All Hallows Day – a Midpoint

halloweenmagician-pixa
Halloween is the evening before the Christian holy days of All Hallows’ Day (also known as All Saints’ or Hallowmas) on November 1, and All Souls’ Day on November 2. Halloween, the modern popular cultural holiday, is also called All Hallows’ Eve.

It is not hard to see how this three-day observance of Allhallowtide that was dedicated to remembering the dead was popularized into our modern Halloween. Hallows are saints, martyrs, and all the faithful departed and they are supposed to be remembered now. That is an idea found in almost all religions, though marked in different ways and on different dates.

Many Halloween traditions originated from Celtic harvest festivals which may have pagan roots. Many pagan practices, such as the Gaelic festival Samhain, were appropriated and Christianized as a way to bring pagans into the church.

Samhain is celebrated from sunset on October 31 until sunset on November 1st. That time was chosen because it was the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.

In Ireland, it is known as Samhain and in Scotland as Samhuinn and both translate as “summer’s end.” In Wales, it is Calan Gaeaf meaning “calends of winter.” In Cornwall, it is Allantide.

It marks the end of the green season. It is also a time when bare boughs make it easier to hunt and see your prey.

corn mask
American Indian Iroquois corn spirit mask

It was a time to appease the shadowy powers with offerings. A sacrificial victim may have once embodied the corn spirit of harvest or with the beating of the grain (threshing). Slaying the corn spirit was in earlier times the slaying of a tree or a vegetation spirit embodied in a tree or in a human or animal victim. American Indians had their own end-of-harvest corn spirit beliefs. It is ironic and gruesome that a human victim may have once been regarded as a “king” much like the mock kings or queens chosen at winter festivals.

With the rise of Christianity, a slain human or animal sacrifice became regarded as wrong and even as an offering to evil powers. Effigies of the corn spirit or even some saints were made but not sacrificed as part of the festival.

So Many Hallows Before the Darker Half of the Year

A cemetery decorated for All Hallows Day which is a religious holiday, but it still looks Halloween creepy here.

Everyone knows Halloween the holiday, but I’m always surprised how few people know the origin of the word itself. It is also written as Hallowe’en and it dates to about 1745. It might have an older Christian origin, though Christian churches often consider this holiday to be not holy day at all and more of a pagan celebration.

The verb, to hallow is “to make holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate, to venerate.” The adjective form is hallowed, which appears in “The Lord’s Prayer” (“hallowed be thy name”), means holy, consecrated, sacred, or revered.

The noun form, hallow (as used in Hallowtide) is a synonym for the word saint. The noun is from the Old English adjective hālig, “holy.”

In modern English usage, the noun “hallow” appears mostly in the compounds Hallowtide, Hallowmas, and Halloween.

Hallowtide and Hallowmas are not as well known as Halloween. Hallowtide is a liturgical season that includes Halloween and Hallowmas. The latter is the feast of Allhallows or All Saints’ Day, on November 1.

And now, here are the many hallows that have come to be and confuse us.

Halloween/Hallowe’en is a shortened form of “All Hallow Even(ing),” meaning “All Hallows’ Eve” or “All Saints’ Eve.”

Hallowmas is the day after Halloween and it is shortened from “Hallows’ Mass,” and is also known as “All Hallows’ Day” or “All Saints’ Day.”

So, the word “Hallowe’en” means “Saints’ evening” and it comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows’ Eve. In that case, the word “eve” is “even” which is contracted to e’en or been. Over time, (All) Hallow(s) E(v)en evolved into Hallowe’en.

Call it Halloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve. It is celebrated in many countries on the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It begins the observance of Allhallowtide which is the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, but really all the faithful departed.

The history of all this is not clear. Some historians believe that Halloween traditions were influenced by ancient Celtic harvest festivals. The festival usually mentioned is the Gaelic festival Samhain. which marks the end of the harvest season and beginning of the “darker half” of the year – winter.

Another theory is that Samhain was “Christianized” to bring in pagans as All Hallow’s Day, along with its eve, by the early Church. And others believe that Halloween began solely as a Christian holiday marking the vigil of All Hallow’s Day. This is not uncommon in Christianity and other religions and is probably best known with Christmas Eve.

 

A version of this appeared earlier on one of my other blogs, Why Name It That?

Hunting the Halloween Blue Moon

We had our Harvest Moon at the start of October, and tomorrow we will have our second Full Moon of the month. This Full Moon is often called the Hunter Moon because it occurs during hunting seasons in many places and because a Full Moon offered better light for hunters.

But this particular Full Moon has some other oddities.

