Here, have a little history with your Sweet Tarts . . .

Samhain_Autumn_Face

                   

“Men say that in this midnight hour,
The disembodied have power
To wander as it liketh them,
By wizard oak and fairy stream.” ~ William Motherwell, from “Moonlight and Moonshine”

How was your Nos Calan Gaeaf (or Halloween, or Hallow’s Eve)? Centuries ago Nos Calan (or Galan) Gaeaf was an Ysbrydnos, or spirit night.

Mine was slow, only a dozen or so kiddies out and about in my neighborhood, no evil spirits. Olivia was adorable in her ladybug costume. She seemed to want to keep her candy pumpkin empty, however. Alexis brought her by at the end of the evening, so they were both tired.

Wonder how many of those who were out realized their guising was an ancient tradition? Anyway . . .

A comment by Leah in NC referencing my 10/30 post led me to search for a bit more on the Black Sow and other Samhain traditions. Here is what I found:

In Wales, 1 November, the first day of winter, was called Calan Gaeaf. Much of the frightful aspect that we associate with Halloween arose from Galan Gaeaf traditions. The image of Y Hwch Ddu Gwta, a black sow without a tail, accompanied by a headless woman, that would together roam the countryside, terrified everyone on Galan Gaeaf when the best place to be was inside your house in front of a roaring fire. The tradition of Coelcerth involved building fires and placing name stones:

From Lunatic Outpost: “Home, home, let each try to be first. May the tail-less black sow take the hindmost” (Celtic chant for Samhain)

Before dawn, huge bonfires were lit on the hillsides, often two or three within sight of each other. It was a great honor to have your bonfire burn longest and great pains were taken to keep them alight. While apples and potatoes were thrown into the fires for roasting, the watchers would dance around or leap through the flames for good luck. Stones were thrown into the fire; then, when the flames died down, everyone would run for home to escape the clutches of the Hwch ddu gwta. The next morning, at daybreak, searchers would try to find their stones. Those who succeeded would be guaranteed good luck for the coming year. If you could not find your stone, then bad luck or even death would follow.

And here is more on hazelnuts: “Hazel nuts were also used in matrimonial divination. Two groups of “Sweetheart” hazel nuts were placed within the hearth fire; one group was marked with the names of the village’s eligible maidens, and the other with the eligible bachelors. As the nuts popped, the names of the pairs were romantically linked. On a more somber note, people sometimes placed a hazelnut with their initials on them in the hearth fire. If the nuts were missing the next morning, the unlucky person would not survive the year. Hazel is a sacred tree in Irish and Scottish mythology. In Ireland, nine hazel trees grew around the Well of Segais, where the sacred Salmon lived. This was the source of all wisdom. Using hazel nuts at Samhain availed seers of that sacred wisdom.”

                   

Now on to Friday leftovers . . .

I dare you not to smile . . .

Look what’s coming in November . . .

Remember when people used chalk?

Perspective in time: NASA engineers prepare a PowerPoint slide in 1961.

And finally, a wonderful smack down of Kanye of the West from French bakers (as posted on Today Entertainment):

Croissants
Croissants (Photo credit: Jutta @ flickr)

Regarding Croissants in “I am a God”

Association of French Bakers
900 Rue Vielle du Temple
Paris FRANCE

To Monsieur Kanye West:

Congratulations on the birth of your daughter, Nord! This is a truly auspicious time for you  —  and so it is with great sadness that we must lodge a formal complaint against the song “I am a God” from your new album “Yeezus.”

Our organization represents bakers across France, many of whom have taken great offense at this particular rhyming couplet:

In a French-ass restaurant
Hurry up with my damn croissants

Assuming you, as a man of means, dine exclusively at high-end restaurants and boulangeries during your voyages to Paris, it could not be possible that the delay of your “damn” croissants originated from slow service. And certainly, you are not a man to be satisfied with pre-made croissants from the baked goods case reheated and tossed out on a small platter. No  — you had demanded your croissants freshly baked, to be delivered to your table straight out of the oven piping hot.

