What Are the Pagan Roots of Halloween? 🎃👻

Are the specific customs of Halloween related to pagan beliefs?

Since Halloween itself originated in paganism, it is not surprising that its customs are related to pagan belief. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica,

In ancient Britain and Ireland, the Celtic Festival of Samhain was observed on October 31, at the end of summer… The souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes on this day and the autumnal festival acquired sinister significance, with ghosts, witches, goblins, black cats, fairies and demons of all kinds said to be roaming about. It was the time to placate the supernatural powers controlling the processes of nature. In addition, Halloween was thought to be the most favorable time for divinations concerning marriage, luck, health, and death. It was the only day on which the help of the devil was invoked for such purposes.

Halloween symbols, customs, and practices undoubtedly have had a variety of influences upon Western culture throughout history. However, in early American history, Halloween was not celebrated due to America’s strong Christian heritage. It was not widely observed until the twentieth century. Initially, it was practiced only in small Irish Catholic settlements, until thousands of Irish migrated to America during the great potato famine and brought their customs with them. To some degree, our modern Halloween is an Irish holiday with early origins in the Celtic winter festival. Interestingly, in American culture, the rise in popularity of Halloween also coincides roughly with the national rise in spiritism that began in 1848.

Irish Holiday

Ireland is the only place in the world where Halloween is actually a national holiday (celebrated with fireworks); children are even released from school for the week.

Among the modern customs and practices of Halloween, we can note numerous probable or possible influences, some of which follow.

Where did the jack-o’-lantern originate?

The carved pumpkin may have originated with the witches’ use of a collection of skulls with a candle in each to light the way to coven meetings. But among the Irish, who, as noted, prompted the popularization of Halloween in America, the legend of “Irish Jack” explains the jack-o’-lantern. According to the legend, a stingy drunk named Jack tricked the devil into climbing an apple tree for an apple, but then cut the sign of a cross into the trunk of the tree to prevent the devil from coming down. Jack then forced the devil to swear he would never come after Jack’s soul. The devil reluctantly agreed.

Jack eventually died, but he was turned away at the gates of heaven because of his drunkenness and life of selfishness. He was sent to the devil, who also rejected him, keeping his promise. Since Jack had no place to go, he was condemned to wander the earth. As he was leaving hell (he happened to be eating a turnip), the devil threw a live coal at him. He put the coal inside the turnip and has since forever been roaming the earth with his “jack-o’-lantern” in search of a place to rest. Eventually, pumpkins replaced turnips since it was much easier to symbolize the devil’s coal inside a pumpkin.

How did the tradition of trick-or-treating begin?

There are several ancient practices that point to this tradition. One possibility is from the notion that ancient witches had to steal the materials needed for their festivals. The Druids may have believed that witches held this day to be special, something clearly true for modern witches.

The idea of trick-or-treating is further related to the ghosts of the dead in pagan, and even Catholic, history. For example, among the ancient Druids, “The ghosts that were thought to throng about the houses of the living were greeted with a banquet-laden table. At the end of the feast, masked and costumed villagers representing the souls of the dead paraded to the outskirts of town leading the ghosts away.”

As already noted, Halloween was thought to be a night when mischievous and evil spirits roamed freely. As in modern poltergeist lore, mischievous spirits could play tricks on the living—so it was advantageous to “hide” from them by wearing costumes. Masks and costumes were worn to either scare away the ghosts or to keep from being recognized by them:

In Ireland especially, people thought that ghosts and spirits roamed after dark on Halloween. They lit candles or lanterns to keep the spirits away, and if they had to go outside, they wore costumes and masks to frighten the spirits or to keep from being recognized by these unearthly beings.

Where did Halloween costumes originate?

