Thursday, 31 October 2013

Hallowmas... What's That?


Arthur Rickman (Image source)

Did you know that the festival of Hallowe'en forms part of a series of three days in the Christian calendar, dedicated to remembering the dead? Anyone who knows that Hallowe'en is an abbreviation of All Hallows Eve would have guessed something was up, that it must be the day before something... And most people would know of the Day of the Dead, made most famous by the Mexican festival. Personally, I knew of All Souls' (or All Hallows') Day and All Saints' Day, but had assumed they were the same thing, and hadn't much thought any much further about it to be honest. But I've opted for a quiet night in tonight, instead of going out for Hallowe'en high jinx, and I decided to sit down and do some reading.

Arthur Rickman (Image source)

All Hallows' Eve comes first in the series of days, and is the time when it is believed that the veil between this world and the next becomes thin, allowing departed souls to pass back into our world. The tradition of wearing masks, which has lead to the costumes of today, is derived from the belief that disguising your face would prevent you from being recognised by any malicious spirit that might be out to do you, personally, harm.

All Saints (Image source)

All Saints' Day, beginning as the new day dawns after the potentially perilous night of Hallowe'en, is (as the name implies) the celebration of all the saints, 'both known and unknown', with a particular focus on those without their own dedicated days (such as St George, St Patrick, etc). The traditional colour of this day is white, and all who attend a church service (as everyone would have once upon a time in medieval England) will still see the altar table and clergy dressed in said colour.

All Souls' Day by Jakub Schikaneder, reflects the respectful, quiet nature of the day (Image source)

All Souls' Day is the final day in the series, and expands the act of remembrance to not just the saints, but to all 'faithful departed'. The particular focus of this day is family and friends who have passed away, rather than the famous, somewhat distant saints. In addition to attending church, people traditionally visit the graves of people they have known, to lay flowers, light candles, and offer prayers. On this day, churches are traditionally festooned in the richer colour of purple. In England, centuries ago, the poor would go 'souling', walking from door to door to collect food, money and 'soul cakes' from the well-to-do...

So that's where all this modern malarky of costumes and trick-or-treating comes from, then. Not that I have anything against all this modern malarky - au contraire! But it's interesting to find out more about the sober, spiritual and rather quite beautiful origins.

I hope everyone's has a great Hallowe'en, however you spend it. May you pass the night without harm from any wayward spirits, ghouls... or earthly beings!

8 comments:

  1. So very interesting - and unexpectedly beautiful. (Except that you have a way of revealing the beauty in the things about which you write). I had also done a little reading from curiosity and you have explained things very clearly. Great illustrations you have chosen. Thank you.

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    1. Glad you found it interesting. It was almost impossible to find a specifically Halloween image as searching images on the internet, you come up with a whole lot of tacky images... But then I stumbled across and remembered Arthur Rickman and his wonderfully sinister yet beautiful drawings.

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  2. Oh! The witch's cape in the first Arthur Rickman drawing is green with black and white lining - as is the dress you desired in "On the Town" in your Frankie Fever post! :)

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    1. Ha ha! I noticed exactly the same thing! That idea is obviously eating into my mind!

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  3. Interesting and beautiful post. Love it! Ps. thank you for your lovely comment on my blog <3

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    1. Thanks very much, and you're very welcome!

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  4. Its so interesting to read about where our 'traditions' come from, my brother studied history so always informs me of these kind of things, haha from a very early age he ruined christmas for me! Happy belated halloween, glad you were not taken by the dead! :) x

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    1. Ha! Well, I think we can always pick and choose the era, and find the iterations of traditions that most appeal to us... I guess they're all valid at some point and to some people! Happy belated Halloween to you too x

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