October 28, 2003

*Random Halloween Treats

Halloween is coming up fast, so here are a few assorted Halloweenish tidbits for you.

Since the seventh century, November 1 has been All Saint's Day in Europe. It was originally called All Hallow's Day, and October 31 was All Hallow's Eve. The Druids believed that on Halloween, the Lord of the Dead (Saman), would summon the souls of those who had died in the previous year. These souls would plot mischief against the people who would honor the saints the next day, taking the form of grotesque animals demanding gifts and threatening harm to those who refused. Trick-or-treaters are pretending to be one of Saman's resurrected souls.

The color black symbolizes mourning because our white ancestors believed ghosts would be hanging out at funerals, looking for a living body to invade. They would hide from the ghosts by painting their skin black...later, black clothing replaced the paint.

In very early times, tombstones were laid onto a grave to weigh down the soil and keep the spirit from escaping. In later years they considered the spirit escaping less of a risk, and tombstones were erected upright to alert passersby not to step on the grave and subsequently be defiled by the impure spirit held within.

A story from the 1560s might be the source of the black cat's reputation as unlucky. As it is told, a father and son were walking along a road in Lincolnshire when they were startled by a small, dark animal running across their path. They pelted it with stones and followed it to the home of a suspected witch. There they saw that the animal was a black cat. The next day the old woman had a bandaged arm, bruises, and a limp. The townspeople concluded the cat had been the witch out for a nightly prowl. Afterwards, all bad luck that befell the father and son were attributed to the witch crossing their path as a black cat.

Margaret James of Charlestown, Massachusetts was the first person convicted and executed for witchcraft in America. She was executed June 15, 1648...almost fifty years before the Salem witch trials.

13 is considered an unlucky number by the superstitious. A lot of people think this came from the Last Supper, which had thirteen attendants. This superstition predates Christ, however, and comes from Norse mythology. Balder, the favorite of gods, attended a banquet of 12 gods. An uninvited guest, Loki, arrived and killed Balder.

And now, a bit of a ghost story...
Chicago's Hull House devil baby: It is the stuff of local legend that on a crisp morning in 1913 a crying bundle was discovered on the Hull House stoop -- but the House's ladies recoiled in horror upon unwrapping the infant: the child had every appearance of being Satanically sired. A tail, skin patchy with scales, pointed ears, hands and feet with a cloven appearance -- the baby was a horror to behold. But Jane Addams soon felt her heart melting, and she resolved to care for the child, keeping him away from a world too cruel and too ignorant to tolerate his appearance. To the public, Addams denied the existence of the boy, allegedly keeping him in the attic for his own protection; though the child was never seen outside the walls of Hull-House, there would be many reports of a fearsome face staring down from the window. By all accounts the Devil Baby died young, having never left his attic lair... but passersby still regularly report seeing a terrifying face in the upper windows of Hull-House.

Posted by Jennifer at October 28, 2003 10:27 AM


Just to round out your thread, Friday the 13th is purported to be unlucky as a result of France's King Philip the Fair. He sent sealed letters to all his sheriffs, who were told to open them on the morning of Friday, 13 October, 1307. The letters ordered them to round up all the Knights Templar and seize their substantial wealth.

On the evening of 12 October the Templar fleet quietly put out to sea and disappeared into history's imagination.


Posted by: Blair at October 28, 2003 12:29 PM

Cool, thanks, Blair.

Posted by: Jennifer at October 28, 2003 03:20 PM