Besides the reasons given above, Halloween masks and costumes were used to hide one’s attendance at pagan festivals or—as in traditional shamanism (mediated by a witch doctor or pagan priest) and other forms of animism—to change the personality of the wearer to allow for communication with the spirit world. Here, costumes could be worn to ward off evil spirits. On the other hand, the costume wearer might use a mask to try to attract and absorb the power of the animal represented by the mask and costume worn. According to this scenario, Halloween costumes may have originated with the Celtic Druid ceremonial participants, who wore animal heads and skins to acquire the strength of a particular animal.

An additional layer of tradition explaining the origin of Halloween costumes comes from the medieval Catholic practice of displaying the relics of saints on All Saints’ Day: “The poorer churches could not afford relics and so instituted a procession with parishioners dressed as the patron saints; the extras dressed as angels or devils and everyone paraded around the churchyard.”

Going from door to door seeking treats may result from the Druidic practice of begging material for the great bonfires. As we will see later, it is also related to the Catholic concept of purgatory and the custom of begging for a “soul cake.”

As for the “trick” custom of Halloween, this is related to the idea that ghosts and witches created mischief on this particular night. For example, if the living did not provide food, or “treats,” for the spirits, then the spirits would “trick” the living. People feared terrible things might happen to them if they did not honor the spirits. The Druids also believed that failure to worship their gods would bring dire consequences. If the gods were not treated properly in ritual, they would seek vengeance. This was therefore a day of fear. Further, some people soon realized that a mischievous sense of humor, or even malevolence, could be camouflaged—that they could perform practical jokes on or do harm to others and blame it on the ghosts or witches roaming about.

What’s the significance of fruits and nuts at Halloween?

Halloween traditions often involve fruit centerpieces, apples, and nuts. Three of the sacred fruits of the Celts were acorns, apples, and nuts, especially the hazelnut, considered a god, and the acorn, sacred from its association to the oak. Fruits and nuts also seem to be related to the Roman harvest feast of Pomona, apparently the goddess of fruit. For example, in ancient Rome, cider was drawn and the Romans bobbed for apples, which was part of a divination that supposedly helped a person discover their future marriage partner.

How did we get the tradition of telling ghost stories?

It became a natural expression of Halloween to tell ghost stories when dead souls were believed to be everywhere, and good, mischievous, and evil spirits roamed freely. These stories further originated as a personal expression of these beliefs.

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Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland 🍀

1643 – Death of Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork aka Great Earl of Cork, was Lord High Treasurer of the Kingdom of Ireland. Boyle is an important figure in the continuing English colonisation of Ireland (commenced by the Normans) in the 16th and 17th centuries, as he acquired large tracts of land in plantations in Munster, at the expense of native landowners. Moreover, his sons played an important role in fighting against Irish Catholic rebellion in the 1640s and ’50s, assisting in the victory of the British and Protestant interest in Ireland.

1851 – Sir William Whitla, physician and professor, is born in Co Monaghan.

1865 – Police raid and close the Irish People offices; Rossa, Luby and O’Leary are arrested.

1866 – John Blake Dillon, Young Irelander and co-founder of The Nation, dies in Killarney.

1881 – First soccer international in Ireland; England beats the Irish squad Total crowd receipts: £9.19s.7d.

1889 – Birth in Castlebar of singer Margaret Burke Sheridan.

1905 – Pat O’Callaghan, physician, hammer-thrower and first man to win an Olympic gold medal while representing Ireland, is born near Kanturk, Co Cork.

1921 – 15-18 Sep: There was further riots in Belfast and two Protestants were killed by a sniper.

1922 – Second consecutive night of sniping attacks in Dublin. Anti-Treaty fighters attempt to take over the Telephone exchange and Kingsbridge Railway Station in Dublin. They also attack the Wellington and Portobello military barracks. The attacks were driven off by Free State troops after several hours of firing.

1922 – In Dundalk, the Anti-Treaty IRA made several attacks on Free State troops and took over the power station, cutting off the town’s electricity supply. One National Army soldier is killed by a hand grenade in the clashes.

1922 – The Free State post at Athboy, Co Meath is attacked. One soldier is killed.