And it was with great joy you ordered croissants  — not crêpes or brioches  — because only croissants can proudly claim that exquisite combination of flaky crust and a succulent center. The croissant is dignified  —  not vulgar like a piece of toast, simply popped into a mechanical device to be browned. No —  the croissant is born of tender care and craftsmanship. Bakers must carefully layer the dough, paint on perfect proportions of butter, and then roll and fold this trembling croissant embryo with the precision of a Japanese origami master.

This process, as you can understand, takes much time. And we implore the patience of all those who order croissants. You may be familiar with the famous French expression, “A great croissant is worth waiting a lifetime for.” We know you are a busy man, M. West, but we believe that your patience for croissants will always be rewarded.

We could easily let this water pass under the bridge, as they say, but we take your lyrics very seriously. From the other lines in the song, we have come to understand that you may in fact be a “God.” Yet if this were the case  —  and we, of course, take you at your word  —  we wonder why you do not more frequently employ your omnipotence to change time and space to better suit your own personal whims. For us mere mortals, we must wait the time required for the croissant to come to perfect fruition, but as a deity, you can surely alter the bread’s molecular structure faster than the speed of light, no? And with your omniscience, perhaps you have something to teach us about the perfect croissant. We await your guidance and insights.

We appreciate your continued patronage of French culture. (Your frequent references to menage perhaps speak an interest in the structure of the French household?) We hope from the deepest recesses of our hearts, however, that in the future you give croissants the time they need to fully mature before you partake. With that, we say, adieu. And our member Louis Malpass from Le Havre wants you to know that he loves “Black Skinhead.”

Salutations cordiales
Bernard Aydelotte
Association of French Bakers

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“It’s said that All Hallows’ Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin . . . Even the air feels different on Halloween, autumn-crisp and bright.” ~ Erin Morgenstern

Halloween

“I think if human beings had genuine courage, they’d wear their costumes every day of the year, not just on Halloween. Wouldn’t life be more interesting that way? And now that I think about it, why the heck don’t they? Who made the rule that everybody has to dress like sheep 364 days of the year? Think of all the people you’d meet if they were in costume every day. People would be so much easier to talk to—like talking to dogs. ” ~ Douglas Coupland, from The Gum Thief

Some early Halloween silliness for you, including some monsters from Dr. Who, a clip from The Daily Show, and a nice bit of history:

Happy Halloween, Whovians

(reblogged from through the motions).

                   

For those who are interested in more of the history of Halloween, I came cross a really nice write-up on Intelliblog, which is hosted by Nicholas V. (reprinted here under a creative commons license):

Tomorrow is Halloween, which is the last night of the Celtic year and is the night associated with witchcraft, fairies, elves and wicked spirits.  In countries where the Celtic influence is strong, customs surrounding Halloween are still current and relate to pagan rituals celebrating the beginning of the Winter cycle.  Tales of witches and ghosts are told, bonfires are lit, fortune-telling and mumming are practiced.  Masquerading is the order of the night, making of jack-o-lanterns and the playing of games pass the hours pleasantly. Bobbing for apples in a tub of water is an age-old custom.  These pagan practices have been incorporated into the Christian tradition through association with All Saints’ Day on November the first.

The seasonal association of the apple with Halloween goes back even to Roman times.  November 1st was the time when the Romans celebrated Pomona’s festival.  She was the goddess of orchards and ripe maturity.  Her festival was the time to rejoice in the fruits of the season and also the time to open up the Summer stores for Winter use.  In Celtic tradition the apple was the fruit of the Silver Bough of the Otherworld and symbolised love, fertility, wisdom and divination. The hazel was a sacred Celtic tree and the hazelnut symbolised wisdom, peace and love. A hazel tree grew by the sacred pool of Avalon and was described as the Tree of Life.

As Halloween is the night when witches and evil spirits, the souls of the dead and wicked fairy folk roam the earth, numerous superstitions surround the night and have as a characteristic and apotropaic or protective function.  The fire on the household hearth should on no account be left to die on this night, else evil spirits will descend down the chimney.  Bonfires were lit on hilltops to drive off witches.  Purification by fire ordained that people jumped over the flames, in some parts even cattle driven through the embers.  In some parts many an unfortunate old woman was burnt in these fires because she was suspected to be a witch.  The fires of purification were called Samhnagan.  Often, food offerings were left out for the fairies on this night.  Travelling was to be avoided at all costs as one could be led astray by the spirits and fairies.  If one had to go out, pieces of iron or cold steel were carried on one’s person as a repellent against witchcraft.

