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Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

The Ghost of Halloween Past

See also: 10 Things You didn't know about Halloween.

Early on I thought Jamie Doward in the Guardian had written least well-informed pieces on Halloween I've ever read. And it's a personal hobby of mine. So I've read some scorchers. But then he pulls it out of the bag late on by remembering that All Saints is actually a very old Christian festival.

Apparently Churches are putting a "Christian Spin" on Halloween. That would be the date named as "All Hallows' Eve", the day before the Christian festival of All Hallows' or All Saints' Day.

All Hallows has been celebrated since the 8th Century in Rome. Like Easter, anybody saying its dating comes from Celtic or Germanic traditions really has to deal with the problem of these feasts arising somewhere else completely. The 8th Century Romans were not Germans or Celts.

But in fact, the Beaker Folk have been celebrating Halloween since the 24th Century BC or earlier. The Beaker Folk of the farther stretches of Great Britain had a long old schlep to Stonehenge for Yule. So they would set off with their pig herds on 1st November, giving themselves a good 6 weeks.

The Harvest being over, and Beaker Britain and peaceable place, they knew they could leave the young uns and old folk at home while they went on their great adventure. But before they left, they held a journeying feast.

The old ones would remember their ancestors who made the journey before them. And in order to bring them to mind they would try to carve their images onto turnips or mangolds. This gave rise to the association, which the Celts stole, of Samhain with the dead. And also, centuries later, inspired Columbus to sail to the New World in search of a vegetable big enough to carve properly. Columbus's family had remarkably large heads, and somehow turnips weren't doing the job.

The Celts that followed rather foolishly thought that the seat of the human will was the head - when clearly, at least for many men, it is somewhat lower than that. But they took over the punkie-carving tradition. Indeed, with their superior ironworking technology they so dismayed the Beaker Folk - who had had to chip away at turnips with a bit of flint - that they just gave up and went off to live in Glastonbury. Where, generations later, their descendants met Joseph of Arimathea, who took the tradition back to the Early Church.

So Christian spin? I don't think so. Christians are merely reclaiming a tradition that the pagans reclaimed from them, that the Christians reclaimed from them, that the pagans claimed from them, that the Christians claimed from the Beaker Folk.

I hope that's clear? Happy Samhain, Halloween, All Saints', All Souls' and Eternal. See you to do this again for Christmas.

Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

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