Halloween’s Symbols

By John Morgan

One of the many reasons Halloween is so unique is due to the unusual cast of characters and symbols associated with the celebration. Halloween’s symbols reflect the spirit and the essence of its storied customs and traditions, while also remaining agile enough to reflect the values of today.

Depending on how these symbols are illustrated or crafted in popular culture, directly affects the emotions and thoughts we ascribe to each. For example: When we see a Disney or Loony Tune depiction of a skeleton it certainly doesn’t evoke the same reaction as a skeleton created for one of Rob Zombie’s or Wes Craven’s films. Part of the allure of Halloween is its incredible versatility and adaptability; even Halloween’s symbols have an innate ability to morph, as needed, to fit our desires.

So let’s take a closer look at each of Halloween’s important symbols (note: I will be adding to the list regularly – so please come back frequently for updates):

PUMPKINS & JACK-O-LANTERNS – This iconic Halloween symbol of a pumpkin was a New World replacement for the two red-headed-stepchildren of the vegetable kingdom known by their common names the turnip and the beet, as well as their equally esthetically challenged dirt dwelling cousin the potato.

Originally the turnip and potato were carved and illuminated with candles and placed in Irish doors and windows to ward of an interesting spirit named “Stingy Jack” (he deserves his own post) and other wandering spooks.

The Scots used turnips as well, but the English celebrated the season drumming to a different beet (Historical little known fact: When an English man or woman was cut during the carving process they called their injuries “beetnicks”). So when Irish immigrants came to America and they discovered the gourdgeous pumpkin, kersplash went the turnip and the potatoes into the stew pot, and out came the carving knife and the Jack-O-Lantern was born!

RAVENS & CROWS – Let’s face it, when literature refers to your kind as a “murder of crows” or as an “unkindness of ravens” you might have an image problem. It probably will not help your public relations experts conjure up a positive PR campaign if they keep finding you eating carrion, as well as each other; unless, of course, you are planning on filming: “Ravens & Crows – The original Zombie Apocalypse!”

On the plus side you are both: highly intelligent (especially given your limited bird brains), frequently engage in play, collaborate when needed, and you have good socializing skills (ravens, this is an area that needs work…the crows are kicking your tail feathers in this category). So what’s the problem? Oh yeah, you eat each other! It also does not help that you are always hanging out in the wrong places with the wrong crowds. Honestly, would it hurt you to stop being the first ones on the battlefield once in a while? And for heaven’s sakes, learn to say “no” when the witches and warlocks ask you to help them with a special project or potion.

Just look at yourselves, you are always dressed in black…liven things up a bit – take a risk – peacock it up a little. I mean really, what have you done in the last couple thousand years in the areas of personal development and growth? That’s right, I am talking to you ravens; the Celts linked you to war and death and you have been mired in it ever since. Crows, did I say something that amuses you? Wipe those smiles off your beaks, because the ancient Romans used you guys for divination practices so neither of you are without a creepy flight path through history. And since we are talking about self-improvement, your “cawing” has got to go! Now we are even getting reports from the field that you have been mimicking human voices again. That has to stop immediately – it freaks everyone out!

Look we have all heard the phrase, “the only constant in life is change,” but frankly I am just not seeing it with either of you. Hey, if you are happy being Halloween icons then do not change a thing. I have said all I want to say to you two Corvids, except that if you happen to see any rats and bats on your way out, tell them I need to see them regarding similar concerns.

BONES, SKELETONS & SKULLS – Where does one look in order to flesh out the connection between Halloween and the powerful symbols of bones, skeletons, and skulls? Well, we can certainly trace it back to various ancient cultures “Day of the Dead” customs. The Celts referred to the skull as the house of the soul. Bones have been used for thousands of years in divination rituals. Frankly, there is just no getting around the fact that seeing our internal DNA scaffolding is an unsettling reminder of our own mortality – Hamlet, Horatio and poor Yorick will be glad to fill you in on the philosophical implications.

