Where our witches at? Women Are Boring is donning its Hallowe’en hat for the weekend and getting SPOOKY. This piece, by Dr. Lucy Ryder, is the first in our two-part Hallowe’en series (the second is coming on Monday). Read on and learn all about where Hallowe’en originated, and how women have always been central to the festival.
We love you, Lisa Simpson
Where does Hallowe’en come from?
Hallowe’en is one of most secular of religious festivals, and possibly the most misunderstood. Deriving from the considerably more ancient Samhain (first recorded in the Irish tale Tochmarc Emire meaning ‘When the summer goes to rest”) the current fright night we now experience is a long way from its very ancient, but decidedly muddled, origins.
From an archaeological viewpoint, the period around Samhain (stretching from 31st October to, in some traditions, November 2nd) is difficult but not impossible to trace for the landscape…
My grandad used to say that bad luck came in threes, and to stop the trouble we needed to break a match.
It’s a little tradition I’ve taken into adulthood (and think of him each time), but as I caught myself carrying out the ritual tonight I stopped to think about it a little more.
I know that “three on a match” – that is three cigarettes lit from one match – was deemed unluckily in both the First and Second World Wars, and was thought to foretell the death of one of the triplet. It is suspected that the superstition may even go back to the Crimean War for its origin.
My grandad’s time in Monte Cassino during WWII would have certainly needed all the luck he could get, and is undoubtedly where our family superstition came from, if altered.
But what is it about the number three?
In the case of the match, it is sometimes thought that keeping a flame lit long enough the light 3 cigarettes would give the location of soldiers away to the enemy, but it’s bad luck connotations appear elsewhere.
Apparently three butterflies on a leaf is also unlucky, and an owl calling three times will bring misfortune.
On the flip side, it is seen as good insofar as it represents the holy trinity, and the stages of creation and life for cultures such as the ancient Babylonians and in the Chinese tradition.
Whatever the reason I’ve broken my match this evening, as a positive action to move forward. Wish me luck 🍀…
I’m supposed to be writing, I mean ‘proper’ writing for an edited book. The problem with having a day job unrelated to my research is that I’ve have to write when time allows rather than when inspiration strikes.
So I have a chapter deadline looming fast, and my motivation has gone off to hide. As such I’m procrastinating; one such diversion is helping with some local history work of my village.
Everything is everso much more interesting when you’re trying to avoid the thing you need to do, and I’ve been happy to be pulled away on this tangent. But something is wrong. As a landscape archaeologist I have a standard toolkit of things to check first, which for my research also means delving into the local lore.
Except there isn’t any. There is nothing, not a pixie, ghost, or petrification in sight.
At first I thought I was just not looking in the right places, but hitting the internet to check more obscure gazetteers I was still drawing a blank.
How can a place have no narrative of it’s community? Is it down to the lack of existence or lack of preservation? If the latter, why? Is there some reason, when surrounded by the Blackdown Hills that are filled with Willow-o-wisps, ghosts of dead rebels, dragons, and great battles of giants warriors and pixies there is nothing that sheds light of the beliefs of the villagers that lived here before me.
I have to admit, I am at a loss to explain, but it does elicit further distraction – I am determined to get to bottom of this odd deficit in my database.
I’ve neglected my blog for a long time, a mix of time short and illness has meant that sitting down to write has been difficult. My target of a blog a week has well and truly gone out of the window.
But it’s June and I’m taking part the Wildlife Trust’s 30 days wild so I’m going to hijack my blog to post the 30 wild posts. To keep it vaguely relevant, like last year, I’m going to try and link the ‘wildness’ to landscapes, folklore, archaeology, or all three is possible!
So… Day one: as part of Little Un’s continued birthday celebrations (and half term break) we went to the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth. I loved seeing the diversity of plants and animals from around the UK coast line (and further afield…) and little un truly loved the Shark tank….
But one of my favourite exhibits were the jellies – there was something about the beauty that was mesmerising.
I found the Common Jellyfish or Moon Jellies fascinating – and as they are prevalent around the British coastline, I’ve chosen them for my first wild experience of 2016. If it hadn’t been for the wild ones I would have happily spent my time watching them…. 🙂
Unsurprisingly I guess, much of the folklore relating to jellyfish is Japanese (I found a lovely story here) – in Britain there isn’t much that i have come across, with the exception of modern ‘urban myths’ of jelly invasions of large swarms; many of which are based on fact.
So for Day One I’ll just have to be content with the wildlife itself – and that is probably enough.