GHOST STORIES, BONFIRES, AND TRICK OR TREATING

ARTICLE 2: HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN SERIES

TALES OF MY DEAD

Those who know me personally, know how much I miss, love, and talk about my Dad (my father died 7 years ago, this October 20th). These conversations are always light-hearted and comical, and that’s the way my Dad would want it. Even tonight, we were sitting around the dinner table, and my husband pointed to the red spaghetti sauce dripping down his chin and said, “Hey Jenny! Look!!! I’m your Dad.”

My dad always had food dripping down his chin when he ate, and so we all laugh whenever we “pull” a Dad! We’re not JUST laughing at him, because we had the kind of relationship where we could all laugh at each other–we are laughing with him, because he IS still with us! We still celebrate him because his personality is so much a part of how we function in life. My Dad is still one of the reasons I throw an annual Halloween Party. He loved Halloween, and so do I! I carry on this same family tradition with my own family, because traditions are what keep families united on this side and that side of the veil!

PARTY LIKE A HALLOWEEN ROCKSTAR

Every year my husband and I throw an annual Halloween Party. It’s a blast! We brew homemade root beer (you can find our recipe HERE), dress up in costumes, jam to our favorite Halloween tunes, and eat the most delicious food with friends and family! For me, genuinely, it is my favorite celebration of the year! However, this past year we did something a little different. We broke for a moment during the Halloween party to reveal a little bit about the Salem Witch Trials, and ALSO to tell a few Ghost stories to the crowd. I turned out the lights, grabbed a flashlight, gathered all my guests into the front from, and in an exaggerated, spooky voice I began telling them tales of the dead—BWAHAHAHA!

DON’T FORGET ME, EVEN THOUGH I’M DEAD

The tradition of Halloween, also known as All Hallow’s Eve, was originally a holiday devoted to remembering your dead, AND WOW, there are so many different religious traditions from past and present cultures devoted to this very practice—including the roots of my own Mormon faith. You see, the heavens then and now were connect to things on earth. Everything was part of one big life cycle. Now gather with me around the bonfire while I tell you a story about souls of the dead—you know, THAT SAME bonfire that they used to build to keep away evil spirits and taunting ghosts!!! BOOOOOO!

GATHERING AROUND THE BONFIRE

Fires are cleansing. When you’re alone in the wilderness, fires keep you safe from dangerous animals. When you’re feeling cold, the fire keeps you warm. When you can’t see, the flame of a candle lights your way—and in that SAME WAY, a flame of a fire burns AND it cleans away evil —just like lighting a “bundle of sage” to clear a room from evil spirits. Bonfires were also used to ward off evils spirits. This sounds all Halloweeny and stuff, but did you know that most ancient religions saw fire this way? Imagine sitting around a bonfire telling the tales of, not just any dead, but of YOUR dead! Do you have a story to tell? Do your dead speak to you? As the ancient custom goes, light a bonfire to keep the evil spirits away, and tell a true story of your encounter with your dearly, departed dead—ghost story, that is, to fill the void their departure has left in your heart and the hearts of others! Lighting the bonfire and telling the tale was done to provide remembrance—that the dead (our ancestors anyway) were still with us, guiding our paths.” Not only do the dead guide our paths, but ancient traditions also show that we ALSO guide the dead trapped in purgatory (i.e. pick your title, Hades, Hell, Sheol, Spirit Prison…etc. etc. etc.) to a better place.

WHO’S GUIDING WHO THROUGH THE FIRE

Anciently, many cultures believed that their ancestors guided them on their journey through this life in the flesh. The dead guide us, but wait, am I understanding this correctly—do we also guide them? Well that depends if they are stuck down in that damning place called hell? You’ve all heard about those preacher’s screaming about hell, fire, and damnation from the pulpit, and man oh man, the way they talk, everybody must be down there in that hell! But did you know, many ancient cultures believed AND worshiped in a way that communicated there was a pathway out of this “damnation” before a final judgement?

KEEP THE CANDLE LIT

If you study the history of Witch Craft (as I am sure you all do), candles were lit and placed in window sills between the hours of 11 and midnight. As long as these candles burned between these hours, nothing evil would happen—this custom was called the “lating of the witches.” Witches, in general, were believed to have power to control the spirits of the dead. For hundreds of years, there have been fables that tell of witches hanging out in cemeteries, conjuring up evil spirits, casting spells to control the spirits—blah blah blah! Sounds really scary when you’re talking about the ladies with broomsticks, but guess who also lit candles for the dead? The Jews did—on their religious holiday called Yom Kippur. Whenever someone died, it left a dark space in the lives of their families still on this earth, and so a candle was ALSO lit between “certain hours” to provide “light” to replace the “darkness” that was left when they passed. In another similar tradition, on All Hallow’s Eve, Catholic families would gather together on a hill, light a pitchfork filled with straw on fire, and pray for the dead souls of those trapped in purgatory until the last spark blew out. And what do ya know, even in the ancient Druid cultures they were lighting bonfires at the turn of the season to fight against the “darkness” that was coming in winter. Sounds like all kinds of religious people throughout history (at a specific moment in the change of seasons) are lighting fires, praying for the souls of their dead, and keeping those fires lit to keep out evil spirits! Sounds like we’ve got a common thread here.

