History Ancient Practices

How the Pope stole Halloween 1200 years ago

In the spirit for more spooky stories? Check out our Halloween series!

Halloween – what a weird word. There’s nothing quite like it phonetically in the English language. Except for “hello”, and “sweets”. Man, if only it really did mean just that. But the term’s real history is less on-the-nose.

At school we learn that the word is just a simple contraction of “all Hallows’ eve” and that is true. But before it was called any of these things, it was originally known as Samhain or Sauin.

Samhain is where most of Halloween today stems from

Pronounced ‘Sow-Win’ (kinda sounds like Gretchen Wieners is trying to coin a term for success; “omg that’s like, so win”) this pagan ritual was an ancient Gaelic celebration where the Celtic people marked the end of their calendar year and prepared for the dark, cold winter.

Because this “dark half of the year” was a time often associated with human death, Celts believed that on Samhain, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead disappeared, presenting a one-night-only connection to the supernatural. People would dress up in costume and present food offerings outside their homes to ward off any unruly ghosts, as well as attempt to get their fortunes read around the bonfire. This is where the elements of spooky, dress up, and trick-or-treating first came from, as well. 

Samhain was Christianized into All Souls’ Day

But being a pagan ritual, Samhain was eventually Christianized and reframed as All Hallow’s Eve. All Hallow’s Day was one of the three days Roman Christians would honor and pray for the ‘hallows’ to reach heaven; hallow [v.] being an archaic term for a holy person. These days already held similar rituals to Samhain, like parades and dressing up as angels and devils. So allegedly, in the ninth century AD, Pope Gregory III switched the original date of All Hallow’s Day which fell on 13 May to instead fall on November 1st, attempting to overwrite the non-religious occasion. I suppose it does make sense to commemorate the dead when it’s darkest, so can we really blame him? 

But the true Samhain still reigns supreme

Once Halloween had itself a new Christian dogma, the world said “so long” to the word ‘So-Win’. But while the celebration was intended to turn holy, the original pagan myths, beliefs and rituals were never quite done away with. Of course, over time these rituals morphed and spread,  blowing up even more with the mass Irish migration to America into the Halloween we know and love today. So while Halloween may have undergone a name change, it’s still pretty much ye olde festival from 2000 years ago.

Except now we have heaters and eat too much candy.

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Culture Life

Why I am constantly drawn to lavender

I find that my most blissful moments remind me of the strong, calming scent of lavender. For one reason or another, I relate it to a lot of the more meaningful aspects of my life. To me, lavender is like a feeling; like the wind brushing up against your skin.

While I think that lavender is largely optimistic, I also find a certain sorrow that is comfortable, even humble, in its presence. I’ve come to appreciate it in every shape and form – the color, the flower, the scent. Its hard to place; not sweet or bitter, but rather musty. 

Lavender manages to incorporate itself into my life seemingly on a whim and in the most fleeting of moments. We have a peculiar relationship. I am stomach-knottingly anxious in the presence of many, especially when I first meet them. But, with some, I sense lavender, and I know that something great is about to happen. It is more of a feeling than anything else. Just talking to some people can be rejuvenating, and perhaps it is because our meeting reminds me of that warm, soft smell of a mid-spring day when the sun is bright and pure, and the entire day lies ahead.

Nowadays, when I am feeling an emotion that is simply beyond words, I say that I am overflowing with lavender. 

According to etymology, the English word “lavender” is derived from the Latin “lavare,” which translates to “to wash.” It is a necessary refinement – a cleanse. I am purified with every utterance of the word. 

Perhaps it’s not just me. In literature, lavender has been used significantly as a token of love. To me, it’s more like a notion of love at first sight. Shakespeare offers a bouquet of “hot lavender” in The Winter’s Tale. Cleopatra also roots lavender with love, as she is said to have used its sultry perfume to seduce both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Christians are also known to have used it as a repellent of evil. The plant is said to have been taken from the Garden of Eden and is sometimes found hanging in a cross shape above the doors of some Christian households as a means of protection. There are so many songs with the title lavender, my favorite being by The Beach Boys, and there have also been many poems written about it, too. Take, for example, this quote by an anonymous writer, “as rosemary is to the spirit, lavender is to the soul.” 

Lavender is swift, like a movement, carrying me in and out of perfectly imperfect moments. The vision of it is rather uplifting as well. It stands delicately tall among the rest, but it is not intimidating either. I adore its confrontation. In fact, I look forward to it.