1922 – The Free State’s Lord Chief Justice rules that the country is in a state of war and Habeas Corpus no longer applies. He rejects an application to free two of the 5,000 prisoners taken by National forces since the outbreak of the civil war.

1953 – Long time antagonists Éamon de Valera and Winston Churchill meet for the one and only time at Downing Street.

1955 – Birth of writer, producer, comedian, actor, and director, Brendan O’Carroll in Finglas, Co Dublin. Best known for portraying foul-mouthed matriarch Agnes Brown in the BBC television sitcom, Mrs. Brown’s Boys.

1970 – Another landmark in the violence was reached when the one hundredth explosion in 1970 occurred. Officers of the RUC voted narrowly in favour of remaining unarmed. The policy was overtaken by events and eventually all officers were rearmed.

1976 – Anne Letitia Dickson is elected leader of the Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, becoming the first woman to lead a political party in Ireland.

1978 – Muhammad Ali defeated Leon Spinks in the Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans to win the world title for a record third time. Ali twice fought and defeated “Irish” Jerry Quarry in the early 70’s. Ali passed away on 3 June 2016 from septic shock. The great fighter had Irish origins and visited Ennis, Co Clare – his ancestral home – in 2009 as you can see in this YouTube clip: https://youtu.be/zRwiSqNwD2A

1987 – The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) issued guidelines on fair employment Religious Equality of Opportunity in Employment: An Employers’ Guide to Fair Employment. Many commentators saw this initiative as a response to growing pressure from supporters of the MacBride Principles in the United States.

1997 – Sinn Féin joins multiparty peace talks in Northern Ireland.

1999 – The Corrs, the Cranberries and the Chieftains take the lion’s share of £15.6 million collected by the Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) on behalf of Irish song writers.

1999 – Research showed that the forensic testing for use of firearms was flawed. The ‘paraffin’ test had been used to find traces of lead particles, for example on the hands or clothing of people suspected of firing weapons. However, research that had been commissioned by the Bloody Sunday Inquiry found that such testing was ‘flawed’ because, for example, exposure to car exhaust could show a ‘positive’ result.

2000 – Sonia O’Sullivan leads the Irish team at a spectacular Olympic opening ceremony in Sydney, Australia.

2001 – Aer Lingus, Delta and Continental Airlines resume services to and from Ireland. The first trans-Atlantic flights to the US leave for New York, Newark, Chicago and Washington. Priority status is given to all relatives of the victims and injured in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.

2013 – Death of Tomás Ó Canainn. Born in Co Derry, he was a Uilleann piper, accordion player, singer, composer, researcher, writer and lecturer in both electrical engineering (principally control engineering) and music. He was a founder of the group Na Fili with fiddler Matt Cranitch and whistle player Tom Barry in the late 1960s and 1970s. He took over the Irish music lectures from Seán Ó Riada at the College after his death in 1971 and taught music at the Cork School of music. Ó Canainn’s daughters also play, violin, viola and cello and all 3 three appear with him on his last solo release. Tomás died in The Mercy Hospital in Cork City, aged 82. los_50_lugares_mas_hermosos_de_irlanda_52140935_678x1000

 

Does life have a purpose? 

