I hope everyone is home safe on this unluckiest of days. And didn’t stupidly plan on traveling today. It is the unluckiest day and the month where the Veil is thinnest. I’m only partially joking. Superstitions like 13 and Fridays being unlucky in multiple cultures is enough for me to not discount it. The idea that the Veil is thinnest this time of year in MOST cultures is enough to make me believe. But unfortunately for the evil spirits running amok tonight, I’m willing to risk my life to dye my hair teal tomorrow. I’m either incredibly brave or stupid. You can decide.
Either way, we need to discuss something freaky today. There are just way too many reasons for us to do it. So I thought it might be fun to talk about the parts of Halloween that aren’t normally discussed. I’m sorry in advance if I ruin anything for you.
Just kidding, I’m not sorry at all.
It is fairly common knowledge that our modern Halloween Traditions are heavily influenced by the Celtic traditions of Samhain. But we have definitely sugar coated some of them.
1. Jack O’ Lanterns
A lot of people know the idea that Jack O’ Lanterns were used to ward against evil spirits. (Which is why you should be carving scary faces people!) But actually, before the popularity of pumpkins, other root vegetables like potatoes and turnips were used. They also served another purpose. They were temporary homes for the spirits of your dead ancestors when they came to visit.
Honey, I’m home!
To me that is funny because I actually imagine little potatoes walking around possessed by people. The part that disturbs me is that he will never look the same now.
Everyone loves a good bonfire. Gooey Smores, melted chocolate, a reason to snuggle close. And most people think that Samhain fires looked like this…
There is even a lovely legend about how centuries ago, women would take an ember from fire and use it to start the fire in their own hearth. I personally don’t actually believe this happened. It’s very impractical. They traveled days to get to a festival. I also know how much history was rewritten to further an agenda. And let’s face it, there would be a reason to rewrite the next part.
What most people don’t realize is that Samhain was the Celtic New Year. The reason why these fires were so lucky is because sacrifices were made to guarantee the next year was fruitful. Sacrificing part of the harvest guaranteed the fields were plentiful. Sacrificing livestock insured the remaining animals stayed healthy. So what do you think villages that were constantly warring sacrificed? That’s right….. prisoners of war. Two birds, one stone. Less mouths to feed and the gods were kept happy.
(Sorry, I couldn’t find any truly disturbing images of people being burned as a human sacrifice. So please pause for a moment to imagine it.)
So Pooka isn’t particularly disturbing. But it’s one of my favorites. And not very well known. Meet Pooka.
Legend tells us that Pooka is a black ghost horse with fire eyes. He roams the countryside at night. Anyone extremely foolish enough to accept a ride is spirited off to Hell, never to be heard from again. Oh what a lovely way to go. Who doesn’t love horses? Oh that’s right, I don’t. But even if I did, I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t ride one with fire eyes. Craziness.
But…. that’s not the best part about Pooka. Since Samhain is the harvest festival, they had to make sure there was motivation for people to work to get the harvest in. (Apparently possible starvation wasn’t enough.) So on Samhain, Pooka rides through the countryside as usual; however he pees on all of the unharvested berries, and the crops still in the fields. His pee is extremely toxic, making all of it inedible. So if a Pooka moves into your neighborhood, you better not dawdle bringing in your crops.
I hope you really enjoy biting into that crisp apple the next time you are sitting around the fire. Or choosing the angry eyes the next time you play with Mr. Potatohead. It would be a shame if their origins made them less pleasant. Just remember, we still have a few weeks until Halloween, so you should be safe.
But why risk it?