Indianz.Com > News > Clara Caufield: The tribal roots of a haunted holiday
A Halloween scene. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Happy Halloween
Friday, October 30, 2020
Native Sun News Today Columnist
Note: Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

Here we are again, at the start of what I call the “Fall & Winter Party Season”. First comes Halloween, then Turkey Day, right upon its heels Christmas and then New Year’s. This year and perhaps well into the future, due to the COVID many of these celebrations will be much different than before.

Already, for example trick or treating – going door to door – is being discouraged because of social distancing. Although its pretty conclusive that the virus isn’t transmitted by food, it is transmitted by people and part of the great fun of Halloween has ever been to show off either frightful or delightful costumes, trying to stump people with your identity. I guess this year, I’ll leave some treats by the front door for salvage, but that takes the fun out of it too.

As for Turkey Day (I refuse to call it Thanksgiving, because as Natives what do we have to be thankful for about that development), COVID specialists are already warning about the dangers of small, intimate gatherings of family and friends, suspecting that might be a major means of transmission. What? No stuffing, cranberries, Mom’s famous jello salad or punkin pie – about the only time we have such delicacies? To say nothing about the card games which followed. Just don’t seem right.

Back to Halloween. Do you know that this started as a very old tribal, (now called pagan) event? It was among the Celtic People, who lived about 2,000 years ago, ancestors of modern-day Irish, to which I also claim heritage. On October 31, the last day of the year, they observed the Samhain celebration, also known as All Hollows Eve, when ghosts could roam the earth.

While the Druids, 9their tribal priests) made large bon fires to keep ghosts (spirits) at bay, the people dressed up, wearing costumes to confuse or ward off ghosts. It was also the end of summer and harvest, the beginning of cold and dark winter. In addition, having ghosts roaming the earth on this last night of the year, the Celts believed it was then easier for the Druids to make prophecies for the upcoming year. The priests would make huge bonfires also wearing costumes, often furs and animal heads.

By 43 AD the Roman Empire had defeated the Celts, killing all the Druids in the process, just as later America would try to eradicate Native American priests and ceremonial leaders.


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Note: Copyright permission Native Sun News Today