Friday, October 29, 2010

Superstition of the Week - Halloween


First a little history...

The Celtic Druids celebrated their year end on 10/31 with a festival called Samhain, which means summer’s end. They would praise Baal, the sun god who helped provide their harvest and asked the god for support to make it through the upcoming winter. On this day the Celts believed that the souls of the dead could return to visit the living. Some of these spirits would amuse themselves by playing tricks on the people.

When the Romans conquered the Celts, they also added their autumn festivals to the culture. One of these gatherings honored Pomona, the goddess of fruits and trees. Some believe this is why apples are included in some of our present-day Halloween celebrations.

When the Christian church tried to take over, they set out to abolish the old pagan celebrations. In many cases they did this by superimposing their own festivals on days of the pagan celebrations. Because of this, Pope Gregory III moved All Saints’ Day from May to the beginning of November. A century later, Pope Gregory IV declared that All Hallows’ Eve would be held on 10/31, All Saints’ Day on 11/2 and All Souls’ Day on 11/2.

In the 19th century immigrants from Scotland and Ireland brought Halloween to the United States as a secular fun celebration incorporating bats, cats, ghosts, witches, jack-o'-lanterns, fortune telling and bobbing for apples.

Then in the 20th century the notion of trick-or-treating came about in the United States, though it is thought it does have roots to old world’s rituals. On the eve of All Saints’ Day, poor people in England carrying jack-o'-lanterns made from mangel-wurzel (a variety of beet) went door to door begging for soul cakes.

Okay now on to the superstitions...

If you hear somebody walking behind you on Halloween, do not turn around. This is from the belief that it is likely to be the dead following you and it would be fatal to look any of them in the face.

It was also believed that if you go to a crossroads on Halloween and stop to listen to the wind, you will hear your future for the following year.

Another superstition is if at midnight on Halloween a girl stands in front of a mirror while eating an apple and combing her hair, she will see a reflection of her future husband.

Also see our Apple Superstition Posts

Friday, October 22, 2010

Superstition of the Week - Werewolf


The werewolf superstition dates back to the Greco-Roman times and was particularly popular in the medieval era. During these times it was believed that people were turned into wolves by a magical enchantment. It was also thought that the folks most vulnerable to this enchantment were those born on Christmas Eve or born out of wedlock.

The most popular belief to kill a werewolf, is by a silver bullet; however, it was also believed you could cure a werewolf if you knew their first name. You need to call out that person’s name 3 times while they are in wolf form. But be careful, because if you get the name wrong, the curse will also come after you to transform you into the wolf.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Superstition of the Week - Pumpkin


Though the pumpkin was a harvest symbol, it was also believed to scare away evil spirits. Folks would carve hideous faces into them and illuminate with a candle on Halloween to scare away the evil spirits that would come out on that special night.

These pumpkin lanterns were eventually called jack-o'-lanterns from an old Irish story. An Irishman named jack cleverly tricked the devil out of stealing his soul, but because of the disreputable life he had led was not allowed to enter into heaven. He was condemned to wander the world in darkness, but the devil eased his burden by giving him a piece of coal from hell to light his lantern.

There is a superstition that says Good Friday is best day to plant pumpkins. This is because of the belief that pumpkins ward off evil.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Superstition of the Week - Witch


The word “witch” comes from the Saxon wica, which means “wise one.”

The ancient Assyrians, Babylonians, Hebrews, Greeks and Romans all mention witches in their writings. In Greco-Roman times, they were renowned for their healing skills using herbs and potions. Unfortunately, even back then, not everyone approved of this practice. Pliny, Ovid, and Plutarch all wrote negatively about witches.

Sadly, over time witches began to be viewed as entities that cast evil spells to hurt others. Persecution of witches began when the Christian Church started fostering the belief that witches were associated with the devil. They told stories that witches copulated with demons, conducted wild orgies, and indulged in sinful behavior.

This unjustified belief led to horrific injustices and the torture and death of many innocent men and women by hanging, drowning or being burned at the stake. This unbelievable craze lasted for almost 250 years.

During this time several myths came about. Witches were thought not to have a soul and thus made no reflection in the mirror. They would recite the lord’s prayer backwards and were thwarted by anything made iron. People also believed that witches possessed “devil’s marks,” which were warts, moles or other birthmarks, usually in the area of the armpits.

If anything bad happened in the community, it would be blamed on a witch such as a calf dying, crops failing, or if a baby was stillborn. Even storms and murders were blames on witchcraft.

A wide variety of amulets and other form of protection were used to protect people and their homes from witches. It was also believed that witches could hurt you if they had a small piece of you to work with. Thus, some folks thought one needed to be extremely careful to dispose of nail clippings, cut hair, blood, urine and saliva in order to prevent a witch from getting their hands on it.

Because of the way movies and children’s books portray witches, the stereotypical image of a witch is a hideous hag with a warty nose, pointed chin who lives alone with a black cat and casts evil spells. In reality, witches today practice a pagan religion that honors the Goddess and believe in the sanctity of all life.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Superstition of the Week - October

A superstition says that a warm October will lead to a frigid February. Also if the leaves wither on the trees versus falling to the ground, a frosty winter with much white stuff is on its way.