Brownielocks and The 3 Bears
Present
History of Halloween, Phobias, Symbols and Stuff.

Note: Although kids of all ages celebrate Halloween, 
this page is
not recommended for very young children to read
without a parent present to explain some of the intense issues of this holiday.

 

Halloween's Origins

You just can not talk about Halloween without discussing the ancient Celtics and the Druids, including witchcraft and other practices. Therefore, if you find this topic disturbing for any reason, please do not continue reading this page.  Although I am a born-again Christian,  it is not my intent to glorify any demonic or anti-Christian practices. However, I believe in "Thou Shall Not Lie" and so when it comes to explaining the origin of Halloween you simply MUST  bring up some issues in order to explain it.

OK, now let's get to it shall we?

First the word Halloween is really a result of fast talking slurs of the phrase to go "All Hallowe'en", which meant to go out on October 31 and celebrate All Hallow's Evening, which got shortened to All Hallow's Even' and then to Halloween.

Now for the background of this celebration....

Once upon a time, about 2,000 years ago in a land occupied by people known as Celtics (i.e. Ireland as we know it today)  their was a celebration known as "Samhain" which meant "summer's end" on October 31.  This represented the end of summer and the beginning of winter.  So, for the Celtics, November 1 was the New Year Day. Samhain was their Lord of the Dead, as it was the 'end of the summer and living things.  Also, because summer ended, that was like a "death"  per se of living things to the Celtics.

(Note: The Wiccans do not acknowledge that Samhain as a Lord of Death at all.  Instead, they feel it represents a time when one of their Gods has died.  This page isn't meant to be some religious thesis.  If this confuses you, please check things out yourself and come to your own conclusions.)

This celebration was in honor of their Sun God - Baal, who they felt helped them with their harvests of grains, fruits, nuts etc.  So this celebration was performed by their religious priests, known as Druids, as a form of moral support to help them get through the long, cold, dark winter that was coming.

I really do not know what the difference is between a God and a Lord?  Apparently one is a power and one is a spiritual essence in their eyes.  I could be wrong.  Because as a Christian my God is also Lord. But the Celtics apparently had it divided into two different people?

The Celtics believe that Samhaim, the Lord of the Dead, gathered souls of pre-deceased ancestors on October 31, and is suppose to give permission to these souls to visit their living relatives (briefly!) so they could gain some warmth and comfort in the winter months. Duh? As if spirits feel the cold? Anyway, some ghosts who were frustrated for whatever reason (like they didn't like their relatives?) played pranks on humans (not mortals!) and thus caused supernatural events.

In order to protect their cows from prankish ghosts, farmers hung bells on their necks that were blessed by the Druid priests. This tradition has been carried on in farms today.  It's not because cows need to be heard as they approach. LOL

Now, not all of the elements of Halloween come from the Celtics.  The Romans have put their bit into this too.  One reason is, because the Romans conquered the Celtics around 43 A.D. and ruled over them for over 400 years.  Because the Druids were somewhat wealthy, the Romans used lies and propaganda to justify pillaging their villages etc. And, some Roman soldiers were starting to convert to the Druid beliefs, which disturbed the Roman Catholic Church. Rather than repeat myself,  more of this is written on my History of St. Patrick's Day page, because St. Patrick wasn't really Irish. But I digress...

In the 8th Century, Pope Gregory III had the Catholic holiday "All Saints Day" which was at that time in May, moved to November to help blend in with the Druid celebrations. Thus,  October 31 = All Soul's Day and November 1 = All Saints Day.

Why did the church need an All Saints Day? Because the Catholic church had assigned each of it's special saints a day on the calendar. The problem was, they had more saints than they had days! So they decided to blend it all together and come up with an All Saint's Day. And, by having it right next to the Celtic's "Samhain Rites" on 10/31 they felt after time people would drop that ritual and just go with the All Soul's Day on 11/1.  Ironically, Halloween is still more popular than the other holiday.

How did Halloween come to the US?  The great potato famine that brought many Irish and Scottish immigrants, brought their traditions and their superstitions, symbols etc. as well.  So, along with St. Patrick's Day, we also got Halloween.

