Halloween ..er.. Samhain
Trashed by Commercialism?


Full Text COPYRIGHT Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service 1995 [[ With comments by Sheik Sebir. ]]

"They've taken a perfectly good holy day and trashed it. Erased its roots. Watered it down. Wrapped it in commercialism and marketing, and vanquished all its significance.

Why, it's not even a day any more. They've stretched it into a month of merriment - just another way to make a buck.

Has everyone forgotten the true meaning of Halloween? How did it come to be so secular?

The pumpkins and the candy and the orange and black sweaters _ what do these have to do with the equinox? Heck, many churches have even taken the name "Halloween" out of their late October activities. They call them "fall festivals" or "autumn outings" or some other generic hoo-hah.

What's a Druid to do?

Halloween is secular, Samhain isn't. What's the diff ? Samhain isn't suitable for the public schools since its the religious side of the night/day. Its also the day before All Saints Day - a Catholic Holiday -- so it's not completely Pagan season at all.

OK, put down your pen. And don't call the newspaper on Monday. I'm just kidding. Sort of. One does have to wonder if Wiccans suffer the same angst about the secularization of Halloween as Christians do about the commercialization of Christmas.

Think I jest?

-- Long ago, in many parts of the world, the witch holiday of Mabon was usurped into harvest home celebrations, " writes renowned witch Laurie Cabot in "Celebrate the Earth."

Mabon is September 21st -- it is the beginning of the harvest season - Samhain is the Third Gleaning - or its end.. Halloween was always meant to be a secular celebration, even in Scotland and Ireland - its origins.

"The spiritual aspects were, and are still today, either suppressed, forgotten or lost. This is unfortunate for us and our planet. Rituals, in general, help to reconnect us with a heightened spirituality."

Of course, the many churches that are trying to stamp out Halloween do so on reasonable premises.

Most Halloween customs can be traced to the Celts of Ireland, who believed that on Oct. 31, the spirits of those who had died in the past year wandered about, looking for bodies to inhabit. To frighten the spirits off, the Celts dressed as hobgoblins, witches or demons and raised a lot of ruckus.

A popular brochure circulated in churches this time of year asks "What's Wrong With Halloween?" and answers, in part, Everything about it is wrong! It is a demon-inspired, devil-glorifying, occult festival. Those who love the Lord Jesus Christ should have nothing to do with it."

Even the seemingly innocent custom of dressing in costumes gives some religious people pause. Harper's Dictionary of Mystical and Paranormal Experience says when people put on masks, they "allow themselves to become possessed by the spirit in the mask or represented by the mask."

Remind me not to dress like Barney.

"Reasonable" is the operative word here -- Fundies don't hold REASON in very high esteem -- they don't believe in REASON -- so they can't be truly reasonable. We still have some freedom left in this country to believe and think what we choose, and not what the Fanatics and their pet Republicans think is good for us !! Dissing Holloween is an old Protestant pastime first practiced by Oliver Cromwell (Crom's well?) as part of the English policy of stamping on the Celts and their culture.

Well, throw out Beelzebub with the bathwater if you must.

But it behooves us to remember the life cycles that our otherwise addled ancestors celebrated when they threw their pagan parties.

In American celebrations, Halloween is a mockery of death. We find the prospect so appalling that we make fun of it to mask our fear: Witness the gruesome corpses, red-eyed zombies and laughing skeletons we can rent at any costume shop.

By ridiculing death, we avoid any serious thought on the matter, unlike the somber Celts. Halloween, or whatever ancient cultures called it, was a time to reflect on the death and decay promised by shorter days and colder temperatures. It was time to reflect on mortality.

Which brings in religion - which is a no -no in public schools and such...

Not a bad idea, whatever the faith you profess.

(Jennifer Graham covers religion for The (Columbia, S.C.) State. Write her at The State, P.O. Box 1333, Columbia, S.C. 29202.)

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