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From: "colleen morrison" <>
Subject: Re: Halloween - & Horkey in N Essex
Date: Sun, 31 Oct 2004 14:33:44 -0000
References: <003401c4befa$09cabec0$> <001501c4bf16$e9202440$20dda8d5@cheesy>

I'm currently reading about the rituals of the Horkey - or Harvest Home
celebration - of Standon and in the far north of Essex. This involved
similar echoes of Christianity using modified Pagan ritual to that found in
Halloween. At the end of the harvest, harvesters decorated their caps with
oak sprigs and ears of wheat and hoisted the Horkey Bough, the great bough
of an oak which was triumphantly transported to the Horkey. Maybe there are
echoes of this in the Yule log at Christmas too.

Halloween appears to be a corruption of a pagan or Celtic festival, with
other, later, religious elements thrown in. Celtic Ireland 2000 years ago is
said to have had a rite called Samhain (Sow en, or Sow in) to celebrate the
Celtic New Year on 31/10, when time and space were supposedly suspended,
allowing dead family or ancestors to return in search of bodies to possess
for the coming year. The Celts are believed to have dressed up in animal
heads and skins for such rituals - a precursor of the masks worn at
Halloween. Celtic priests would make forecasts for the coming year: give the
King two extra loads of grain or he'll kill us - a Celtic Trick or treat?

The lives of our Celtic and Saxon ancestors were driven by much the same
natural and social forces that governed the lives of our medieval and more
recent rural ancestors and which in a sense still govern our lives - the
impact of the weather (and the perceived influence of God) on crops, animal
and human fecundity and cycles of life and death and the power of ruling
elites who used our fear of these forces. Rituals and laws which claimed to
ensure tribal or social 'sustainability', conveniently sustained the exalted
existence of the ruling elites - be they powerful, Celtic tribal Lords,
19th century Lords of the Manor, or today's politico-technocratic elite -
and their spin doctoring hangers on and priests. Do what we say or the Gods
will punish us, do what we say or climate change will zap us. Nothing really

The Medieval Catholic hierarchy used Pagan rites to annex power to
themselves and converted them into Christian festivals, such as All Hallows
Eve, All Saints or All Souls - Day around November 1st & 2nd. At all Souls
Day (I think) Soul Cakes made with currants were given to callers or beggars
in exchange for prayers which were believed to hasten the donor's passage to
heaven. Another Trick Or Treat?

The pumpkin/ Jack O' Lantern custom is interesting, this is supposed to have
originated in the Irish folk myth of a certain bad bloke called Jack who,
the story goes, tricked the devil up a tree then carved the cross beneath
him so that Satan couldn't get down. Jack then did a deal with Satan that if
Satan would never tempt him again, he'd let him down. When Jack died he
couldn't be admitted to either heaven or hell, but the devil gave him an
ember to light his way - which was placed inside a turnip to keep it alight.
Irish migrants are said to have carried this custom with them, to the US in
particular. Then the US gave the UK full blown Halloween, the convoluted
remnant of a custom which was the convoluted remnant of a another custom
we'd given them!


----- Original Message -----
From: <>

> How did our ancestors celebrate halloween? What is the
> story around Halloween? Doesn't it go back to old pagan rituals???
> When did the children start to 'trick or treat' in the UK??? I know here
> in
> Germany I have experienced the upcome of Halloween since I have moved
> here.
> When I first came here noone knew what Halloween was apart from the 31st
> October - now, 19 years later they are making a big thing of it, and they
> are even starting to have halloween motto partys and the kids go do there
> 'trick or treat' - all though here they call it 'Süßes oder Saures' ...
> Do you know of any other Halloween traditions? Ones of ancestors went by
> perhaps???
> Greetings from Germany
> Daine Lord

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