Why even the Grim Reaper is reduced to wearing a designer “flasher-style” trench coat, complete with matching hoodie, in order to keep us from seeing his bony altogether. He is the very embodiment better make that framework – of what potentially awaits all of us when our spirit departs this mortal plane. For many, it is a humbling and unsettling to contemplate the skeletal structure that gives our bodies its shape.  That is right, we saw you squirming in class the day your seventh grade science teacher forced you to watch programs on digestion and the skeletal system. Your attempts to disassociate yourself of any similarities between the kids being x-rayed while they chomped on apples and jugged down pints of milk were entirely unsuccessful.

There is just no denying that bones, skeletons, and skulls are tangible reminders and eerie symbols of decease and death. Heck, just look at poison warning labels and pirate flags – not to mention poison pirate flags made of labels – these are all stern signs that beware danger lurks here.

Not all images of bones, skeletons and skulls evoke fear. In Mexico, the annual “Día de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) is celebrated with vibrant and colorful portraits of using these symbols. The spirit of this festival is to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. Sugar skulls, and the departed loved one’s favorite foods and beverages are left at their gravesite as gifts of remembrance.

So no matter how you like to recognize Halloween, there is bound to be a way to bring your own skeletons out of the closet for them to reflect your own style and personality during the Halloween season.

BATS – For many people, bats are perhaps one of the most bizarre creatures in the animal kingdom. Bats are the only true flying mammal — sorry Bullwinkle, your friend Rocky merely glides. They live in shadows and darkness, which evokes strong emotions.  Bats roost in hollows, crevices, and caves, as well in other fearful locations people tend to avoid: attics, abandon homes, and speaker’s podiums.

Emerging at dusk to feed (mainly on insects – go get them bats!). Many species locate their prey using echolocation (using sound to produce echoes off its food source). Their echolocation adaptation has also developed some rather unusual facial structures and curvatures that just add to the bats otherworldly appearance.

It is generally believed, that bats became associated with Halloween through their frequent visits to the large bonfires built during the Celts annual Samhain festivals. We have all heard the expression, “like moths to a flame.” Well, we could easily develop that logic chain further by saying, “like bats to a moth.” Since bats were there during the genesis of the customs and rituals that ultimately led to Halloween, they have become one of the holiday’s most powerful symbols. Bats appear to be forever linked to the uniqueness of the season, as they fly through space and time alongside their two-legged — costume adorning — mammalian cousins.

Owls  – They enter the world’s stage at dusk. Much like the leathery winged Halloween symbol, the bat, it is believed that owls became frequent visitors to Celts Samhain bonfires.  Despite their large size, owls are incredibly stealthy, seemingly appearing from nowhere to those who encounter them.

In ancient Athens, the owl was so revered that it appears on their first widely circulated coin. The ancient Romans honored the owl by depicting its image alongside Minerva, the goddess of wisdom – which they had adapted from the earlier Greek legends of Athena and her ties with owls (see A Brief History of Halloween on how cultures would layer their beliefs and customs on top of another society’s traditions). For some ancient cultures, sighting an owl during times of crisis or war was considered a good omen.

Throughout history, owls have remained mysterious creatures that have long been linked to humanities secret shadows of influence and power (Illuminati and the Bohemian Club). What we do know about owls is that they are mostly solitary and nocturnal. Perhaps the most prominent features of an owl are their large predatory – forward facing – eyes.  Although, certainly a case can be made for the owls apparently spine defying rotating head as being its most attention-getting attribute.

In addition to their haunting “woo-woo” vocalization, many species are able to emit a piercing screech that cuts through the ebony night sky like a knife. There is a strong association between witches and owls. There are tales of witches shape-shifting into owls; which some believe accounts for the owl’s witch-like screech. Even in modern times, there are claims by apparent alien abductees who state that they frequently encounter owls during their abduction experiences. Author Whitley Strieber theorizes that the image of an owl serves as a screen-memory that masks the true nature of the abduction experience. However, we will disembark here from that discussion and leave that subject for another blog.

You do not to have to live in the “Hundred Acre Woods” nor seek the Yoda-like wisdom of the Toosie Pop chomping owl, to get the connection between owls and our continuing desire for knowledge, and ultimately wisdom. Just don’t bother asking him where the candy is because his bowl is all empty!  And whatever you do, stay away from Woodsy – although he means well – something is just not right with that Strigiform.

