Friday, November 1, 2013

The Celtic Halloween

Halloween plays an important role at the end of my book Thorn Jack. It is traditionally the night when the spirits of the dead revisit the world and make themselves known. In Celtic lore, this is when the faery folk, who intermingled with the dead as if existing in the same space, are also visible. In Celtic culture, Halloween was called Samhain, Summer's End, the end of the light part of the year and the beginning of the dark half. It is the night when the Wild Hunt, a procession of spirits, rides, led by any one of the following: Herne the Hunter, the Greek goddess Diana, the Norse deity Odin, Harlequin, King Arthur, St. Lucy (who, in Scandinavia, is believed to be the goddess Freya).

Masks, used in primitive cultures for a variety of reasons, were also a shield against malicious spirits, or used to frighten them away. And the famous 'Trick or Treat' could be a reference to the faery folk, when failure to leave milk or bread for the faeries resulted in some sort of mischief.

In the Scottish ballad 'Tam Lin', a young woman must rescue the mysterious young man she loves from being sacrificed by the queen of the faeries on Halloween.
                      'And pleasant is the fairyland,
                       But, an eerie tale to tell,
                       For, at the end of seven years,
                       We pay a teind to hell.
                       I am so fair and full of flesh,
                       I'm fear'd it be myself.'
Some great books inspired by 'Tam Lin':
                       The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope (set in Elizabethan times)
                       Tam Lin by Pamela Dean (set in a Minnesota college)
                       Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones (set in a town in England)

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