Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Saturday, October 31, 2015


Disclaimer: At this point in my life, I do not celebrate holidays as such. I have nothing against celebrating them, but maybe I did it for so much of my life that now I'm holidayed out. They are an excellent excuse for getting together with family and friends and that's about the sum total of my interest in them. Maybe someday I'll get back into the holiday mood.

moon photos from our Tucson home looking toward the mountain
Samhain (pronounced sow-in), October 31st, is the Celtic festival of the dead, and it explains many Halloween traditions. Because it is right before All Saints Day and at the time of the Mexican Day of the Dead, its rituals have been mixed with Christianity and paganism (as are many of our holiday traditions). I've read examples of how some put up altars to their dead family and friends-- not as a seance or to bring them back but to appreciate who they were and how they still love them. Such an altar can be created with photographs as well as objects connected to them. 

For those with a supernatural, paranormal interest, this is a time where supposedly the living and dead are closest together, where the barrier between them is thinnest. Anyone interested in connecting with someone on the other side, this might be the night for it. 

In a simpler, more nature oriented way, it is regarded as the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. I get the pumpkins, with the end of the harvest, but how did black cats get associated with Halloween? From what I can tell, it does not go back to the Celtic festival, but may relate to when witches were regarded as evil, and some believed they could shape-shift into black cats. Hence a black cat might be a witch, I guess. 

 our two black cats on the bed in the trailer on our way down

Some, of course, regard those beauties as bad luck. Personally, having had many black cats through the years, I regard them as good luck. The sloe-eyed one is Raven and the more masculine appearing one is Blackie.

I actually wrote about Samhain in my fourth Oregon historical, the one due out December 21st. The hero had a Scottish ancestry and grew up in the South where often there have been interesting mixtures of cultural traditions. It seems sad to me that so many of our holidays have reverted to commercial interests, and their spiritual origins have been lost.

The following is a snippet from that book, Love Waits. Keep in mind, this is  before the final edit; so might change a bit. It doesn't matter who the characters are as it's about a tradition that has been long forgotten-- most places.

   Belle headed back down the hall and looked in on Rand before she went to the children’s rooms. The girls were already whispering and so she opened the door without knocking. Jessica seemed enamored of whatever Laura was telling her. She looked up at Belle. “Samhain,” she said. “That’s what it is next week. Did you know that?”

   “No, I did not. What does it mean?”

   “It’s when we play games and bob for apples, and something Uncle Jed called Puicini. It’s kind of fortune telling. Do you think that’s bad?”

   Belle smiled. “Not at all. How do you play it?”

   “You are blindfolded and then there are four saucers in front of you. They are moved around. The one you choose is what your next year will be full of.”

   “And the saucers are each?

   “Earth, water, beans, and money. I guess we all want money as not sure what the others would mean.” Laura grinned. “Uncle Jed said they do this from where he came. It’s a nighttime game. He said sometimes even with fireworks. I haven’t yet gotten to do it but they said we will.”

   “It sounds like great fun especially the bobbing for apples.”

   “It might be pagan.” Laura’s face took on a worried expression.

   “It doesn’t sound like that,” Belle said as she helped Jessica out of her nightgown and into a dress. “It sounds like it is nature oriented. Working the earth and it yielding all you wanted, would be like a garden. The water would be maybe a trip.” She smiled as she considered other options. “Or enough rain to keep the land good. Beans would be food, and of course, we know what money is, don’t we.”

   “He said they sometimes decorate for it too. It’s also about the ones who... went before us. Kind of, I think.”

   “Then even better.”

   “Except, he said sometimes there are ghost stories,” Laura said. “That might be scary.”
Ghosts might be scary, or then again, it might just be what is. This could be a night to think about that... 


robin andrea said...

I always appreciate when you remind me of the other names of seasons. I like knowing that we are between equinox and solstice, and the holidays that are celebrated at this time. Love your moon photos. It surprises me how much our skies looked like yours the day after the full moon. Dark clouds and moonlight. Beautiful.

Tabor said...

Nicely summarized and what an interesting activity with the fortune telling. I am sure it dates back many many years. We need the spooky with the normal. Yin and Yang.

Joared said...

Holidays have become so commercialized in my lifetime that they've lost all significance to me anymore. Interesting to read about their history & how they've evolved.