Rising, but I'm going to have a look at Ms. Nancy's now :) Of course, my TBR list is over the moon itself! I have a short story on Amazon, titled Dark Pleasures, that's a quick read for all those who want a shiver...my favorite reading for Halloween? Usually anything with a thrill to it...I'm reading an Alex Cross novel at the moment...But, one of my all time favorites was The Shining :)

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    1. Hi, Loretta,

      You're well-read on Halloween fiction. I hope you enjoy Dark Moon Rising!

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  5. I enjoy reading the histories behind cultural practices such as this.

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    1. As an undergrad, I minored in history. Like you, I find it fascinating.

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    2. Yeah, I also minored in history (& speech). Majored in English.

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  6. Very nice review of the history of this holiday! I loved Halloween as a kid and when my children were growing up. Now...not so much.

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  7. I think I'm a kid at heart. I still love spooky stories and enjoy writing them. Of course, the best part of Halloween is by far the chocolate candy! My idea of a good time: reading an eerie romantic mystery and chomping chocolate.

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