Every person wonders what purpose life has. Will it be hard work to improve our living conditions, provide what is necessary to our families, die at 70 or 80 years and then cease to exist forever?Many people, both in Eastern and Western countries, believe that the main reason for our existence is to acquire material wealth. They believe that with these you can live a happy and purposeful life. But what about people who already have material wealth? Canadian writer Harry Bruce said: “A surprising number of wealthy people insists that they are not happy.” He added: “Surveys indicate that North America has been infected with tremendous pessimism […]. Is anyone happy in this world? If there is, what is his secret? “One important political figure said, “We have discovered that possessing things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. […] The accumulation of material goods can not fill the void of lives that lack confidence or purpose. Another political leader said: “For several years I have been engaged in an intense search for truths about myself and my life; I know many other people who are doing the same thing. As never before, people are asking themselves, ‘Who are we? For what purpose are we here?’ “Many doubt that life has purpose when they see that the conditions in which the world is: wars, pollution, hunger and disease, economic crisis and energy … have worsened.Elie Wiesel, who survived the Nazi concentration camps during World War II, said: “‘Why are we here?’ Is the most important question a human being must face. […] I think life has meaning despite the senseless deaths I’ve seen. ” However, I could not tell what the purpose of life was.Evolutionary scientist Stephen Jay Gould noted, “We may crave a ‘higher’ response, but there is none.” For evolutionists like him, life is a struggle in which the fittest survives, and death puts an end to everything. This view also offers no hope. And, again, is it based on the truth?Many religious guides say that the purpose of life is to lead a good life so that, when dying, the soul of the person can go to heaven and spend eternity there. What awaits evil people is eternal torment in a hell of fire. However, according to this belief, on Earth people would continue to lead the same unsatisfactory existence they have had throughout history. But if God’s purpose was for people to live in heaven like angels, why did He not create them in the beginning?Striving to find meaning in one’s life is the chief moving force within man. There is nothing in the world that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge that one’s life has meaning.

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Why Dogs Don’t Live As Long As Humans, Explained By A 6-Year Old

This is not my story, I didn’t write this, but I truly enjoyed it, so here goes:

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker ‘s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.  Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ”I know why.”

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live.

He said, ”People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The Six-year-old continued,

”Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

Live simply.

Love generously.

Care deeply.

Speak kindly.

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:

  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
  • Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
  • Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure Ecstasy.
  • Take naps.
  • Stretch before rising.
  • Run, romp, and play daily.
  • Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
  • On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
  • On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
  • When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
  • Be loyal.
  • Never pretend to be something you’re not.
  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.
  • ENJOY EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY! dogs_purpose

On the Other Side of the Rainbow Bridge 🌈🐾💚

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

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Goodbyes aret not forever. Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I’ll miss you until we meet again!

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

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The Surprising Way Sigmund Freud Used His Dog for Psychoanalysis of Humans

Sigmund Freud, the founding father of psychoanalysis, was a pioneer in the field of psychology and renowned for his theories on human development. Little known fact: he was also a dog person.

Freud had a love for chow chows in particular. One of his chow chows, Jofi, was his right-hand canine and accompanied him during patient sessions.

Freud thought that dogs had a calming effect over people (which they do, of course). Recent studies have supported this notion. In one study, participants were placed into one of three conditions; they either had a dog nearby, were asked to think about a dog, or had no pet involvement (the control group). The participants then had their blood pressure measured while performing a distressing cognitive task.

Results showed that those who had a dog present, and even those who were just thinking about a dog, had lower blood pressure than those who had no pet involvement.

Freud also thought that dogs had the ability to read people’s emotional states and were great judges of character. He would assess his patient’s mental states with the help of Jofi. She would lie relatively near a patient if the patient was calm whereas she would keep her distance if the patient was anxious.

Jofi was special in that she had an internal clock that would alert her when Freud’s sessions were over. After exactly 50 minutes, she would get up, stretch, and head for the door, letting Freud know that it was time to wrap things up. Freud described Jofi as “a charming creature, so interesting in her feminine characteristics, too, wild, impulsive, intelligent and yet not so dependent as dogs often are”. 

FREUD Y JOFI

 

Poe’s Short Stories “The Black Cat”

On the eve of his death, an unnamed narrator opens the story by proclaiming that he is sane, despite the wild narrative he is about to convey. This narrative begins years before, when the narrator’s honorable character is well known and celebrated. He confesses a great love for cats and dogs, both of which, he says, respect the fidelity of friendship, unlike fellow men. The narrator marries at a young age and introduces his wife to the domestic joys of owning pets. Among birds, goldfish, a dog, rabbits, and a monkey, the narrator singles out a large and beautiful black cat, named Pluto, as his favorite.

