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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Halloween Symbols

Halloween originated as a celebration connected with evil spirits. Witches flying on broomsticks with black cats, ghosts, goblins(小精灵)and skeletons have all evolved as symbols of Halloween. They are popular trick-or-treat costumes and decorations for greeting cards and windows. Black is one of the traditional Halloween colors, probably because Halloween festivals and traditions took place at night. In the weeks before October 31, Americans decorate windows of houses and schools with silhouettes轮廓)of witches and black cats.

Pumpkins are also a symbol of Halloween. The pumpkin is an orange-colored squash, and orange has become the other traditional Halloween color. Carving pumpkins into jack- o'lanterns is a Halloween custom also dating back to Ireland. A legend grew up about a man named Jack who was so stingy that he was not allowed into heaven when he died, because he was a miser. He couldn't enter hell either because he had played jokes on the devil. As a result, Jack had to walk the earth with his lantern until Judgement Day(审判日). The Irish people carved scary faces out of turnips(芜菁根), beets(甜菜根)or potatoes representing "Jack of the Lantern," or Jack-o'lantern. When the Irish brought their customs to the United States, they carved faces on pumpkins because in the autumn they were more plentiful than turnips. Today jack-o'-lanterns in the windows of a house on Halloween night let costumed children know that there are goodies(糖果)waiting if they knock and say "Trick or Treat!"

Pagans originally considered most of the Halloween symbols that are commonly associated with witches and wizards or evil entities sacred, thousands of years ago. When Christianity adopted Halloween as one of their own festivals, they started interpreting these symbols as signs of wickedness, devilish or associated to Satanism so that people turn away from the paganism and its practices. Below are some of these symbols that are still used on Halloween but the legends of their origin are faded by dust of time. They are:
  • Cats: Egyptians considered cats sacred and their Goddess Bast was considered the divine Mother of all cats. This Goddess was believed to live in the city of Bubastis, which was also considered sacred and was well known for its elaborate festivals and joyous festivities. Greek Goddess resembling Bast was known as Artemis while the Roman Goddess with similar traits was known as Diana. In the Middle Ages, Diana was thought to be the Queen of Witches and thus, cats were thought to be related to witchcraft and considered as common pets of the witches. Today, cats have become one of the popular emblems of Halloween and black cat is often associated with misfortune and ill omens.
  • Masks: In the ancient ages, Egyptians often used masks to impersonate their deities. Egyptian art includes elaborate masks that cover the entire face of the wearer that were believed to embody the deities and divinities and anyone who used to wear these masks were believed to manifest these pagan deities in human form. Mask was known in Teutonic as 'Grim', which was also a common part of the names of the deities. In Medieval ages, Christian churches forbade wearing of masks to avoid such practices but people continued to wear them on pagan festivals and celebrations adopted in Christianity such as Halloween and Carnivals.
  • Owls: Owl represents the Wise Woman of the village, also known as cunning healer and herb Mother or Crone of the village. It had once been associated with myriad forms of Goddess of Wisdom and Mortality such as Athene, Anath, Blodeuwedd, Lilith, Minerva and Mari (the Goddess having eyes like an owl and who seems to stare). Mari could take the shape of the owl at will too. Today, owls are associated with witches, especially at Halloween. Harry Potter's world created by J. K. Rowling also portrays owls being the pets of witches and wizards and being used by them as means of communication.
  • Triangular Cakes: In English Witchcraft, it is believed that the ceremony of Cakes and Wine is a must after every meeting, where the high priestess distributes crescent or triangle-shaped small cakes and biscuits to the communion. As recently as in the 20th century, people from rural Scottish used to bake triangular cakes for Halloween and the woman who baked these cakes were called 'the Bride.' Next year, an old woman known as 'Caillech' or 'Auld Wife' who was believed to be an incarnation of the Crone, replaced the Bride in baking these magical cakes.

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