Halloween

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The origins of Halloween can be traced  all the way back to the Celts (800-450 BC).  Samhain (pronounced Sow-in or Sah- win) means “Summer’s end” and to the Celts, November the 1st  was considered to be the New Year.  What’s amazing is that a few of the customs that our pagan ancestors celebrated during Samhain have been maintained and have transcended through time to what is currently now known as Halloween.  There have been a lot of adaptations added from other cultures all throughout the time span that has molded this unique day that pays homage to the dead.

Samhain…

A fire festival, that was used by the Celts to encourage the sun to stay up as long as possible, that would start to take place on what is now known as October 31st and considered to be the last day of the year.  It was believed that on this day the veil between the living and the dead vanishes and the spirits of the dead become visible to the eyes of the living.  It was a common believe of this time period that the spirits would roam the earth looking for a body to posses, so the Celts would dress in costumes, mainly wearing animal heads and skins, and dance around bonfires to entertain the spirits and hopefully dupe them to prevent possessions of their bodies from malevolent spirits.  They would leave their front doors open to their lost loved ones.  The original Jack-ó-lanterns, made out of large turnips, beets, or potatoes, were placed on windows ledges to scare off evil spirits.  November 1st, was the day that represented the end of summer, end of harvest, and the beginning of the dark cold winter.  Which is typically the time that is associated with death in many other cultures as well.

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Feralia and Pomona

Around 43 AD, the Romans were able to expand the territory that claim the majority of Celtic land and for 400 years influenced the former Celtic people with two Roman festivals known as Feralia; a day to honor the passing of the dead, and a day to honor Pomona, the goddess of fruits and trees.  The “bobbing for apples” game that is frequently played at Halloween kid parties is suspected to have have originated from the Romans because the apple served as a symbol for Pomona.

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Roman Catholic Church

In 601 AD, Pope Gregory issued an order to his missionaries regarding concerns of converting the Celts.  The Roman Catholic church learned from experience that when dealing with pagans, instead of condemning them for their ideologies you used their beliefs and redirected them to be about Christ and allow them to continue their customs.  Pope Gregory IV had planned on turning Samhain into All Saints day in 835, but All Souls Day was established in 998 in a French monastery and spread quickly throughout Europe.  The celtic pagan rituals and beliefs were converted into worshiping martyrs and saints.

los Días de los Muertos

The Aztecs festival of the dead was originally a two-month celebration that also fell into the Fall season and was tied into celebrating the harvest season.  The festival was to pay homage to Mictecacíhuatl, the Goddess of the Dead and the Underworld also known as Mictlán.  Mictlán was not considered  to be a dark or scary place, it was actually viewed to be a peaceful realm where souls resided and waited for the days of visiting the living.  After the European invasion of the Americas, the Catholic monasteries employed the same tactic used with the Celts.  All Souls day was instituted into the daily lives of the natives and All Souls day and the native Aztec beliefs merged and formed what is now considered los Días de los Muertos (The Days of the Dead) which is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd.

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Halloween in the United States

Various Halloween traditions that are celebrated in the U.S. were influenced by European immigrants, mainly during the second half of the19th century.  By combining Irish and English traditions, the trick-or-treat tradition began in the U.S.  In the 1950’s, community leaders decided to make the holiday more directed towards the youth to minimize vandalism.  

References

History.com Staff. (2009). History of the Jack O’ Lantern. Retrieved November 03, 2016, from http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/jack-olantern-history

History.com Staff. (2009). History of Halloween. Retrieved November 03, 2016, from http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

Pon, D. (n.d.). The Origins of Halloween. Retrieved November 03, 2016, from http://www.albany.edu/~dp1252/isp523/halloween.html

Origins of Halloween and the Day of the Dead | EDSITEment. (n.d.). Retrieved November 03, 2016, from https://edsitement.neh.gov/feature/origins-halloween-and-day-dead

Santino, J. (n.d.). Halloween. Retrieved November 03, 2016, from http://www.loc.gov/folklife/halloween.html

The origin of Halloween is found in Celtic Ireland. (n.d.). Retrieved November 03, 2016, from http://www.irish-genealogy-toolkit.com/origin-of-Halloween.html

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La Llorona (The Weeping Woman)

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While growing up in Albuquerque, NM; the fear of La Llorona (pronounced “LAH yoh RoH nah”), also known as The Weeping Woman, was a fear instilled into me to the point where you would never see my happy little monkey butt playing by rivers or arroyos (ditches) at night as a child.