 Witches – Other than the pumpkin, no other symbol comes close to the witch in association with Halloween. Heck, just look around her and you will see a virtual “Who is Who” of Halloween casting:  bats, cats, rats, owls, toads, cauldrons, moon, and broom – and we are just to getting started.

While the pumpkin might match her in notoriety, it would be hard to match the witches A-list Halloween celebrity status in longevity and adaptability. Styles come and styles go, but the witch is not only credited for shape shifting into other forms, such as the owl, but she can also seemingly alter her appearance to look like “Witch Hazel” or like Veronica Lake – as well as dozens of other variations in between. This adaptability has also led to a confused public; who are constantly perplexed regarding the motives and intent of the witch. In fact, Glenda pinpointed the problem quite well when she asked Dorothy, “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” Well, we do not need a focus group to come to the conclusion: that all depends on your point of view and the lenses of the society you are viewing her from.

Witches have been linked to pagan rituals for thousands of years. Throughout each of those years, accurate forecasting of the weather, seasons, fertility and harvest were highly esteemed because of their inevitable effect on humanities well-being.  Before the advent of the internet, TV, or weather satellites, people relied on the “Old Farmer’s Almanac,” “feelings in their bones,” or those who claimed to be skilled in the arts of divination and prophecy to see beyond the present.

In times of seasonal and celestial transitions (All Hallows’ Eve and Beltane), witches come into their own. Light and shadow, life and death, feast and famine, these are the things that witches excel at interpreting and understanding as they practice their craft along the peripheral vision of this world and the unseen.

Whether witches are casting magical spells, tapping unseen energies, reciting incantations, healing or harming, they represent a mirror of the culture observing and interacting with them. We are all capable of great good or great harm. The witch has either been the benefactor or the antagonist of our beliefs; as we project our own thoughts and biases into the complex witch’s brew. Witch-hunts and witch-trials have been very real with deadly consequences throughout history. Today, Wiccans can be seen at various Harvest festivals as well as a host of other mainstream activities and events.

With such a rich history, strong supporting cast, and virtually limitless palette of colors and themes to portray the witch, we look forward to exploring this topic in greater detail in future posts – now if we can only decide on which witch we want to write about next.

BLACK CATS – Cats are mysterious and elusive creatures to understand under the best of circumstances, but when they are covered in black fur, those characteristics go up exponentially – especially to us superstitious prone two-legged mammals.

For those of you that have ever shared your home with a cat – owning seems out of the question – it is easy to interpret a feline’s behavior with being astute, clever, resourceful, independent, and a bit mystical. A cat’s gaze can appear to convey a wide range of emotions, and, at times, it can even be unsettling. It is almost as if cats have a wisdom or awareness of things beyond our senses or comprehension.

Throughout history, cats have shared a love/hate relationship with their human counterparts. In ancient Egypt, the cat headed goddess Bastet was worshiped. Some cats were even mummified.  Egyptians made the connection between cats controlling the threat of disease carried by rats; therefore, by helping to reduce the rat population, cats escalated its own status as a revered ancient Egyptian symbol.  Romans considered the cat sacred and they were linked to the moon goddess Diana. They associated cats as guardians of homes and as symbols of domestic goodness (something that baffles us since our three cats welcome anyone into the house and they are seldom up to any good).

We have to admit it also gets a bit confusing and unsettling when we attempt to untangle superstition, history, folklore, and urban legend when it comes to understanding cats connection to Halloween. As with many of the other Halloween symbols, the origins of the cat as an iconic figure for the holiday can be traced back the Samhain celebrations of the Druids and Celts. This was considered a time when the veil between the spirit and living worlds dissolved.  Great bonfires were built on the tops of hills to ward off evil spirits and to honor the souls of people who had died in the past year. It is also here that things go sour for our four-legged furry companions.

The Celts are said to believe that cats were evil and the guardians of the Underworld – as such, they must be sacrificed! Other accounts, state the Celtic people thought cats were reincarnated souls who were able to see the future. After two thousand years things can get a bit bedeviled to sort out; however, what is clear is that negative beliefs towards cats kept building as their bonfire flames pierced the night sky.

While bats and owls were drawn to the bonfires associated with Samhain and later All Hallows’ Eve ceremonies, cats were unwillingly thrown into the bonfires by a fearful populace – a practice that continued for hundreds of years.

