Posts made in October 2020

Ghosts Come Out to Play on Halloween

Our ancestors, the early Celts celebrated the Feast of Samhain on October 31. They were marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. As balladeer Danny O’Flaherty from the Gaelic-speaking region of Connemara, Ireland shared with me, October 31 was Celtic New Year. These early Celts also believed that on October 31, the barrier between the natural world and the supernatural world was lowered and spirits of the dead were free to wander about.

Our ancestors were not particularly interested in bumping into a spirit or a ghost so they gathered together and built large bonfires to ward off the darkness . . . and the spirits. When it was time to return to their homes, they carved out a gourd and placed an ember from the bonfire inside the gourd to light their way home (the precursor to flashlights). They also covered themselves in animal skins, hoping the spirits wouldn’t recognize them (the origin of our present-day habit of wearing Halloween costumes). On arriving home, they put out food or treats to appease the spirits (how “Trick or Treating” began).

The question becomes do ghosts or spirits of the dead also believe in keeping alive the tradition of celebrating on the Feast of Samhain (October 31)? Do ghosts still favor parading about in larger-than-normal numbers on Halloween? Are we more likely to encounter them on Halloween? Hard to tell. With so many costumed witches, warlocks, skeletons, hairy monsters going door-to-door, who knows what is actually lurking among them. But it is fun to imagine.
The town of Salem, Ma is having a hard time this season. They expected fewer visitors due to Covid but people keep pouring in. The mayor of Salem has gone on television pleading with people that if they don’t have a reservation already at one of the surrounding hotels to please stay away. They are finding it impossible to enforce social distancing and the mask mandate.

So apparently ghost seekers still believe that the barrier between the natural and supernatural world is going down the closer it gets to Halloween and the chances of bumping into a ghost, especially in Salem, home to witches and warlocks, is going up.
Certainly, it’s hard to avoid thoughts of spirits or ghosts with so many decorations, jack-o-lantern, mock tombstones, and plastic skeletons reminding us that Halloween, All Hallows Eve, is approaching. So if I were a ghost would I simply give in and join in? Why not? If that wall is down between the living and the dead, I’d welcome the invitation to the party.

Happy Halloween and let me know if you’ve had an exciting encounter with one of your ancestors this Halloween season.
And for those of you who’d like to hear and see (via photos) a few ghost stories from my book, The Haunting of Cape Cod and the Islands, I will be the guest speak for the Virtual Supper Series at Highfield Hall and Gardens (the museum is haunted by the ghost of Emily) on Thursday, Oct. 22 from 6-7:30 pm via Zoom.