How We Got Witches for Halloween

 

The witch is probably the most popular and recognizable figure for Halloween. For thousands of years, Greeks, Romans, Celtics and even Stone Age people believed in sorcerers, magicians and witchcraft.  Anthropologists say that they were nothing more than an early form of what today is our Scientists. Why? Even today the scientist is the person who knows more than the average man about chemicals,  biology, nature, medicine,  etc. (whatever his particular field). Although we don't worship the scientist today, they did in the old days.

Our ancestors felt that on Samhain, magic spells, charms, and predicitions were especially powerful then because of all those so-called roaming spirits remember?  They felt the spirits would help get the results they wanted such as healing,  falling in love, and so on.

Now, the sorcerer was wisest in knowing about plants, herbs, animal parts that were believed magical.  So knowledge is power!  It is today and it was back then.  The knowledge of these sorcerers was kept strictly confidential and only passed down in families or among people they trusted.  Therefore, the magician's wisdom was a secret. This is how we get the word, "Occult" which means "hidden." Thus magic was hidden knowledge of herbal medicine really.  And, even today many special secrets about plants, animals etc. are still only shared with inner families and close trusting friends.

This is also where the word "Witch" comes from.... in the Wicca religion it means "wise one."  So the Witch's brews and potions were said to have magical powers because only the witch knew the secret information about them.

There were 2 major witches Sabbaths during the year.  One was April 30 (the Eve of May Day) and the day of mating; and the other on October 31, the day for hunting and celebrating the capture of animals.  The most sacred spots for these celebrations were Puyde Dome, France;  Blocula, Sweden and Hartz, Germany.  By the 10th century, Wiccan beliefs became more popular than Christianity.

And, then 300 years later in the 13th Century Witch Hunts were beginning. There was a hypocrisy in the rules.  It was all right to make a love potion, but not OK to predict deaths or bad weather.  In other words, people wanted only good news!!

By the 19th century, most educated people did not take witchcraft seriously.

So why are witches depicted as ugly, ugly ugly?  Ironically, this is a false stereotype, not only because a lot of female witches were beautiful (and considered seductive); but some witches were also men.
It seemed that only in a Witches cult did women have equality,  which at that time was not going on anywhere else.

Since the Roman Catholic leaders were all men, in order to keep control over women and any altering beliefs from Catholicism, they banned witchcraft as evil.

Finally, at a witches gathering, the women did most (or all?) of the cooking for everyone. This is how we get the image of women standing over a brewing cauldron cooking or brewing medicinal herbs to make cures for ailments. When outsiders peeked in, they saw the women at the kettles and said they were making witches brew!

Where does the broomstick come in?

So why do witches have broomsticks and not magic carpets? The reason is that during the Witche's Sabbath, they did this dance in which straddled branches or broomsticks.  They also had these jumping dances in which it was believed the higher you jumped the higher your crops would grow. So, they used their broomsticks as support (like pole vaulting?) to jump as high as they could.  Finally, since Halloween fell during the rainy season, there was a lot of mud during these rituals.  So women used their broomsticks to vault over the puddles and creeks to keep from getting a mess.  Thus, when outsiders peeked in and saw people jumping around with broomsticks (for whatever reason) they appeared like they were flying on them.

Farmers in Pennsylvania Dutch Country painted hex signs on their barns to scare off the witches.  And since witches would not touch iron or salt,  then those two items were often placed by the beds of newborn as protection.

What about Black Cats and Owls as Evil?

First of all, cats have always been thought of as having powers. The Egyptians used cats as protectors in their grain storehouses.  The Druids hated cats and felt they were once humans who were transformed by supernatural forces (how they fail to explain). So, during the Samhain feasts, cats were often tossed into fires and burned to ward off bad luck in the coming year.  As far as the traditional "black cat" well it is really believed that cats can be any color on Halloween because they all look black in the dark anyway. And, since the beginning of time, black is a color that has always been associated with evil due to darkness.

Owls were believed to harbor evil by the Romans, but the Greeks saw the owl as sacred.  The Greek Goddess of Wisdom, Athene, used the owl as her symbol.  In the Middle Ages (and for the superstitious today) owl screeches and glassy stares mean death and disaster.  In brief, no one really knows how Owls got evil on Halloween.  I think it's all in the never-ending sound of "Who? Who?" and those so-called roaming spirits, remember?

 

What About Those Goblins?