Hey how for Hallow E’en
A’ the witches tae be seen
Some in black and some in green
Hey how for Hallow E’en.

Other traditions surrounding Samhain (i.e. November 1st and beginning of Winter), involved the reversal of order and normal values, the reign of chaos.  This involved deriding figures of authority, hurling abuse and cabbages at notable people, playing tricks and practical jokes on friends and relatives.  Parties of “guisers” went around from house to house collecting apples, nuts or money while riding a hobby horse or carrying a horse’s head.  The association of the horse with this festival may go back to the ancient Roman festival of the October Horse, the last of the harvest feasts.  Such customs are still very active in some countries, especially the USA, where Halloween has been revived with vigour, no doubt because of its appeal but also because of commercial potential.

It was customary at this time of dying vegetation and the fall of the year to decorate houses with evergreens such as holly, fir or mistletoe.  This harks back to druidic tradition, which ritualised Autumn’s passage into Winter, the evergreen being a reminder that all was not lost, and life went on, ever vigilant of the return of Spring.  Pliny records a Druidic ritual where the mistletoe was cut with a golden sickle, to fall onto a white cloak and not allowed to touch the ground.  Two white bulls were sacrificed and a feast held.  The ritual sacrifice and slaughter of animals at this time was also seen in Gaul and Teutonic lands.  It was as much a Winter feast and laying in of Winter stores as it was also a killing of animals to conserve the meagre fodder during the harsh Winter months.

In even older times, human sacrifice was practised and this was to appease the Winter gods and to ensure the return of Spring and bring fertility.  The Welsh festival of the Black Sow held at this time is a vestige of the human sacrifice rituals.  The whole village ran down a hillside as fast as each could, shouting all the while: “Black Sow take the hindermost!”. The last person down the hill was the victim to be claimed by the Black Sow, the spirit of evil, cold and death.

Samhain was also a time of peace and all forms of violence, warring and fighting being suspended.  No divorces were allowed, making it therefore a time for celebrating marriages.  This also made it a time of the year when all sorts of love oracles were performed. A form of love divination was practised in Scotland and Northern England with hazelnuts on this night.  A group of young unmarried women gathered around the fire and each took a hazelnut and threw it into the flames, saying:

If you love me, pop and fly,
If you don’t lie and die.

She then started to recite the names of possible suitors, her husband being indicated by the popping of the nut in the flames.  A variation on this practised in Wales was the throwing into the flames of apple pips by two lovers.  The same rhyme as above was recited and if the two pips popped simultaneously the lovers would marry happily.  If the two pips exploded at different times, the two lovers would part.

Another divination involved a young woman taking a candle and going alone into a dark room with an apple.  The candle was placed in front of the mirror and the apple was consumed while the woman combed her hair, looking into the mirror all the while.  The face of the woman’s future lover (or of the Devil!) would then appear over her shoulder.

                   

Music by Saul, “Little Prince”

Things that go bump in the night . . .

Old Halloween from History dot com 

 Halloween Past Revisited from History.com

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties . . . ~ Scottish Saying

Goblins and gremlins and ghosties and ghouls . . . oh my. Happy All Hallow’s Eve everyone. Or to be more precise, Happy Samhain.

Samhain (pronounced sow-in), is an ancient Celtic festival. The Celts lived between 2000 to 2700 years ago, predominantly in the area that is now Ireland and the United Kingdom; although at one time, their tribes were spread through Western Europe from France (Gaul) to the Danube to Rome. The Celts celebrated their new year on November 1, which marked the end of the summer and the harvest and the beginning of winter. Unlike their portrayals in movies as a primitive barbaric society, in reality, the Celts were organized into three groups: the royal clans, who led the various tribes, the warrior aristocracy, and the common people.

Ancient Celtic religion was the mainstay of every aspect of everyday life. Their religion, which worshipped nature and all things in nature, was polytheistic, recognizing many levels of supernatural beings and divinities, female as well as male. The Celts believed that the course of nature was controlled by the will of their gods.

