Boo!! Times are a little different this year but there is no stopping us from reminiscing the days where carved pumpkins are lit up in busy bars, housing estates bustling with the catchy call of ‘trick or treat!’ and – oh gosh – the exhilaration of visiting horrifying haunted houses. But wait, do you actually know the origins of these familiar practices?
To make sure we don’t just get lost in doing things for the sake of it, we’ve collated some of these unnerving traditional tales of Halloween for everyone!
Halloween’s origins date back to Samhain’s ancient Celtic festival, where the celebration of a new year happens on November 1. This marks the end of summer and the beginning of the cold dark winter season which is commonly associated with death. The Celts held a belief that on 31 October, the night before new year, the horizon between the world of the living and world of the dead are blurred and ghosts of the dead return back to earth. In order to ward off these spirits, folks don on elaborate costumes in an attempt the scare them. With time, this practice is assimilated across the western region of the world and then through America’s popularization of the practice in media, Halloween slowly developed into what it is today.
There are just sooooo many things to talk about for Halloween but we’ve gone and picked out three folklore to share with you — maybe you can impress a date or two with these fun facts.
Witches on brooms
Brooms were primarily associated with women back in the days, and it stood strongly as a symbol of female domesticity. In a pagan customary ritual for fertility, rural farmers would dance and straddle on sticks or brooms under the full moon in the hope of a better harvest of their crops. It turns out that over time, this leaping action is confused as an act of flying, a.k.a the premium mode of transport afforded to the witches, as they whizzed to orgies and other clandestine meetings.
Legend has it there was a man nicknamed ‘Stingy Jack’ in Irish mythology. Stingy Jack invited the Devil for a drink and true to the nickname, he did not want to pay for his drinks and instead, persuaded the Devil to turn himself into a coin in payment of the drinks. Stingy Jack turned back on his words and kept the coin next to a silver cross to forbid the Devil from transforming back, in fear that he would be punished by the Devil.
Stingy Jack ultimately freed the Devil under the condition that he would not torment Jack for one year and not to claim his soul should Jack dies one day. Comes the following year where the Devil was tricked into climbing a tree to pick a fruit and Jack pulled his sly old stunt again, by drawing a cross on the tree bark, refraining the Devil from coming back down unless Jack was promised that he would not be plagued by the Devil for another ten years.
Soon after, Stingy Jack passed on and to no surprise, Heaven’s doors were closed to such distasteful character while the Devil kept his end of the bargain by not banishing his soul. The sole realm to entrap Jack was earth, and hence he was kept roaming in the dark nights with nothing but a burning coal to light his path. Jack housed his only source of light in a carved turnip as he strays along the streets and the name ‘Jack O’Lantern’ was given to him ever since.
Irving was a Hessian soldier who was woefully decapitated by a cannonball in the Battle of White Plains around Halloween season back in 1776. He is often seen riding his towering horse, seeking revenge and – prepare yourself for the grim part- a head, which he deemed was unjustifiably taken away from him. The absence of a head lead to this infinite chase for redress and closure, making it one of the haunting classic tales in Halloween.
p.s. Young Johnny Depp starred in the 1990 film <Sleepy Hollow> which is available on Netflix — don’t say we didn’t tell ya!