Back in the Stone Ages, there were little, dark short-people who lived in the forests  in dome-shaped huts that looked like mounds of Northern Europe and the British Isles.  They were conquered by the invading Celtic tribes (and Germanic).  These people wore green clothing (probably to blend into the woods...i.e. see my Ghillie Suit page) but the Celts considered them fairies and thus evil. The French are the ones who actually called the goblins, which means "little people."  And it is believed these goblins stole their children, in order to make human sacrifices to their gods.  The French also blamed these goblins for all their problems, such as cream not churning into butter,  cows not giving milk,  chickens not laying eggs, infertility in couples,  blah, blah, blah.

Now the goblins were believed to be extremely afraid of the superior iron their enemies had, and they hated loud noises. So, bells and horseshoes became the weapons of choice against evil spirits and bad luck.  The little people (Goblins) were really afraid of the horseshoes, not because they threw them at them, but because they were cresent-shaped like the Celtic's Moon Goddess.

The Origin of the Jack O' Lantern

Scottish children originally made them from large turnips, carving out the insides and putting candles inside and calling them "bogies."  They carried them on Halloween to scare away the witches.  This is where the term "bogeyman" comes from.  The Irish used potatoes and turnips and the English used beets.  But low and behold when they came to America and saw our pumpkins (much bigger by far!) well,  there was no contest.  

So where does the name Jack get attached to a carved out pumpkin?
The story is from an old Irish tale found in Hatch in which there was a drunkard named Jack (a blacksmith) who mistreated his wife and somehow tricked the devil one too many times to save his soul.  When Jack died, he wasn't allowed into heaven for the wife abuse, so guess where he went and guess who he met?  But the devil wouldn't let him in there either due to all the tricks he had played on him. So the devil threw Jack a hot coal so he could see his way around in the dark.  Jack caught the hot coal and put it into a turnip he partially ate.  Ever since it was referred to as Jack's Lantern as he wandered around the world trying to find a place to rest his soul.

Halloween Masks

Since the earliest days, masks were worn to ward off evil and to coerce the Gods for favors.  Witches also wore masks.  And people of all class levels attended their Witches Sabbaths. Since it was frowned upon by the upper ruling class and nobility, those that attended came with masks on.  Druids wore masks on Halloween to scare off evil spirits, ghosts and witches.  It baffles me why a witch wears a mask and then one wears a mask to scare a witch?  Does it makes sense to you. Not me. Anyway, the tradition of wearing masks to (1) protect you from evil and (2) Go incognito to a party has been carried on today for Halloween parties, and trick or treating.

So how did we get that 
Trick or Treat Stuff?

In England, the poor went begging for "soul cakes" on the Eve of All Saint's Day.  In Spain, they bribed the evil spirits by putting cakes and nuts on graves.  In Belgium, the children stood in front of homes begging for money to buy cakes.  Then they would eat as many cakes as they could because they felt that for each cake eaten, the suffering of one soul would be relieved.

Now, back in Ireland....we have the God,  Muck Olla.

The Druid priests would put on masks, and go around to homes and farms begging for food and tithes for the Celtic House of Worship.
Because the farmers feared if they didn't tithe, Muck Olla would do something to their farms. For those that did not pay, well mysteriously their barns burnt down or an important farm animal was missing one day.  Thus, it was said that ol' Muck Olla would create some "Muck" and yes, another origin of the phrase for creating havoc or chaos is born.  And the expression "We're just stuck in the muck!"  Dr. William Madsen, Professor of Anthropology at Santa Barbara State University feels that this giving to Muck Olla is the origin of trick or treating.

Trick or Treating as a threat by children to get candy is an American variation and relatively new to the holiday.  And, the idea of the infamous Halloween sadist who does candy tampering to injure children and create fear started in the 1970's.  And, that most of the reports of such incidents were either downright fraud or highly embellished.  In 1987 only 2 cases of death were reported and one of those children received heroine from his uncle while the other was killed by his father. Although we all should remain cautious and alert,  it shouldn't damper having a good time.

Although the Celtics started Halloween, it's the children who keep it alive because they love it.  Today Halloween is based less on trick or treating and more emphasis is put on the costumes, parties and contests on who wins for best costume.

Bobbing for Apples

For thousands of years, the apple has been considered a symbol of love and fertility.  The early Norse gods ate apples to stay young. Ancient Hebrew women washed in apple sap to ensure fertility.