One thing is for certain, while the dog may be man’s best friend, the cat has been linked as a witches favorite “familiar” (term for lesser demon). Just as witches are strongly associated with times of transition, black cats were also linked to these same transitional portals – ritualistic times when the curtain between life and death, shadow and light, were at its thinnest.  Folklore abounds with accounts of witch’s transitioning into cats and vice versa. During the days of witch hunting, single women seen in the company of cats were frequently considered witches and dealt with most severely, cavorting with a black cat removed any doubt.  Many cultures connect the color black with the unknown and with an absorbing quality that conceals ones true intent.

Just as it is difficult to pin down a cat, it is equally difficult to condense and understand the history of the black cats association with Halloween. Unfortunately, cats remain the target of evil intent. Whether caused by those practicing the black arts, pranksters who focus their cruel action on cats, or individuals who adopt or steal cats to incorporate them into their “living” Halloween decorations, the toll on cats is quite real and it is not just limited to black cats. Even today, emotions and superstitions about cats persists.  Animal shelters and feline adoption programs frequently will not allow black cats to be adopted from late September until early November, and additional screening and protective measure for all cats go into effect in the days just prior to Halloween.

Spiders – Visit a haunted or abandoned house, open a graveyard crypt (we know, as if you haven’t visited enough of them already), or approach any suburban home on October 31st and you are sure to brush aside scores of spider webs. No mad scientist lab would be complete without showing a blatant disregard for dusting. Arachnids are now joining the ranks alongside Santa and Frosty as a favorite seasonal inflatable yard decoration. Some inflatable spider animatronics are even complete with moving mandibles! Together, let us see if we can begin untangling the spider’s web of clues to discover how spiders became associated with Halloween in the first place.

For most of the major Halloween symbols, it has been a fairly easy task to locate just where and when they entered Halloween’s orbit. We usually start by looking for associations with ancient Roman, Celtic, and Catholic customs, beliefs, and traditions. However, tracking the historical links associating spiders to Halloween proved by far the most illusive thread in understanding Halloween’s dream team of characters.

Most sources vaguely link spiders to Halloween because they live in dark, scary places. Some reference that spiders, along with cats and owls, are witch’s “familiars” – lesser demons who do the witch’s dirty work.

We have even reached out to E.B. White’s best friend, Charlotte, seeking her thoughts on the matter. All we keep getting back is a cryptic note in her web: “Halloween, some holiday.” Thanks Charlotte, you are big help! While we are all enjoying delicious BLTs (that reminds us, has anyone seen Wilbur?), we will have our top cryptologist here at Halloween for All working around the clock to break Charlotte’s encrypted message.

Until then, we can share that Spiders have long been associated with mysticism. Their web weaving is often interpreted as a simile for the progression of time, fate, and the cyclical rhythms of nature. It has also been used as a metaphor for shady financial dealings. One of the world’s most secretive and exclusive societies, “The Bohemian Club,” uses the symbol of the owl as they sacrifice “dull care” and they warn: “Weaving spiders come not here” (Shakespeare quote) – in other words, let’s party and forget business for a while!

Numerologists link the number 8 to life path energies. With eight legs and eight eyes, spiders must have life path energies coming out of their spinnerets. It is also a number associated with acquiring great wealth. Our research team has even listened to a numerologist on Coast to Coast AM, who advised keeping the number 8 in your wallet or purse, in an effort to encourage Benjamin and all his dead president friends to join him there – Hamilton is also welcome there for showing his strength of character and his toughness (as well as his poor life management skills) by dueling Aaron Burr.

As pest abatement specialist spider’s rank up there with bats in helping to eradicate bugs that threaten crops. Most organic farmers welcome and encourage these bug eating vacuums to take up residency in their fields. We have even put up a wooden hexagon device in our Halloween for All garden to encourage their web building, but the spiders seem more than content to ignore it in favor of their daily attempts to ensnare one of us!

You may harbor an instinctive fear of spiders. All those appendages and eyeballs are enough to put anyone’s senses on edge.  Perhaps there is a built-in DNA alarm that fires off  warning flares to our personal command and control centers, every time we encounter either a snake or spider. Vigilantly cautioning us to approach with extreme care – these things are dangerous! Many naturalists theorize that dogs, wolves and coyotes still spin around in an effort to scatter any spiders, tics or other potential threats before they finally commit to lying down (quick someone needs to tell Atticus Finch that before he accidentally shoots that dog who is just getting ready for a siesta…too late).

