Phew! Thanks be November has started. Why? Because although I love the old Celtic New Year festival of Samhain (pronounced Sawane) on 31st October when we celebrate our ancestors because the veil between the worlds is thin….. despite loving that, I always end up getting cross and stamping my little foot around that date.
Anyone who reads this blog knows at least two things about me …. 1) I am a pagan who has been co-opted into the local Catholic faith and 2) I am an equal-opportunities gods employer. I try my best to get on with everyone no matter what their religious beliefs and if I’m a visitor to their country, I will behave accordingly.
I don’t tell people what they should or shouldn’t believe because it is one of the most highly personal choices a human being has. So I get fairly hot under the collar when others try to dictate to me, especially on the basis of completely wrong historical information.
Many Christians don’t like the fact that when their religion was introduced to Britain it adopted many of the old religion’s festivals as people were loathe to give up the feasting that went with it. Hence, although scholars have proved that Jesus must have been born in March, they stole Yule from us and made it Christmas. Unlike the Romans, who were content to leave their occupied citizens to worship their own gods with a Roman deity tacked on – like Mars Cernunnos or Bacchus Pan, the incoming evangalists of the White Christ stole the whole festival and invented a reason for it.
Finding that there was already a festival for ancestors, dead people etc, they took that and re-named the two days All Hallows and All Saints. Yes, that is where the word Halloween comes from, All Hallow’s Eve. This is where my ire begins with 31st October.
I loathe the corruption of Samhain into Halloween which comes from the ancient Scottish tradition of “guising”. As the veil between the two world was very thin, not only could friendly family spirits come visiting but wicked ones as well. So children would go out into the night with their coats on back-to-front, masks on their faces and offer to scare away the bad spirits in return for a small cake. We made turnip lanterns which took most of the day to dig out! I did it as a child and I can remember the song we sang at each house.
The matron of the family would reward us with a special “soul cake” for keeping the house safe. If she didn’t, we just walked away.
How this has descended into the crime of “demanding with menaces” is beyond me. Telling children to knock at strangers’ doors to ask for sweets strikes me as ludicrous when we tell them of “stranger danger” every other day of the year. Teaching them that it is fine to do something horrible to people if they don’t give you what you want is laying the foundation for bad psychological problems in the future. It is worse in a country where they don’t understand the word “Trick” and are surprised when I hang out of the bedroom window with the garden hose, shouting “Trick” and soak them. The joke is lost in translation.
A great many churches agree with me but they then go further than that and write spiteful messages on social media telling people that they must not follow “old traditions” as Christ died for us to change….. excuse me? Did I wander into your building and try to set up my Samhain feast table? If they stuck to discouraging their followers from running a one day protection racket, I’d love it, but don’t start taking pot-shots at my faith because we didn’t start this, it’s an American invention kept alive by profiteering shopkeepers.
I like November. We don’t have Guy Fawkes Night here and celebrate burning catholics, it wouldn’t seem polite. My animals are safe. We aren’t into the frenetic run-up to the Shopping Festival and I can enjoy the changing colours and temperatures of the countryside.
Ahhhhhhhhhhh – peace at last!