By scary emmet
I believe in all things Irish and not just Jameson whiskey and Guinness stout. Yes, I believe, like the Irish Genealogy Kit web site, that the Irish pretty much invented Halloween.
The origins on the scary holiday, they said, can be traced to Samhain, the ancient holiday. It was a fire festival (I love fires) when the flames of the old fires had to be extinguished and new ones lit by the nearest Druid. I would have passed on the extinguishment but jumped in for the new fires. On Halloween in West Roxbury we used to set fire to anything and everything. Those leaves in the gutter today set my heart racing. No one would have the nerve to place those leaf bags, full, on their lawn, in my neighborhood. Every lad for miles carried lighter fluid and a pocketful of “Woodies.”
Samhain was sort of New Year’s Eve with the symbolic casting out with the old and in with the new. The crops would have been harvested and stored and the livestock slaughtered and carefully packed away. But the spooky part was when the souls of the departed would return to their homes to see what was up and the bad, bad spirits were released from the Outerworld and became visible (eek) to mankind. It was definitely a night for the Jameson.
We must grudgingly give some credit for Halloween to the Romans and their celebration to Pomona, the goddess of fruit trees, especially the mighty apple. The inclusion of the apple (who bobs for oranges?) probably dates back to that period.
The church was running way behind in popularity to the Druids in the Seventh Century because the Druids had all the fun at those festivals. Pope Boniface in an attempt to get some badly needed publicity declared Nov. 1 to be All Saints Day, also known as All Hallows day. You can see where this is going.
The belief was that there was a boundary between the Outerworld and Earth, except on Halloween. On that night the pukas, banshees, fairies and other spirits were free to come in and sit by your turf fire. Apples were everywhere in late October and the pukas, or Irish evil fairies would spit on all unharvested apples to make them inedible. Bad pukas! Most fairies were good, but the fomorians were a bad, bad lot. When they visited on Halloween, they could take your milk, grains or children back with them. Bad Fomorians!
Then there were the banshees, usually female spirits who warn of your approaching death with a blood curdling scream. You don’t want to meet, or even hear, these girls. You do, of course want to meet a leprechaun who may not give you his gold but will certainly share his poteen, or moonshine. Good leprechaun.
To ward off these nightmare characters at Samhain, huge bonfires were lit (I love fire) and the villagers donned masks and disguises hoping that the pukas grabbed your brother-in-law or David Grima by mistake. To keep the Pukas (relatively) happy, villagers would leave treats on the doorstep or the nearest whitethorn bush because everyone is in a better mood after some mead and colcannon (potatoes and cabbage, what else?). It was known that the pukas liked to party near a whitethorn bush. Naturally a spoon was left with the colcannon.
After a few pops on Halloween, the Irish got a little strange. They would peel an apple to see if the peelings spelled out the initials of their eventual mate. There was no television, so they put the ever-present apples in a water-filled bowl and “bobbed” for the fruit filled with coins to break a few teeth. After a few more drinks they would place a thimble in a communal bowl of colcannon. The person who pulled out the thimble was the first to get married. Lucky them.
It appears that “trick or treating” evolved from the Druids collecting eggs, nuts and apples from homes of the villagers, to ward off bad luck and to keep those damn pukas and banshees at bay. Those who didn’t leave enough (Think Grima) would have tricks played on them, like changing the direction a gate opened.
In order to ward off the pukas and banshees, the villages would place a candle in a hollowed out turnip and place it outside the door. Naturally menacing faces were carved in the turnip. You can see where this is going.
After walking through the gnarled woods outside Blarney Castle at dusk with Blue Eyes many years ago, I would believe anything. I think I saw a puka. I know I heard a fomorian. We drove away very, very fast.