The 31st of October has arrived, and like every year it brings surreal celebrations and real controversy. Truth and legend, at the most charming and attractive international pagan festival of all the time and one of the most explosive events in British history.
Hallowe’en (i.e. All Hallows Even) is an ancient festival derived from Celtic Irish paganism. The Celts, a group of Indo-European peoples who lived in northern Europe since the 4th century BC, were influenced by the cycles of the moon and the stars. Samhain, a sort of new year that separated the summer from the winter, was at a point outside the temporal dimension that was neither the old nor the new year. At that moment the veil that separated from the land of the dead, thinned, and the living could access it. This was the most magical time of year: the day that never existed. This ancient people did not believe in demons, but rather in fairies and in elves, both non-lovers of human beings, who tried to hinder their actions with often dangerous jokes. Nowadays, to ward off bad luck, children dressed as witches and vampires knock at thirteen doors shouting “Trick or treat?”, an appeal to the tradition of leaving some sweets on the table in honour of the dead. The Irish legend tells of Jack O’ Lantern, a dissolute drunkard, who an Hallowe’en night, sold his soul to the devil for two years in a row to pay his gambling debts, but he always managed to cheat it until his death. Rejected from Heaven Jack appeared at the Gates of Hell, but Lucifer also did not open the door. When Jack left the Gates of Hell the demon threw a firebrand which Jack placed inside a turnip quarry, to get light in his ceaseless wandering in search of a home. It became tradition to dig up pumpkins and put candles in them to illuminate the way for Jack O’Lantern, eternal errant in search of rest. For centuries the Catholic Church has tried to eliminate this pagan festival, but eventually had to accept its strength and deep roots in the popular soul. The event was eventually consecrated, and Samhain became All Saints Day and All Souls.
In November, Jack gives way to Guy Fawkes, an English military revolutionary who really existed. Fawkes was a member of a group of English Catholic conspirators who attempted to assassinate King James I of England and all members of the British Parliament with an explosion, while they were together in the House of Lords for the opening of parliamentary sessions of 1605. The plot was discovered by a soldier of the King and barrels of gunpowder were defused before they could do any damage. Since then, every 5th of November English children go around the country with “guys” (a type of stuffed doll effigy) reciting a rhyme and asking for money from citizens to give to the parents to buy fireworks for the bonfire. This festival celebrates the survival of the King, illuminating the night sky with spectacular pyrotechnic displays.
In the presence of zombies and evil spirits, dangerously playful fairies and elves, and drunks wandering and mocking, the only thing to do to not disappear into the fires of darkness and to sleep soundly, is to be armed with a large branch of holly: in Great Britain this plant is considered to be sacred because it is believed that the sharp and pungent leaves as weapons of defence have the power to drive away evil spirits.
[PrismaNews.net - Cronaca News Cronaca 31-10: a day never existed. Jack and Guy’s legend DOMENICA 28 OTTOBRE 2012 BARBARA NICOTRA]