THE BEGINNING OF DARKNESS

Look outside your window—yes, right now! What is happening outside? Well, it’s starting to get colder. It is also the end of the “growing” season for crops, and oh yeah, it gets darker a whole lot earlier in the evenings. What does this mean? It means winter is coming! For the ancients, the end of the “growing season” was a scary time. Had they prepared enough and grown enough food to survive the coming winter? For religious peoples, “the end of an age” was a scary time too. Do you have enough “spiritual oil” in your lamps? Did you store enough “spiritual grain” to survive the coming famine? Why do we need oil and grain????? HA! To make hot cakes over the fire of course, and that’s also a ritual found in scriptures and ancient traditions (all connecting back to Halloween). Just check out that widowed, woman “gathering sticks” to “kindle a fire”, and using the last of her “oil” and “flour” to make “cakes” to feed a wandering, hungry prophet named Elijah who knocked on her door). (1 Kings 17:7-16)

SOUL CAKES—YOU MIGHT AS WELL YELL TRICK OR TREAT

On the calendar (seasonal alignment) of All Hallows’ Eve, there is this crazy tradition occurring in various ancient religious cultures where they bake breads called “soul cakes” and pass them out to small children who knock on the door. The small cakes are filled with all kinds of delicious fall spices, dried fruits, and made with a little oil and flour. These cakes were passed out to “souls” who sang and “begged” for treats at this “specific” night of the year that has been dubbed All Hallows’ Eve. There is symbolic exchange taking place in this ritual—the poor, hungry souls of the dead “sing” in exchange for sweet treats and prayers. In portugal, the ritual included small children dressing up in white sheets, knocking on doors and begging for sweet, bread-like cakes. If you ask me, this “soul cake” thing sounds exactly like trick-or-treating, and maybe even that “widow and the prophet Elijah” thing recorded in scripture. Anciently, children used to knock on doors for sweet cakes, and now our children knock on doors for candy—it’s a pattern.

INTERPRETING THE RITUALS, RITES, PATTERNS, AND ORDINANCES OF THE DAY

You know, I see ancient rituals differently than a lot of people. I see these rituals as a “language” that can be spoken between past and present generations, as well as this world and the next. Have you ever watched a psychic medium on TV? If you have, pay attention to the way they communicate with the dead. You will observe that they often speak back and forth to the dead using “symbols.” They will say something like, your dead ancestor is showing me “my symbol for…THIS” which means “that they want YOU to know THIS specific thing.” In THAT same way, I ALSO “see” religious rites and patterns as a language used to communicate between heaven and earth. To me, these religious rites are a method of communication that is passed down from generation to generation to “leave behind” a message and language for future descendants to communicate with the world beyond. What did our ancestors want us to know?

DRAWING FROM MY OWN MORMON ROOTS

In 1842, Old Joe gave instructions on the doctrine of “Baptisms for the Dead.” Now of course, in order to understand the words of Joseph Smith, you’re going to have to understand the difference between “doctrine” and “ordinance.” Doctrines are “teachings or instructions” and ordinances are “outward performances and religious rites.” There is the inward understanding and the outward practice—and to know the difference and importance of each will change the way you “see” events in scripture! It’s the difference between wearing a cross and claiming to be a Christian because of what you “wear,” and “becoming” a Christian because you have actually “taken up THAT cross.” Is it possible to do both? Of course, but one practice can not replace the other—and only ONE defines a true Christian—because only ONE requires you to actually follow Him up to THAT Mount Zion and “become” like Him. See the difference?

THE DEAD COME OUT OF THEIR GRAVES

Now to words of Old Joe Smith from my Mormon faith, (he actually was only in his 30’s at this time, and though he was not old, his doctrinal understanding, indeed, made him an old soul). Joseph Smith believed that the baptism of the living also paralleled a “pattern” for baptizing those “trapped” in spirit prison on the other side of the veil (D&C 128:12). This doctrinal teaching gives a whole new meaning to the event that occurs after Christ is crucified and resurrected, where it is recorded of the dead,“and the graves were opened, and many of the bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves.” (Matthew 27:52) The Apostle Paul said of baptism, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4). Baptism appears, according to these guys anyway, to be a “raising,” from death to life, and the scriptures declare boldly that the dead DID “rise” from their graves—and so we can see an interesting parallel in these descriptions between the dead and the living.

DAY OF THE DEAD

There is this fun Mexican holiday called the Day of the Dead! I have some friends that party hard on this day! They dress up in some of the most beautiful, symbolic attire to celebrate this festival! The Day of the Dead, begins on October 31st (what a coincidence) and lasts for 3 days (also another symbolic coincidence if you ACTUALLY read using a “lens” of “symbolism as a language” in scripture). During this holiday, the dead are honored with gifts, foods, and beverages for the departed on their gravestones (oh my goodness this sounds like another symbolic parallel). Guess who also left gifts of food and beverages for their deceased in their tombs—that’s right, the Egyptians! Gosh, there are patterns of this practice everywhere.

ALL HALLOWS EVE—DO YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO FEED THEM?

All Hallows’ Eve was a night described in “ritual” where the veil (the separation between this world and the world of the departed) was the thinnest, and it was on THIS night that the souls of the dead were out searching for “food.” Spiritual food, that is, since they didn’t actually eat real food (hence all the symbols of leaving food on the graves of the dead that would eventually just spoil anyway).

PASSING OUT SWEETS TO THE GHOSTS AT THE DOOR

We’re fleshy people are the ones with bodies that eat, but are they not a “body,” or should I say a “spiritual embodiment,” at the very least—you know, what we call a ghost! BWAHAHAHA! This “spiritual food” was supposed to “sustain” these souls before the “darkness” came. Have you passed out any “soul cakes” lately? Have you left any “food” on the graves of your dead? Did you ever think they might need help on their journey through a “spiritual wilderness” on the other side of the veil? Just thinking out loud here, but I wonder, Ohhh, I wonder, if those sweetly, baked soul cakes resemble that sweet, bread-like substance called “manna” that fell from heaven to feed the Children of Israel on their journey, and maybe, ohhhhhhh, just maybe, there are souls looking for a “cake” from us, just like those Children of Israel that looked for cakes in their wilderness. Aren’t we all “beggars” in the sight of God, depending on him for our next meal. I think so.

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