Outstanding Origins of Halloween Habits
by JENNY GREEN
With Halloween swiftly approaching, customs that have become the norm begin to launch in preparation for this spooky season: the carving of pumpkins, purchasing sweets for trick-or-treaters, and ghastly and/or glamorous costumes are being crafted. Yet, what are the origins of some of the traditions and superstitions known to us today?
The Black Cat: Ah yes, a true icon for bad luck. During the Middle Ages, many spinsters were deemed followers of witchcraft and executed as a result. Their pets, often alley cats they cared for, were thought to be their demonic companions and those with sooty coats symbolized additional evil. Furthermore, it was suspected that witches could shapeshift into black cats.
The Glowing Jack-O’-Lantern: Originally an Irish custom, pumpkins weren’t even used for creating Jack-O’-Lanterns since this beloved bulbous orange fruit (yes, pumpkins are technically a fruit) is native to North America. Turnips, potatoes and beets were used in lieu. It was believed that placing a candle within the carving and placing it outside your house would ward off evil spirits.
Trick-or-Treating: A phrase coined at the end of the Great Depression, the act of going door to door for sweets is based off the Celtic festival Samhain that took place at the end of the harvesting season. Spirits were believed to roam throughout the night and to turn one away empty-handed would mean ill fate; thus, edible tokens were offered.
The Witch’s Broom: Let’s return to the Middle Ages, shall we? While suspicions rose about older, single women who enjoyed feline company, the public began to seize the smallest of details to use for prosecution. Among those details were the walking sticks often used for treks in the woods or when these women went about their quotidian business. Brooms were at times substituted and it eventually became a symbol associated with sorcery.
Friday the 13th: Friday and the number thirteen have both respectively been deemed unlucky for an assortment of reasons.
Various stories tell of the misfortunes of thirteen guests. In Norse mythology, twelve gods were dining when Loki, the god of mischief, arrived uninvited. Through the course of the meal, his actions led to the death of the god of joy, and the world mourned. Yet another tragedy of thirteen is through the biblical story of the Last Supper. Judas Iscariot was considered the unlucky thirteenth member of the group consisting of the twelve apostles and Christ since it was he that betrayed Jesus.
As for Friday, additional Christian influence is one of the factors as to why it is ill regarded despite the lack of calendrical organisation that far in the past. It was believed that Friday was the day that Adam and Eve bit the Forbidden Fruit and were banned from the Garden of Eden. Friday was also thought to be the day that the forty-day flood began as well as the crucifixion of Christ.