Though he loves Pluto, the narrator begins to suffer from violent mood swings, predominantly due to the influence of alcohol. He takes to mistreating not only the other animals but also his wife. During this uncontrollable rage, he spares only Pluto. After returning home quite drunk one night, the narrator lashes out at Pluto. Believing the cat has avoided him, he vengefully grasps the cat, only to be bitten on the hand. In demonic retaliation, the narrator pulls a penknife from his pocket and cuts out one of the cat’s eyes. Though the narrator wakes the next morning with a partial feeling of remorse, he is unable to reverse the newly ominous course of his black soul. Ignored for certain now by the wounded cat, the narrator soon seeks further retaliation. He is overwhelmed by a spirit of PERVERSENESS, and sets out to commit wrong for the sake of wrong. He hangs Pluto from the limb of a tree one morning.

On the night of Pluto’s hanging, the narrator’s family’s house burns down, but he dismisses the possibility of a connection between the two events. The day after the fire, which destroys all the narrator’s possessions, he witnesses a group of neighbors collected around a wall that remains standing. Investigating their shouts of amazement, the narrator discovers the impression of a gigantic cat—with a rope around its neck—on the surface of the wall. The narrator attempts to explain rationally the existence of the impression, but he finds himself haunted by this phantasm over the course of many months. One night, while out drunk, the narrator discovers a black object poised upon a large barrel of alcohol. A new black cat has appeared, resembling Pluto but with a splash of white on his fur.

As with Pluto, the narrator experiences a great fondness for the mysterious cat, which no one has seen before. The cat becomes part of the household, much adored by his wife as well. However, following the earlier pattern, the narrator soon cannot resist feelings of hatred for the cat. These murderous sentiments intensify when the narrator discovers that the cat’s splash of white fur has mysteriously taken on the shape of the gallows, the structure on which a hanging takes place. The white fur reveals the mode of execution that claimed Pluto, and the narrator pledges revenge.

One day, descending into the cellar of the building with his wife, the narrator almost trips over the cat. Enraged, the narrator grabs an axe to attack the cat, but his wife defends the animal. Further angered by this interference, the narrator turns his rage at his wife and buries the axe in her head. Faced with the evidence of his crime, the narrator considers many options for the body’s disposal, including dismemberment and burial. The narrator eventually decides to take advantage of the damp walls in the basement and entomb the body behind their plaster. Without any difficulty, the narrator creates a tomb in the plaster wall, thereby hiding the body and all traces of his murder. When he finally turns to the cat, it is missing, and he concludes that it has been frightened away by his anger.

On the fourth day after the murder, the police arrive unexpectedly at the narrator’s apartment. Cool and collected, the narrator leads them through the premises, even into the basement. Though facing the scene of the crime, the police do not demonstrate any curiosity and prepare to leave the residence. The narrator, however, keeps trying to allay their suspicion. Commenting upon the solid craftsmanship of the house, he taps on the wall—behind which is his wife’s body—with a cane. In response to the tapping, a long, loud cry emanates from behind the wall. The police storm the wall and dismantle it, discovering the hidden corpse. Upon its head sits the missing cat.

Analysis

Much like “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Black Cat” follows the narrator’s descent into madness after he proclaims his sanity in the tale’s opening paragraph. Even the narrator acknowledges the “wild” nature of the tale, attempting thereby to separate his mental condition from the events of the plot. The nature of the narrator’s madness differs from that of the narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart.” “The Black Cat” does not concern itself only with the self-contained nature of the narrator’s mind. Rather, the narrator confesses an alcoholism that interferes with his grasp on reality and produces mood swings. Alcohol is, like the cat, an external agent that intrudes on the dynamics of the plot. The introduction of alcohol as a plot device is also significant because Edgar Allan Poe was an reputedly uncontrollable drunk throughout his lifetime. For many years, his biographers asserted that he died of alcohol poisoning in a gutter in Baltimore. More recent biographies insist that the exact cause of Poe’s death cannot be determined. Regardless, it is certain that Poe suffered from the deleterious effects of alcohol consumption throughout his life.

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