Dipping for apples was a way of divination among the Druids, and is still done today in the folk life of those who live by Celtic cultures.

Today we call it "bobbing for apples" but it was called "Snapping for Apples" in the past.  It was believed that when a boy came up from a tub with an apple in his mouth, he was loved by the girl that he loved. Apparently women did not snap for apples back then?

Another form of "Snapping for Apples"  was done not with apples in a tub of water but with an apple tied on a string and twirling from  stick. Boys would jump up for their turn to snap at the apple.  It is believed that the first one to succeed would be the first to marry.

Halloween and Bats!

How did Halloween get associated with bats?  We're not too sure, really.  The best guess is it's just because they fly around at night and so the ancients believed they had magical powers.  And, when they hung upside down to sleep they wrapped their wings around themselves, which to the ancients resembled witches' cloaks.  So by the power of good imagination, bats were associated with evil and witches. Ironically, they also believed that if you placed a few drops of bat blood under a woman's pillow then she would bear many children.

 

Halloween Nuts

I'm talking about the actual food and not crazy people on Halloween night.  In Scotland, it is traditional on Halloween to toss a pair of nuts (not sure which kind?) with your lover into a fire.  Name the nuts after the two of you.  If the nuts burn to ashes TOGETHER, you can expect a happy life.  If the nuts crackle or spring apart, well quarrels and separations can be expected.  A brightly blazing nut means you can look forward to great prosperity.  Therefore,  you are basing your entire relationship literally on a pair of nuts?  I would test out various kinds to see which burn the best...peanuts, walnuts, almonds, etc. LOL

Born on Halloween?

For those who are born on October 31, the folklore says that you will have the ability to read dreams.

Halloween Cake Magic

Bake a cake...any kind will do.  Inside the cake put a ring, a thimble, a china doll (Apparently this is a rather big cake?) and a coin.  

If your slice contains:

The Ring = You will marry within a year.
The Thimble = You will never marry.
The Doll = You will have many children.
The Coin = You will be wealthy.

 Halloween Colcannon

Colcannon is a traditional dish made of cabbage,  mashed potatoes, parsnips and onions and is still served on Halloween in Ireland today.  Just like the cake above, the same object would be placed inside the dish with the same meanings if found.

American Halloween Food

In the United States, caramel apples are a traditional food, along with popcorn balls.  Because Halloween is in the fall at apple harvesting time,  then many types of apple dishes, as well as apple cide go along with Halloween.   See our Halloween Recipes for some ideas.
In brief, Americans eat whatever they want on Halloween. 
But making goofie food seems to be the most popular activity.

Halloween Costumes

Boy it's a big business isn't it?  Originally, in the old days the costumes and masks were worn to frighten off demons and avoid potential disasters like droughts, epidemics, etc.  Even after Samhain got changed to the Christian All Hallow's Eve, people in Europe were still nervous about leaving their homes at night and so they often disguised themselves with costumes and masks so that the evil spirits wouldn't recognize them who were out roaming.  For some reason, it made them feel better if they dressed up like the spirits they actually wanted to avoid. So many did dress up like Ghosts, Goblins and Witches.

Today, children and adults dress up in costumes that best represent societies current fads.  Whereas before kids were dressing in monster outfits, today they dress as their favorite TV characters, cartoon characters, rock stars,  television stars,  or just some silly created look.  During the Depression the "Hobo Look" was popular.  Whereas in the 1980's Ninja Turtles,  E.T., Star Wars characters and those crazy California Raisins were the hot look.  Might I also mention that it's always fashionable to mock all politicians of the time?  But I think the three most popular Halloween costumed presidents have been Ronald Reagan,  Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.     Don't you? There are also those who prefer to go as their alter-egos such as Superman, WonderWoman, Cowboys, Firemen, etc.

And then we always have those who want to make some statement during Halloween also.  Whether it's political or environmental or whatever, we have those who dress up as Tylenol capsules (after the tampered ones in the past);  a bunch of nuclear waste or pollution mess,  people in diapers (against abortion),  AIDS, Gay Rights,  and whatever may be the hot issue of the time.      