Solstice bonfire Montana
Solstice Bonfire, Montana

Druids, who served as Celtic scholars and priests, underwent rigorous training, sometimes lasting as long as 20 years. Druids passed on their knowledge of traditional lore about nature, the seasons, astronomy, and death. Along with the Druids, Celts venerated their Bards—singers who passed on history through the oral tradition—and their Vates, who were the soothsayers.

The Celts were a superstitious people, and they believed that on the night of October 31 the ghosts of the dead returned to wander the earth. These ancient people celebrated Samhain with huge bonfires where the people gathered to burn crops and make sacrifices to the gods. The Celts wore costumes, usually representing animals; these costumes, which were made from animal skins and bones, were used to hide the faces of the living from the dead who had returned. In addition, the clan’s priests, or Druids, would make predictions about the future. The flames from the dying bonfires were used to light the hearth fires, which would burn for the duration of the long winters.

“When witches go riding, and black cats are seen/the moon laughs and whispers, ‘tis near Halloween.” ~ 19th century Halloween postcard

Eventually, the Celtic tradition of Samhain was blended with Roman traditions after the spread of the Roman Empire overran the once powerful Celts. The Roman day of the dead, Feralia, fell in October, and the Romans celebrated the feast of Pomona in October. Pomona was the goddess of the fruit and trees, and her symbol was the apple. By 800 AD, Christianity had overtaken most of Europe, and November 1 was designated as All Saints’ Day (Alholomesse), the day to honor saints and martyrs. This day replaced the Celtic festival of the dead. October 31 became All Hallow’s Eve.

House Decorated for Halloween Ehow
Halloween Decorations Run Amok

The modern idea of asking for treats may originate from the Christian tradition of All Soul’s Day (November 2), on which beggars would receive pastries called Soul Cakes from the more well-to-do citizenry. In return, the poor would offer to say a blessing for the wealthy family’s departed members.

History is a bit vague as to when the idea of costumes and Trick or Treats first came to the U.S., with most historians pointing to the influx of immigrants in the second half of the 19th century as the time during which the traditions of Halloween first began to infiltrate society. But the mass-marketing bonanza known today as Halloween is a relatively new advent: Orange lights, huge inflatable pumpkins in the yard—Halloween has become big business, with estimates that Americans spend $7 billion on the holidays, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday.

Personally, I like the idea of celebrating fall and the harvest, but then again, I am no longer a kid getting sacks full of candy.

“My candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open . . .” ~ Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

While Corey and I were out today picking up a few groceries we saw all kinds of bizarre costumes, but not that many children. Purple fishnets, pink hair. Ah, the rich pageantry that is Wal Mart on a Saturday . . .

I remember when the kids were younger, and we would carve a pumpkin for Halloween. I only did the carving myself  one year as I don’t particularly like to put my hands in squishy pumpkin guts. Besides, kids love to put their hands into squishy pumpkin guts. It’s part of the fun. What is not fun is carving the pumpkin, putting it out on the porch, and having some jerk come by and throw the creation into the street, which happened more than once. Some trick that was.

Jack-o-lanterns in Keene NH by Tim Somero
Jack-o-Lanterns in Keene, NH, by Tim Somero

I once worked with a graphic designer who would carve the most incredible Jack O Lanterns at Halloween. I know that he won a few local competitions for his carving. I love to see the really artistic pumpkins, the ones with complete scenes or recognizable faces.

As with all things, the history of Jack O Lanterns comes from a folktale about some guy named Stingy Jack who kept making deals with the devil and then breaking them. As a result, he wasn’t allowed into heaven, nor did the devil want him. Poor old Jack had to roam the earth with a burning coal to light his way. The coal was inserted into a carved out turnip.

In Ireland, people made their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes. These lanterns were placed into windows and near doors to frighten away wandering evil spirits, like Jack. Americans use pumpkins for their lanterns; the pumpkin is a fruit native to America.

Anyway, it’s past 9 p.m., and all little goblins have been taken home to sort through their various treats, completely unaware that they just participated in an ancient ritual.

Music from Halloween, the original. This music still scares the hell out of me . . .

More later. Peace.

Boylan Heights NC community pumpkins

Community Jack-o-Lanterns, Boylan Heights, Raleigh, NC