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Monday, October 31, 2011

BOO BABY!

At last Halloween is upon us and Fall has arrived, my favorite season for obvious reasons. Mother Nature paints her landscape with colorful leaves and then spills them everywhere, the air is crispy, the sun sets earlier and then rises later and above all, there's Halloween.

Autumn is here and summer is gone and tonight's the time for witches to mount their brooms, goblins to haunt the streets and neighbors to stock up with treats lest there be tricks to pay. Are you scared yet?

To honor my favorite day of the year let's play a little 'betcha didn't know' and I'll share some Halloween facts, Jack!

For starters, betcha didn't know that over $1.5 billion is spent on costumes for Halloween each year and more than $2.5 billion on other Halloween paraphernalia. Recession? No...Monster Mash rules!

Betcha didn't know that 86% of Americans decorate their homes for Halloween! That's the Spirit, America!!

Betcha didn't know that 90% of parents confess to raiding goodies from their kid's trick or treat bags. Darn right! Me big, you little, that's the way of the world, kids! Now run your little buns around the block one more time, we're low on chocolate.

Halloween brings out the orange and black colors...betcha don't know why. Orange is associated with the Fall Harvest and black represents darkness and death. Utterly spellbinding, eh?

Here's a goodie...betcha didn't know that pumpkins are a fruit and also come in white, blue and green colors. It's the state fruit of New Hampshire and consists of 90% water...the pumpkin, not the state. Before pumpkins became the jack-o-lanterns we know of today, turnips and beets were actually the original jack-o-lanterns...and I'm betting you didn't know that either. Well, truth be told there's a story about a guy named Jack. Jack was this stingy, drunkard blacksmith who lived in Ireland. One night Jack had the misfortune of running into the Devil at a pub and legend tells us it was on Halloween night. Seems Jack had himself a little too much to drink that night and was just about to fall into the clinches of the very Devil himself when he managed to trick the Devil by offering up his soul in exchange for one last drink. Go figure, huh? So the Devil magically turns himself into a sixpence to pay the bartender but Jack takes it and puts it in his purse. Consequently because Jack happened to have a silver cross in his purse, the Devil was unable to change himself back. Jack would not let the Devil go until he promised to not claim his soul for ten years.

Negotiations went well for Jack and the Devil agreed to his proposal. Now it's ten years later and Jack comes across the Devil while strolling along a country road. Naturally, the Devil was ready to collect Jack's soul. Time indeed had come up to pay the Devil but Jack being a quick thinker said "I'll go, but before I go, will you get me an apple from that tree?" The Devil figured he had nothing to lose so he hopped up on Jack's shoulders to grab the apple. Suddenly Jack pulls out his knife and carves a cross in the tree trunk. This left the Devil suspended in the air, unable once again to take Jack or his soul. Then Jack made the Devil promise to never again ask for his soul. The Devil could see no way around this so he reluctantly agreed to Jack's request.

Years later old Jack finally dies and because of his life of heavy drinking and being deceitful to all who crossed his path along with his stingy, tightfisted ways, he was denied access to Heaven. Nowhere else to turn he applied for entrance to Hell and much to his surprise he was again turned away. The Devil was simply honoring his promise to never take Jack's soul. Jack asked the Devil where he should go and the Devil said go back where you came from. Jack soon found his way back to be very dark and windy so Jack pleaded with the Devil to give him some light to find his way. The Devil tossed a live hot coal straight from the fires of Hell at Jack. Jack placed it in the turnip he was eating so he could light his way and prevent it from blowing out in the wind.

Ever since then stingy old Jack has been doomed to wander in darkness with his lantern until "Judgment day". So Jack of the lantern became known as Jack-O-Lantern, the symbol of a damned soul.

Hope this spells things out for the rest of you....don't be stingy, drink in moderation, and for crying out loud, do not talk to strangers in the bar!

So that was Jack's story but betcha also didn't know that people also placed candles in hollowed out turnips to keep spirits and ghosts away on what they called the Samhain holiday. Samhain sounds out like sow-en or sow-in. The word we know as 'Halloween' had its origin in the Catholic church and comes from a contraction of All Hallows Eve. November 1st, "All Saints Day", is a Catholic day of observance in honor of saints. But in the 5th century BC, in Celtic Ireland, summer was officially over on October 31st. This holiday was called Samhain or the Celtic New Year...meaning 'end of summer'.

Legend claims on this day, the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the previous year would come back searching for living bodies to possess for the next year. Sounds like a spooky shopping spree to me. Anyway, it is believed to be their only hope for the afterlife. The Celts believe all laws of space and time were suspended during this time allowing the spirit world to mingle with the living.

Oddly enough, the living didn't care much for being possessed. Imagine that! So on the night of October 31st, villagers would put their fires out at home to make them as cold and undesirable as possible. Then they would dress up in ghoulish costumes and noisily parade around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible, in order to frighten away spirits searching for bodies to possess. Hmm, kind of like occupying wall street of the day?!

For some more trivia, betcha didn't know that the 1978 movie titled "Halloween" was filmed in a short 21 days on a very limited budget. The movie was shot during the spring so they had to fake the Fall leaves. Although the film is set in Illinois, oddly enough all the vehicles in the movie had California license plates. Spooky, huh?

Betcha didn't know that black cats were once believed to be witch's familiars and were there to protect their powers. The witch is a central symbol of Halloween. The name comes from the Saxon wica, meaning wise one. When setting out for a Sabbath, witches rubbed a sacred ointment onto their skin. This gave them a sensation of flying, and if they had been fasting they felt even giddier.

Some witches rode on horseback, but poor witches went on foot and carried a broom or a pole to aid in vaulting over streams. In England when new witches were initiated they were often blindfolded, smeared with flying ointment and placed on a broomstick. The ointment would confuse the mind, speed up the pulse and numb the feet. When they were told "you are flying over land and sea" the witch took their words for it.

Anybody know where we can purchase some of this flying ointment? Betcha don't know! Happy Haunting and Twick or Tweets to all!
Sister Very Black & Catty

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