Hold everything, our cryptologist just came rushing in and handed us her findings. Oh we see, folks it appears that “Halloween, some holiday” equates to “Halloween, it is what it is.” So no matter what Halloween is to you, we want to thank you for managing to adhere to our weak web of facts and observations as we did our best untangling the spider’s web. In the end, the spider’s connection with Halloween seems as mysterious and varied as the creatures themselves.

Ghosts – A misty orb, a cool presence, or a frightening phantom from beyond. Ghosts fascinate our imaginations, haunt our dreams and fuel our fears. This is one Halloween symbol that does hit the historical trifecta when it comes to having its roots firmly grounded (at least as firmly as a ghost can be grounded to anything) in Roman, Celtic and Catholic traditions:

  • Roman – Celebrations of the dead (Lemuria and Feralia)
  • Celtic – Samhain Festival of the Dead
  • Catholic – All Saints Day

Losing a loved one is never easy. All cultures have developed their own beliefs, rituals and customs to help cope and understand death. It is inescapable that our bodies come with a limited warranty for parts and services. Although the scientific RD Team is working feverishly to extend the boundaries of our existing models limitations.

Yet, what happens to our uniqueness, our spirit, our soul when our bodies finally succumb to ravages of time, wear, or unfortunate circumstances has been one of the greatest mysteries and hotly debated topics of all time.

Depending on what historical Halloween resource or expert is doing the telling (and if you have read any of our other posts, you already know that we are hardly what you can call a reliable resource and the only thing we are experts at is wandering off topic and butchering the English language) the Roman celebrations for the dead had some influence in eventually shaping the customs and rituals that led to Halloween. Exactly how much is uncertain, so we will move on to some of the stronger evidence in the ghost’s vapor trail through the history of Halloween.

Let’s look back to those early Samhain festivals; for the sake of argument, we will say the year is 50 AD. Just imagine harvest time is finally over, you are now entering the darkest and coldest time of the year (at least it is in the Northern Hemisphere – you know the top half of the world – where the toilets actually flush in the proper direction).  Eccentric King Ludwig will not host the first Oktoberfest for another 1750 years or so. The Fall Classic, Johnny Depp and Katy Perry are still another two millennium away – even the Jersey shores are nothing more than another unremarkable tidal marsh (That reminds us, if someone shows up at the Halloween for All front doorstep, trick or treating in that awful Snookie outfit we saw at Spirit Halloween last night, so help us, we will sell our pumpkin farm, close this blog down, buy a rodent ranch and open up shop at “Ground Hogs Day for All”).

Where were we? Ah yes, we are in the heart of Celtic territory, year 50. We can almost hear it now, “Mathair, I am bored… there’s nothing to do?” “Angus, why don’t you muck out your room, take your annual bath, and then round-up a Druid priest. Tell him to build up an immense bonfire and start the animal sacrifices without me.  I can’t do a thing until I can put together some goodies to place outside the doors and windows – because as you know lad, ain’t no one happy until our restless, wandering, endoplasmic dead relatives are happy.”

And so it was from the very beginning of the Samhain festivals that we see a strong connection between what would eventually grow into Halloween and the ghostly spirit world. Remember, this is a special time for the Druid priests and the Celtic people.  It is a unique ethereal time; a time for divination and a time for spirits to walk the earth among the living. The supernatural and natural worlds merge as one.

Now let us examine how the Catholic creation of All Saints Day effects Halloween in respects to our ghostly friends. All Saints Day had its foundation poured in 609 AD, but the blueprints to overlay the Catholic rituals on top of the Samhain traditions were drafted back in 601. Now with labor negations, permit delays, zoning regulations and manufacturing shortages, the actual construction for All Saints Day was not completed until 998 AD. That is when a French monastic order – Cluny – began a special mass for all the departed Christian souls. The primary function of holding the mass was to pray for intercession on the part of all the souls in Purgatory.