There is no established date of when the legend of La Llorona took place.  However the origins of the story came from Mexico and has spread all over the southwestern parts of the United States with many variations to the Legend.

Folklore

The retelling that I still remember from my childhood of the La Llorona starts in a small village in Mexico.  In this village lived a very attractive woman named Maria with vanity over surpassing her beauty.  All gentlemen suitors were rejected when trying to court Maria, until one day a very handsome man, son of a very wealthy ranchero, rode into town on his horse.  When this man first laid his eyes on the very beautiful Maria, he was convinced that this was the woman that he wanted to marry.  For awhile at first, Maria played hard to get by ignoring this handsome wealthy gentleman.  She would refuse to speak to him by not giving him the time of the day.  She also rejected all of his elaborate gifts that were presented to her to win her affection.

Long story short, they were married and had two children together.  They were perceived to be the happiest family in the area.  Then after a few years after the children were born, the ranchero started to leave home more and more to suit his embedded wild frontier lifestyle.  When returning  on occasions the man started to ignore Maria and would only spend time with his children.  On the last visit home the wealthy ranchero came back with another woman in his carriage.  The man told Maria that he was leaving her for this woman who was from a wealthier class.  As the newlyweds rode off Maria became furious and grabbed her children and took them for a walk to a nearby river.  While they were walking down the bank of the river, Maria’s anger was festering from within and boiled over.  Out of rage she grabbed her children by the arms and threw them into the river.  Maria stood by the river watching the strong currents pulling her children away to their watery deaths.  After realizing what she had just done, Maria started running down the river bank crying out to her children.  Maria ran as fast as she could but could not keep up with the speed of the currents.  While running and trying to shorten the gap to her children, she tripped and fell face first hitting her head on a rock and died.

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To this day, if children dare to play near any form of rivers they might hear the sounds of a crying woman in white yelling out for her children.  And if these foolish young souls stay long enough, she will take them as her own.

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Other variations of the La Llorona portray her children to be spoiled little brats and after her husband left her the little monsters misbehaving is supposedly what triggered Maria’s rage that caused her to kill her children.  Another version of the La Llorona tale states that she married a conquistador and when she was dumped for another woman of higher status her Aztec blood threw her into madness and she killed her children.  After killing her children she went on a mission to rid all European colonists by killing men, women, and children as an act of vengeance against the intruders of her land from overseas.  She was portrayed to be wearing black clothing, a blank expression on her face, and having long fingernails.  She would carry out her conquests of eliminating European colonists at night.

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Like any other ghost story, the La Llorona legend is used as a scare tactic to keep children from danger.  Whether it is to keep them from playing around bodies of water or to get them to come home before it gets dark.  The story is also used to get a child to behave.  If a child acts like a brat, La Llorona would be the threat used to redirect the child’s behavior.

References

La Llorona – A Mexican Ghost Story | donQuijote. (n.d.). Retrieved July 24, 2016, from http://www.donquijote.org/culture/mexico/society/customs/la-llorona

Challenging and Redefining the Myth of La Llorona. (n.d.). Retrieved July 24, 2016, from http://www.csusm.edu/news/topstories/articles/2012/10/tsLaLlorona.html

Fuller, A. (n.d.). The evolving legend of La Llorona. Retrieved July 24, 2016, from http://www.historytoday.com/amy-fuller/evolving-legend-la-llorona

LA LLORONA. (n.d.). Retrieved July 24, 2016, from https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/lxl01

Weiser, K. (n.d.). La Llorona – Weeping Ghost of the Southwest. Retrieved July 24, 2016, from http://www.legendsofamerica.com/gh-lallorona.html

Hayes, J. (n.d.). LA LLORONA – A HISPANIC LEGEND. Retrieved July 24, 2016, from http://www.literacynet.org/lp/hperspectives/llorona.html