The cool October breezes bring falling, colored foliage crackling under our feet. The misty black shadows on our namesake mountain give us a sense of eeriness and spookiness. But wait! Perhaps, this foreboding is because Halloween is near! Time to get out the old witch costume with the pointed hat yet another year, or the Dracula cape that fits a bit too snuggly around the middle and get in the spirit of All Hallow’s Eve. The masks and costumes we don at Halloween allow us to become the macabre and the absurd, and this custom has been going on a long time.
Trick or Treat
Mumming of Guising (wearing a costume) dates back to the ancient Celts who lived in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. These mummiers or guisers went from house to house reciting verses or songs in exchange for food. They personified the old spirits of winter who demanded a reward of food in exchange for good fortune. In Southern Ireland, the guisers included a hobby horse; a man dressed as a white mare led children form house to house reciting verses for food. If refused, misfortune would befall the residents. Some scholars believe this to be the origin of our modern-day trick or treating.
Christianity worked this costuming into their “Hallowe en,” a Scottish term meaning, “Holy Evening.” In the Middle Ages, costumers represented spirits, and their faces were blackened from bonfires. The bonfires mimicked the Sun that gave warmth and energy throughout the dark winter. Children went from house to house begging for “soul cakes” (small cakes sometimes with fruit inside) in exchange for prayers for deceased family members.
Medieval churches in Europe got into the act of costuming with parishioners dressing up as saints. This prevented souls wandering on Earth from taking vengeance on their enemies before moving on to the next world. In France, churches held the “Dance Macabre” in which the dead in the church yards rose for a “wild hideous carnival.” This led to village pageants and lavish aristocratic court masquerades.
The “Dance Macabre” will not take too strong a hold on us here at Tudor Croft even though the skeletons of the houses at 30,34,35,40,41,42 Tudor Way are on full display. Sure Point Builders is certainly donning the dance of hammers, saws, and drills as they work on at least 9 homes presently, making sure that the bones are sturdy and strong in the Black Mountain breeze. The Cooks moving into 37 Tudor Way will be just in time for a beautiful autumn in Black Mountain.
Wearing costumes allows us to pretend to be someone or something else. The ancients had ritualistic and religious reasons for their guising, but an element of merriment pervaded their tasks. The old soul cake tune goes, “An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry; any good thing to make us all merry…” A silly hat, a crazy moustache, a painted face, a skirt or a shirt not of our own, or a complete costume of a witch, ghost, or goblin just might bring a bit of merriment to all of us! Happy Halloween!
Welcome to Our Court!