Ghost really begin to materialize around Halloween in the 1800s as Americans enjoyed telling ghost stories. Spirituality was spreading all across the young nation. Why even before the Great Emancipator became legend for allegedly impaling stakes through the undead’s hearts, he gave his to Mary Todd.  Both he and Mary were utterly devastated at the lost of their son Willie. Many people claim that President Lincoln actually held séances in the White House. To this you rightly say, “what does that have to do with ghosts and Halloween?” To that we reply, probably not much, other than it was a reflection of how wide-spread spiritually was accepted in those years and that Halloween certainly is a perfect vehicle for examining all things ghostly.

You only need to turn on your television to know that something remarkable is happening in Western Culture regarding people’s beliefs in ghosts. Clearly, spirits are on the rise. According to 1978 Gallup poll only 11% of Americans believed in ghosts, less than the number of people who believed in Sasquatch or Nessie at that time. Today, poll after poll indicates that almost 50% of American’s believe in ghosts. (To learn more about all things ghostly, check out Ghostly World ).

Ghost and paranormal shows dominate or at least have more than an ethereal presence on satellite programming. Practically every network offers at least one ghost or haunting themed show. Why there is even a show on Animal Planet, “The Haunted,” which chronicles animal’s interactions with the spirits from the beyond.

Regardless of your feelings on the ghost and spirit realm, their connection to Halloween started as a tribute to love one’s who had passed. And while not everyone welcomes an unplanned for vapory family reunion, it is sobering to reflect that we are just one link in an enormous chain of lives, choices, and events that ultimately allowed you to be here reading this blog and for us to create it. Regardless of what day it is, it is always worth wild to pause to remember the true miracle of our existence. So from everyone here at Halloween for All we would like to thank your ancestors – where ever they are – for allowing you to spend a few of your precious moments with us as we spin laps around the sun together.

                             GRAVESTONES

Picture a dark, windy night, you hear the crack of distant thunder, leaves crunch as you approach the cemetery, as you open the creaky cast iron gate to the cemetery, a cat lets out a banshee-like shriek and bolts past you…You get the picture, besides, we were running out of clichés.

Few things are spookier than cemeteries, gravestones, and our bad creative writing.

And you thought math was hard

Death is a tough subject. It is like looking at your bills to pay pile, eventually you will have to deal with it –but there are so many others things you would prefer to be doing first. One epithet put it this way:

Great, so even in death, we are still haunted by debts! Hopefully you have the mettle to stay with us as we step through the cemetery gates and enter the world of gravestones, headstones, and crypts.

This is one Halloween symbol that will make our traditional ancient Greek, Roman, and Celtic friends look like the “New Kids on the Halloween Block.”

Stones in the Stone-Age

Neanderthals and early man left indicators of memorializing those who passed away by performing various burial rituals. It appears, they frequently took great pains to ensure that their fellows were buried in deep caves and pits.

There were some very practical, as well as spiritual, reasons for memorializing the dead. Clearly people need to show respect and remembrance for the departed, but proper inurnment (is also theorized) reduced the spread of disease and kept scavengers from, well, scavenging.

What good are you?

The first headstones and markers were not much more than heavy stones placed over the burial site. The conjecture here has been twofold:

1. Reduces scavengers success rate

2. The dead stay put!

Which will it be…the Carrot or the Stick?

It is fascinating to see the evolution of headstones. Designs moved from a simple rock, to frightening winged death head figures and skulls. This symbolism was not lost on the people of the day: “Better start living a virtuous life or there will – literally – be hell to pay!”

The Victorian era designs incorporated sweet pudgy cherubs, elaborate majestic crosses, billowy white lambs, and large sorrowful angels.

Of course, people did try to “dress to impress,” individuals and families with power would – and still do – build elaborate “I love me” shrines (think Facebook but with a lot more marble) as tributes to their greatness and success.

OK, OK, we hear you…we will try to stay focused on how this all relates to Halloween!

People are dying to see your Halloween decorations

Today, as we rapidly approach Halloween, people are in their garages and workshops preparing to build their own Halloween graveyards. Check out this video on how realistic you can get!

And what would a tombstone be like if it failed to have personalized witty inscriptions. Such as, “Here Lies The Pillsbury Dough Boy. He will rise again.”