Back on the 16th, we had the year’s closest and largest New Moon. This Full Moon will be the year’s farthest and smallest one. It’s also a Blue Moon and appears near red Mars which makes for a nice Halloween Blue Full Moon.

Halloween was traditionally called All Hallows’ Eve because it occurs on the evening before the Christian holy day of All Hallows’ Day or All Saints Day (November 1). That’s why Halloween is celebrated on October 31.

This pandemic year has changed Halloween trick-or-treat traditions as going door to door is probably not a good idea. In my town, they will have an event at the community park where kids can come with parents by car and drive around the big parking lot, stopping at candy and treat stations. That doesn’t sound very appealing for kids.

There has been a movement to change Halloween to the last Saturday of October in the past so as not to conflict with school and work. Of course, this year a lot for kinds are schooling at home as parents are working from home or not working at all. This year Halloween coincidentally does fall on the last Saturday. By the way, that movement for a Saturday Halloween was started, unsurprisingly,  by the Halloween and Costume Association.

The next time we’ll see an October 31st Halloween Full Moon is in 2039, so you should plan to get your werewolf costume this year.

Werewolf, Full Moon, and Blue Moon all together send my thoughts immediately to the film, American Werewolf in London. I love this scary and also funny film by John Landis about two American college students on a walking tour of Britain who are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will even admit exists.

Be careful out there tomorrow night.

A Dark Moon on the Eve of Halloween

halloween grinchI have once again successfully avoided Halloween by being away from home.

It is my least favorite calendar event. I didn’t like it as a kid and I don’t like it as an old Grinchy man.

I know plenty of Americans do love it. And people celebrate versions of Halloween or Hallowtide or Samhain.

I can get behind the Samhain Gaelic festival that marks the end of the harvest season. Its dark side is that it signals the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year. Harvests are good. Bounty is nice. I love autumn and I love the changing seasons.

Tonight is called “Mischief Night” and the “Devil’s Night” which are less about the occult and more about practical jokes and all out vandalism.

I’m on a nice warm island beach tonight and though the moon will be dark – in its New Moon phase – the tiki torches will be bright enough for me.

No Wicca rituals or spells for me. I won’t need to listen to when those Martians landed in New Jersey) back in the day, or reread or watch Something Wicked This Way Comes to get in the mood. Maybe they have pumpkin beer at the bar.

Halloween Fireballs

taurid poland

Because of their occurrence in late October and early November, the Taurid meteor showers have gained the popular name of “Halloween fireballs.”

The Taurids are an annual meteor shower associated with the comet Encke. They are named after their radiant point in the constellation Taurus, where they are seen to come from in the sky.  Encke and the Taurids are believed to be remnants of a much larger comet, which has disintegrated over the past 20,000 to 30,000 years, breaking into several pieces.

They are rather slow-moving (from our perspective) and so often make a good show. They usually peak from November 5-12.

According to earthsky.org, they are not known for having a great number of meteors, but  “a high percentage of fireballs, or exceptionally bright meteors.”

The South Taurids should produce their greatest number of meteors – and hence their greatest number of fireballs – between midnight and dawn on November 5, 2015. Try watching on the morning of November 4.

Higher rates of Taurid fireballs seem to occur every 7 years and the last big display was in 2008, so 2015 should be a good year for viewing.

You may have seen some video on the news over the past Halloween weekend of some fireballs seen over Poland. The photos at top are from there and you can see the video here.

If you want to check what to look for in the sky on any day,  check out earthsky.org/tonight/

Halloween in Paradelle

halloween-pictureWhether you celebrate Halloween or Hallowtide or Samhain (a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year) or any other harvest, end of the season, start of winter holiday, I have probably written something about it here? (Did I miss something? Post a comment.)

Samhain is celebrated from sunset on October 31st until sunset on November first and was chosen because it was the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.  It is just one of four Gaelic seasonal festival which includes Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh.

But I have considered Halloween, Martians and Radio Terrorists (about when those Martians landed in New Jersey) and written about a book and movie that I connect with this time of year, Something Wicked This Way Comes.

halloweengrinchSo, with all that, you might assume I am a big fan of Halloween. Not at all.

Possibly, my least favorite calendar event.

I hated dressing up as a kid. I thought trick or treating was borderline begging.

In my little part of Paradelle, I am one of those people who usually tries to be away from my darkened home on Halloween because I don’t want to answer the doorbell. Kind of a Halloween Grinch.

The only time I ever got into Halloween celebrating was when my sons were young. And maybe I’ll get back into it again if I become Grandpa Grinch.

You can save me a few peanut butter cups though…