The Synergy of Halloween and Horror

Tonight, the gateway between the worlds has all but disappeared.  Departed souls shall cross over into our world and walk amid the living.  Some Spirits come with peace and love, other come with a more sinister agenda.  A night of terror awaits those of mortal blood who may stumble across the path of a Spirit with an ulterior motive.

Fear, macabre, horror… all characteristics that make up the holiday of Halloween as we know it today.  Yet, Halloween’s roots were not originally embedded within the realm of horror.  The origins of Halloween stems from the Gaelic festival, Samhain (pronounced Sow-en).   This holiday is celebrated at the harvest season when summer ends and autumn begins.  During this seasonal shift, the Gaels harvest their crops and prepare for the approaching winter.  October 31st, was an integral date within this time because it is the day that the Gaels believed the veil between the Spirit and mortal world was at its thinnest.  Spirits who passed during the previous year had a chance on this day to return to Earth.  Relatives and loved ones would beckon the Spirits to come through, and the living would honor the Spirit with Samhain festivities.  This Gaelic celebration is very much akin to el Dia de los Muertos in Latin American traditions, which is a festival that is celebrated to this very day.

Out of this festival of Samhain grew stories that would evolve into modern day Halloween traditions.  Certain stories about this festival have a more sinister side to the Spirits return to Earth.  Some stories say that the Spirits return on October 31st to possess a mortal’s body so that the Spirit can once again enjoy the spoils of the Earth.  In order to thwart possession, an entire village would put out all their lights on this evening, which would cause the Spirits to walk through a dark village.  Seeing no lights within the homes, the Spirits would believe that there was no one among the living, so they would take their leave and return to their dimension.  Other stories say that the Gaels would dress up in costumes of animals and dance around a bonfire in order to scare away any evil spirits that have come to cause harm upon the season’s crops.

Other Halloween traditions grew out of the Christian version of the holy days , All Saints’ Day and All Soul’s Day.  The two main traditions for these days are gathering “treats” and Jack-o’-lanterns.  Both of these Christian holy days were for prayer to free trapped souls from purgatory.  Soul cakes were baked and collected door-to-door as a means to pray for these purgatory-trapped souls.  In Brittany, children would light candles in skulls and place them in graveyards as a representation of these souls.  This tradition would be one of a few early influences of the modern day Jack-o’-lantern. 

Lighting candles in skulls in a graveyard, of all places, is rather morbid, and the perfect jumping point for tying Horror and Halloween together in a harmonious relationship.

Today we have grown to expect a bit of terror on this day, which was originally established to honor the dead.  We would be too desensitized to go “trick-or-treating” just for soul cakes and then praying for the souls in purgatory.  Over these years we have been exposed to haunted amusement attractions, gory costumes, slice-em’ dice-em’ Halloween based Horror flicks, that praying for a bunch of souls would be rather lost on us.  For the month leading up to this day: the television is plagued with horror movies,  book stores predominantly display Horror novels on their end caps,  horror writing competitions have beguiled the Internet,  haunted houses are popping up along Interstates everywhere…  Halloween and Horror have a true symbiotic relationship today that is deeply ingrained in traditions of antiquity.

So as you get dressed up tonight to go bang on some stranger’s door for some candy that will probably rot out your teeth, won’t you please think of those poor souls who are trapped in purgatory?

Happy Haunting!

©2012, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivative – visit Amanda Headlee — It is Always Darkest Before the Dawn for the original source of this content.

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