Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Halloween Folklore. Ghosts and Goblins

Goblins. From

The Irish have a tale about the origin of jack-o-lanterns. They say that a man named Jack was unable to enter heaven because of his miserliness. He would not enter hell because he had played practical jokes on the devil. So he had to walk the earth with his lantern, a coal stuffed into a hollowed-out turnip, until Judgement Day.
The Druids, an order of priests in ancient Gaul and Britain, believed that on Halloween ghosts, spirits, fairies, witches and elves came out to harm people. They thought the cat was sacred and believed that cats had one been human beings but were changed as a punishment for evil deeds. From these Druidic beliefs comes the present day use of witches, ghosts, and cats in Halloween festivities.
Though witches, especially those of Halloween, are usually portrayed as crones –wrinkled old women- some believed witches to be young and beautiful. From this we have the phrases ¨bewitched,¨ ¨enchanting¨ or ¨charming¨, indicating influence a lovely  woman exerts.

Jack O'Lantern. From

The black cat was considered to be the most prevalent form a witch might take. This is evident today when we fear the consequences of a black cat crossing our path. Or, sometimes, a black cat was said to be the ¨familiar¨ of a witch, helping her cast evil spells.
The Druids had an autumn festival called Samhain (pronounced SAH win), or summer´s end. It was an occasion for feasting on all kinds of food that had been grown during the summer. The custom of using leaves, pumpkins and cornstalks as Halloween decorations comes from the Druids. The early peoples of continental Europe also had a festival similar to the Druid holiday.
Halloween Folklore:
Egg shells should always be burned or crushed into small bits, to prevent chickens from becoming witched.
If you are bewitched, lay a broom before the door. The ¨rules¨ decree¨ that the first person to come in and pick up the broom, is the witch.
If you think you are bewitched, beware of the first person coming to borrow from you – it is the witch!

Louise Riotte. Sleeping with a Sunflower. A treasury of old-time gardening lore. New York, 1994

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