One Halloween I came home from a friend’s house in 8th grade and told my parents I had a great time at the party. We all wore costumes, dunked for apples, made jack-o-lanterns and then used the Ouija board to have a seance.
My mom, who had not really been paying attention to the tales of my escapades immediately jumped up in horror and told me never to touch one of those boards. She said they were evil. She said the Devil controlled them.
My little brother got scared and my little sister started to cry. That’s when dad stepped in. He was a science teacher after all and I have a vivid memory of him scolding my mother and telling her to cut the nonsense. That may have scared me the most.
Mom was what you would call a born again Christian. While some parents in the 70’s were cocktailing and learning how to disco dance, our house was hosting bible studies, pre-cana counseling and youth groups.
In 1976 my mom spent the summer in the hospital very sick with ulcerated colitis. She almost died. She had “the laying on of hands” done while in the hospital and suddenly was healed. The doctors could not explain it. My dad could not explain it.
Mom spent the rest of her life sharing her story and praising God. She visited churches and prayer groups all over. She spoke publicly at conferences and to bible studies. She felt blessed and was grateful for her life.
Her faith was secure and she knew one day she would be with Jesus. But she also believed that souls could be lost and that the devil was more real than she wanted to get into with us.
Mom is now with Jesus and I know she is in a good place. I never did touch one of those Ouija boards. I did visit a psychic or two after my husband Mike died and I became a widow. She seemed OK with that.
But it is Halloween season, and I miss those days of finding costumes for my boys, listening to them sing silly Halloween songs, and walking with the neighbors around the streets at dusk as kids ran from house to house.
For a few years we were even included in the party circuit and dressed as a couple to go to adult parties. Mike, having been a prison guard, often went as a prisoner while I wore his old Department of Corrections shirt and aviator glasses, along with a short skirt and boots. Can’t find that old photo but oh, those were the days!
I was intrigued to learn more about the origins of Halloween and am fascinated at the amount of interesting information available on Wikipedia.
Historians believe that Halloween is most typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, or ‘summer’s end’. From the middle ages this date marked the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter. It was also seen as a time when the boundary between this world and he Otherworld thinned, meaning that ‘spirits’ or ‘fairies’ could easily come into this world.
It was believed to keep the spirits happy and ensure their livestock survived the winter, the people needed to leave offerings of food and drink outside. Places were set at the dinner table in the belief that the souls of the dead return home one night of the year. In Ireland, after saying prayers fo the souls of the dead, games would begin. The games often foretold one’s future regarding death and marriage.
Bonfires were lit and special rituals developed around them. In Wales, bonfires were lit to prevent the souls of the dead from falling to earth and to keep the devil away.
I wonder if my mom later went out that night after my Quija board party to light a bonfire?
Trick or treating is a custom that started in the 15th century with soul cakes. Poor children would go door to door collecting soul cakes in exchange for praying for the dead, especially the souls’ of the givers relatives.
The custom of wearing costumes may have been based on the Christian belief that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints’ Day, and All Hallows’ Eve provided one last chance fo the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving to the next world. In order to avoid being recognized by any soul that might be seeking such vengeance, people would don masks or costumes to disguise their identities.
And what about the Jack-o-Lantern? I taught Kindergarten for 20 years and never heard this story copied directly from wikipedia
“On route home after a night’s drinking, Jack encounters the Devil and tricks him into climbing a tree. A quick-thinking Jack etches the sign of the cross into the bark, thus trapping the Devil. Jack strikes a bargain that Satan can never claim his soul. After a life of sin, drink, and mendacity, Jack is refused entry to heaven when he dies. Keeping his promise, the Devil refuses to let Jack into hell and throws a live coal straight from the fires of hell at him. It was a cold night, so Jack places the coal in a hollowed out turnip to stop it from going out, since which time Jack and his lantern have been roaming looking for a place to rest.”
Apparently people used to carve the turnip but we Americans started the practice of carving the pumpkin – much easier.
Due to COVID and friends who have moved on, we will not be dressing for any parties this weekend. The school children dressed in costume at school early wearing masks of course. Still decorations of mums, pumpkins and blow up characters on the front lawns enhance the beauty of our yellow, orange and red leaves here in the Northeast of the USA.
However, no one is sure if or how many children will actually come trick or treating this year. Halloween during the pandemic is a new one for us all. We do live in scary times and I am not only talking about Halloween.
I tried to find the photo with a costume my mom made for me when I was 6 years old. She was an artist who sews thus a “Sewist”. The costume was one side blue gown and one side rags. She did my hair, one side a pretty bun, the other side had fireplace ashes. Did you guess my costume? Reply in the comments if you think you know it. I’ll post the photo when I find it!