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All Hallow's Eve - Connecting to Ancient Rituals [Nov. 2nd, 2007|07:40 am]
Bob Bain
Article on All Hallow's Eve...

"The ritual on Oct. 30 will honor the earth-centered Celtic heritage and recognize the coming season of darkness and inward reflection," the church said in a press release. "The labyrinth is generally thought to have originated in earth-centered religions featuring goddesses and may have represented the journey toward death and rebirth linked to the seasons."

Fifteen hundred years ago and for centuries earlier, Nov. 1 represented the pagan Celts' New Year. This was the time of their final harvest and an occasion to celebrate the fruits of their labor and the Earth with great feasting.

"We are honoring the changing season and final harvest," said Cosette Blackmer, who described herself as an Earth religionist. She's a member of U.C.C.'s pagan group and has led the event planning. "It's the halfway point between the summer equinox and the winter solstice, which we also celebrate. We're using the labrynith to (symbolically) experience going into the center of the Earth mother."

The Celts believed that as October turns to November and the approaching winter skies and spirits darkened, the barriers between this world and the next became somewhat thinner, more negotiable. For the living, this meant it was easier to commune with their ancestors.

The Celtic people did not fear their dead, Stockman said, and believed their ancestors' spirits could be felt by those left behind.

Some of this tradition is still carried in our Halloween themes. And in Mexico, people joyfully celebrate Dia De Los Muertos -- the Day of the Dead -- from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, for similar spiritual/ancestoral reasons.

The name Halloween itself is traced from Hallowe'en to "All Hallows" and "All Holies" and "All Saints." It's a contraction of All-Hallow-Even, as it is arrives before "All Hallows' Day," a.k.a. "All Saints' Day."

The modern celebration originated from Samhain, the pagan festival of the Celts of Ireland, Great Britain and Northern Europe, University of Maryland assistant professor of anthropology William Stuart said. Traditional activities included carving turnips and placing candles inside, trick or treating, and telling stories, particularly about a guy named Jack of the Lantern.

"He was probably a pre-Christian troublemaker, a jokester, and he's prominent in many of the folklore stories," Stuart said. "When Jack died -- if he ever lived -- he wouldn't have been good enough to go to heaven. One story goes he tricked the devil up a tree and then placed a cross at the base so he couldn't get back down. Jack offended both Gods, he couldn't go to heaven or hell."

Halloween had been a day of religious festivities in northern European pagan traditions until Pope Gregory IV moved the Christian All Saints' Day, Stuart said, from the spring to Nov. 1, around the mid-ninth century.

"St. Patrick and the early missionaries had been to Ireland by then and Roman Catholic Christianity was especially adept of co-opting pagan ceremonies," Stuart said. "Look at Christmas, for example, there's no evidence Jesus was born on Dec. 25, but it coincides with the winter solstice."

Apparently, Jack of the Lantern's story got co-opted as well, according to Stuart.

Irish immigrants in the 19th century are generally credited with carrying versions of the Halloween tradition to North America. Halloween remains largely an Irish, American and Canadian celebration, though many cultures, like Mexico, have something along the same lines. More people around the world, though the U.S. media, advertising and the Internet are becoming familiar with the familiar Halloween images, however.

"I understand it as a customary time, at the beginning of winter, which was more 'the heart' of winter for Northern Europeans, to connect to the spiritual part of their ancestors that remain within themselves," Stockman said. "And to give thanks for all the gifts of the world. We lose sight of our connection to nature because we just have to go to the supermarket and abundant fresh produce is trucked and flown in from every place the sun is still shining. It's not like that everywhere."

"...Four thousand years ago, one hundred years ago, one place or another, but the celebration all the same --

"The Feast of Samhain--"

"The Time of the Dead Ones--"

"All Souls.' All Saints.'"

"The Day of the Dead."

"El Dia De Muerte."

"All Hallows.'"


-- From the conclusion of "The Halloween Tree"