What will future Halloween decorations look like? We recently spoke with a Director with the Northern California Neptune Society and he indicated that in California approximately 50% of people are opting for cremation over a traditional burial. So perhaps in the coming years, people will be “urning” for a different type of lawn decoration.

The ceremonies and rituals associated with memorializing are thought to strengthened the bounds of family and community. Grieving is a very natural part of how humans (and some animal species) cope with death. Look at this amazing article: Chimpanzee’s grieving.

Till the bitter end

Even though designs and materials have changed through the years and are still evolving, one thing hasn’t changed – our desire to memorialize, grieve and reflect on those who “assume room temperature.” As someone put it, “Death must be great, because no one has come back from it yet!”…well at least that is until we run out of rocks!

Jack & Charmian London’s Grave Glen Ellen, CA

By John Morgan
Halloween Symbol

GOBLINS

As a lifetime Halloween enthusiast, I have to come clean: I have never understood what the heck a goblin is. Oh sure, I have faked the funk enough: “Goblins,  I know all there is about goblins! They love hanging out with ghosts and you don’t even want to get me started on their subspecies, the Hobgoblin!”

It is time to stop faking it until I make it. Today, I have decided to finally ferret out the little (they are little, aren’t they?) rascals.   Let me do a quick Google search. Ah yes, here we go…”the term goblin is a collective noun for evil spirits like redcaps and bugbears.”  Well, mystery solved then – this will be my shortest post to date.

(Note to self: If anyone asks me to explain redcaps or bugbears, I will just shake my head in pity, boldly state that they are goblins, put on a facial expression that conveys “what else could they possibly be?”, then turn and walk away in mild disgust).

As someone who currently is not much of a gamer, unless you count the occasional Spider Solitaire game while I am waiting for something to upload, I am guessing that I might be in the minority in my goblin quandary. Especially since we are now living in a post “Dungeons and Dragons” and World of Warcraft” age.

Maybe I am suffering from a mild form of amnesia.  I have always admired the Lord of the Rings, it’s quite possible that goblins were thoroughly described and chronicled throughout Tolkien’s classic series. After all, just by reading the series and watching the trilogy, I have through osmosis acquired an understanding of trolls, elves, and ring-wraiths and the like. If pressed, I would hazard that the LOTR character Gollum is probably the most goblin-like. Yet, I would not be in the least surprised ,if someone admonished me by definitively declaring that Gollum was a redcap, bugbear, or hobgoblin – whatever the heck they are?

OK, so let me see if I can at least get a handle on Hobgoblins. Let just go to Wikipedia. Here it is: “Hobgoblins –seem to be small, hairy little men who—like their close relative, brownies”…STOP! STOP right there! Is someone messing with me? How come every definition of a goblin or goblin relative is defined as something resembling an even a more obscure mythical creature?

Great, it goes on to state that Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream character Puck is a hobgoblin. Now I am even more confused, wasn’t Puck a half goat, half devil looking thing like Phil from Disney’s Hercules?

At this point, I no longer give a @#%& jack-o-lantern what they are! It is time for me to break this infinite vague definition chain and just proclaim that all I know about goblins and their evil spirited kin is that they are now my least favorite Halloween characters!

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  1. #1 by Winter Owls on October 11, 2012 - 5:21 pm

    I found this absolutely fascinating to read. In Australia, Halloween is embraced by some, but nowhere near to the extent that it is in the U.S.A. My sister-in-law and brother live in Connecticut and before that Ohio so I have some idea of what an amazing thing it is there. It is rare in our area to have trick or treaters. We were once caught unaware by some teenage trick or treaters. Having nothing to give them, we quickly dived behind the couch only to hear one boy who was peering in say” I can see a leg behind the couch”! That got rid of them quickly!

    • #2 by here2havefun on October 11, 2012 - 5:48 pm

      Glad to hear that Aussie ingenuity frightened of the teenagers. Halloween continues to grow in popularity here in America, especially the home decoration segment and now even the pet costuming market is booming.

      One day I plan to visit Australia. I am an avid scuba diver and a horse racing fan which sounds like a pretty good fit. Until then I’ll have to settle to listening to 2GB out of Sydney online. Keep those boys of your out of mischief and keep painting those owls!

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