 

  Halloween and UNICEF

Many children and adults volunteer to go door-to-door on Halloween and collect money for UNICEF, the organization sponsored by the United Nations for their children's fund.  Usually all they ask for are coins of various values.   I believe it was in the 1950's that this tradition began and has been going on ever since.

Miscellaneous Halloween Stuff

Halloween's traditional colors are Black and Orange.
Orange for the pumpkins and Black for death and darkness.

Halloween costume parties are more popular today (either at a private home or via some organization or school) than trick or treating.  I, personally feel, that Halloween trick or treating is dying out due to (1) The scares of tampered candy. (2) Christians not wanting to participate at all. (3)  Most people just don't want to get up and answer the door all night long.

Many police departments will scan children's candy for free to look for any metal objects that might have been placed inside.

And, every year there are some kids who use Halloween as an excuse to vandalize public and private property.  This is wrong!
Halloween is not a 24-hr reprieve from the laws.
Respect others no matter what the day or holiday!

Halloween Phobias

On my Friday the 13th page I briefly explain about phobias and how in some cases they can be disabling to lifestyle activities.  In the case of Halloween, most people just avoid it for 24-hours and then go on with their lives.  However, with other phobias, since the situations or objects occur more often during daily activities, it can be a problem.

Here is a listing of some phobias that Halloween brings out:

Samhainophobia - Fear of Halloween

Cucurbit phobia - Fear of Pumpkins

Pedophobia- Fear of children.

Sciophobia Sciaphobia- Fear of shadows.

Melanophobia- Fear of the color black.

Arachnophobia - Fear of Spiders

Herpetophobia- Fear of reptiles or creepy, crawly things.

Wicaphobia - Fear of Witches

Cacophobia- Fear of ugliness.

Hobophobia- Fear of bums or beggars. (or trick or treaters?)


Dysmorphophobia- Fear of deformity.

Dromophobia- Fear of crossing streets.

Phasmophobia - Fear of Ghosts

Pneumatiphobia- Fear of spirits.

Demophobia - Fear of Demons or Evil Spirits

Selenophobia- Fear of the moon.

Hemotophobia - Fear of Blood

Porphyrophobia- Fear of the color purple.

Xanthophobia- Fear of the color yellow or the word yellow.

Gatophobia, Ailurophobia,  or Elurophobia- Fear of cats

Sciophobia - Fear of Shadows

Nebulaphobia- Fear of fog. (Homichlophobia)

Catoptrophobia - Fear of Mirrors in General...
but..
Eisoptrophobia - Is the Fear of Seeing Yourself in a Mirror!

Paphophobia - Fear of Graves

Taphephobia - Fear of being buried alive.

Coimetrophobia - Fear of Cemeteries

Cleisiophobia - Fear of being locked in.

Claustrophobia - Fear of being in a small or confined space.

Alliumphobia - Fear of Garlic

Necrophobia - Fear of Corpses or Dead People

Achluophobia - Fear of the Dark 

Ceraunophobia - Fear of Thunder

Automatonophobia- Fear of ventriloquist's dummies, animatronic creatures, wax statues

Ochlophobia - Fear of Crowds

Ephebiphobia- Fear of teenagers.

Toxiphobia - Fear of Poison

Blennophobia- Fear of slime.

Autodysomophobia- Fear of someone that has a vile odor.

Nyktosophobia - Fear of the Night or Dark

Hadephobia- Fear of hell.

Thanatophobia or Thantophobia- Fear of death or dying.

Ophthalmophobia- Fear of being stared at.

Panophobia or Pantophobia- Fear of everything.

Top 10 Phobias
(This is in the U.S.  Approximately 19.2 million  Americans ages 18+ have a phobia.)

1. Snakes
2. Bugs
3.  Locations  (Agoraphobia)
4. Public Audience (Speaking, Performing, Eating, etc.)
5. Heights
6. Darkness
7. Thunder & Lightning
8. Flying (Airplanes)
9. Dogs
10. Dentist

 


Visit our Main Page that's filled with a lot of stuff.

Midi Title is "Eye of the Storm" 

Sources: "Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun"
By Donald E. Dossey, Ph.D.
Outcomes Unlimited Press 1992

Holiday Symbols, 2nd Edition
By Sue Ellen Thompson
Omnigraphics, Inc. 2000

And a bit of my own Muck added in. ;)

We didn't use one for this page. But check them out!

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