I loved reading the front page of the Herne Bay Times last week (“Church set to save Bay from Zombies”). It is interesting that exactly the same thing was happening 2,000 years ago.
The roots of Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night stem from
pagan times when, all across northern Europe, the local Celts knew this
time of year, Samhain, as the change between summer and winter.
It was, they believed, when the barrier between the real world and the spirit world was at its thinnest. This was the time when mortal man could cross to the spirit plane
to meet ancestors and the Gods. And the dead could cross the other way
to visit their descendants – for good as well as ill.
The tribal Celts would light fires and lamps to guide the good
spirits to them and protect from the bad. They would use iron and masks
to frighten away evil. Sometimes people would disguise themselves to mix with the
spirits. There were many ceremonial folk customs to ensure good fortune.
Early Christianity spread and confronted pagan beliefs. It
adopted some, like gargoyles on churches and nails in church doors to
frighten spirits. Others they opposed, like consorting with spirits. Samhain was stamped with All Souls’ (Saints’) Day to diminish the bad influences.
Here in Herne Bay, we are seeing direct echoes of 2,000 years ago, with people in disguise mixing with the dead. There are Hallowe’en pumpkin masks to scare bad spirits and people using lights to ensure evil returns to where it came from.
We have big fires on Bonfire Night to keep us all safe for the hard winter times. I think the whole thing is brilliant – angels and zombies alike. Saturday night’s event is going to be a great community custom for years to come.
I applaud it all.
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