Halloween (Hallowe'en, All Hallow's Eve, All Saint's Day, Samhain) is a popular holiday to set spooky adventures on (Chaosium has hosted a yearly Halloween scenario contest, publishing the best submissions as Monographs).
(To do: add more background information)
- 1 Explanation
- 2 History
- 3 Description
- 3.1 England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales
- 3.2 United States and Canada
- 3.3 Elsewhere
- 3.3.1 The Deep Ones (May Eve and Halloween)
- 3.3.2 Belomas (Far Future)
- 3.3.3 Dreamlands
- 3.3.4 Continental Europe
- 3.3.5 Australia & New Zealand
- 3.3.6 Japan, Korea, China, etc.
- 3.3.7 Mexico, Central and South America
Why would Halloween matter on a Cosmic scale of things? The typical explanation is "because human cultists believe it does", but here are some alternative explanations:
Halloween at St. Odilio's
The scenario Halloween at St. Odilio's provides one explanation:
J.G. Frazer’s third edition The Golden Bough, a copy of which can be found at the Orne Library at Miskatonic University, suggests that the most auspicious date for spells and rituals is October 31st, and one cultist's interpretation of this imagery is that on Halloween the veil between the worlds of Dream and Day can be passed through freely:
“But it is not only the souls of the departed who are supposed to be hovering unseen on the day ‘when autumn to winter resigns the pale year’. Witches then speed on their errands of mischief, some sweeping through the air on besoms, others galloping along the roads on tabby-cats, which for that evening are turned into black steeds. The fairies, too, are all let loose, and hobgoblins of every sort roam freely about.” – J.G. Frazer, The Golden Bough
Dead Leaves Fall
The scenario "Dead Leaves Fall" suggests another:
"The event that connects these poor individuals together is the time period of October 31 every year. The reason that this specific date is the trigger for the transformation is unknown and probably beyond human comprehension.... One may speculate that the spell to call forth Chaat is only done on this date and that the spell itself holds significance to linking the date with the transformation." - Simon Yee, "Dead Leaves Fall"
(To do. Liminality: "neither here nor there")
(To do: describe the history of Halloween, from ancient British Isles to present.)
(To do: describe typical traditions, beliefs, and superstitions concerned with celebrating Halloween in various settings.)
England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales
Samhain (Dark Ages and Ancient, October 31 - November 1)
Dark Ages and Ancient Scotland, Ireland, England, Wales: the origin of Halloween, known then as the religious celebration of Samhain, and represents some of the more ancient beliefs about this holiday.
Halloween activities in the Ancient and Dark Ages periods:
- Bobbing for apples (originally introduced into Halloween celebrations by the Roman Empire. After the Romans took over Celtic lands in AD43, a new tradition celebrating the Roman goddess Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees is seen in present day Halloween celebrations in the tradition of bobbing for apples, as apples are one of the goddess' symbols.)
Beltane (Dark Ages and Ancient, April 30 - May 1)
(To do. Similar to Walpurgisnacht.)
United States and Canada
(To do; Halloween adopts some Native American traditions.)
(To do; Halloween is vaguely threatening to the Victorians, and associated with immigrant troublemakers.)
1920s to Present
(To do; Halloween is re-invented as a community-friendly holiday)
Halloween activities in modern North America:
- Ghost Stories:
- Telling ghost stories (the basic inspiration for the Chaosium Halloween monographs and scenario contest)
- Horror Movies (by the 1960s, Halloween would become associated with showing classic horror movies, and new horror movies, including Halloween-themed movies, would appear in the decades to follow; in this way, the Gothic Universal Horror monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf-Man, and the Mummy would become iconic symbols of Halloween and common subjects of costumes; in television, "Halloween Episodes" with creepy or kitschy treatment of the holiday would become popular by the 1980s)
- The "Harvest Festival" (Halloween in some cases may be combined with or replaced by a more secular "Harvest Festival", which can be similar but may strip many of the more pagan or religious connotations from the celebration.)
- Sack Races and other contests
- Farmer's Markets (selling harvest produce and crafts to the community)
- Pumpkins (and other large local seasonal harvest vegetables):
- Carving Jack O'Lanterns (carving scary faces in vegetables; traditional materials for Jack O'Lanterns are turnips and other large vegetables found in the UK, but the widely available pumpkins in North America became iconic symbols of Halloween in the Americas)
- Harvesting Pumpkins (sometimes as part of a contest or as a source of income for pumpkin farmers; large pumpkin patches may be decorated as mazes or with scarecrows, witches, ghosts, Jack O'Lanterns, and other "haunted house" imagery while children look for pumpkins to buy and carve into Jack O' Lanterns)
- Apples: Originally introduced into Halloween celebrations by the Roman Empire. After the Romans took over Celtic lands in AD43, a new tradition celebrating the Roman goddess Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees is seen in present day Halloween celebrations in the tradition of bobbing for apples, as apples are one of the goddess' symbols.
- Bobbing for apples (two or more contestants with their hands tied behind their backs attempt to catch apples floating in a large tub or barrel of water with their teeth)
- Apple-Head Dolls (apples are carved into faces and left to dry for a few days or weeks, then attached to a doll-shaped framework and clothed; the resulting faces look elderly, wizened, shriveled, and goblinesque)
- Harvesting Apples (sometimes as part of a contest)
- Corn (a part of the harvest tradition of Halloween):
- Corn Husk Dolls (adopted from an ancient Native American tradition, the husks around ears of corn are removed and dried, and then tied and woven into dolls, and the effect can range from cute and folksy to eerie depending on the doll and context; according to one Iroquois tradition, these dolls are made to represent nightmares, and then buried to take the dream's evil away)
- Corn Mazes (mazes cut into corn fields, which are often decorated with creepy scarecrows and jack-o-lanterns in a Halloween theme, and may be as elaborate as - or part of - Haunted House attractions)
- Harvesting or "Shucking"/Peeling Corn (sometimes as part of a contest)
- "Candy Corn" made from corn starch, corn syrup, and other ingredients and shaped and coloured like large kernals of Indian corn has been a popular Halloween treat since the 1880s
- "Haunted Houses":
- "Haunted" Houses and "Hell Houses" (decorating houses to resemble iconic haunted houses for entertainment; the most elaborate haunted houses may become popular neighborhood attractions; by the 1980s, perhaps in reaction to the "Satanic Panic" of that era, some Christian churches may adapt the concept as "Hell Houses" for use in teaching moral lessons about the dangers of the paganism, witchcraft, satanism, and evil associated with Halloween)
- Haunted Ghost Tours/Walks (tour guides lead groups around the town center, telling ghost stories related to the homes, businesses, and landmarks in the town, often with stops in local businesses and tourist attractions; one variation on this is the Haunted Pub Crawl, with stops at various historic pubs/bars/taverns in the area for ghost stories and drinks; this seems to be an obvious part of the transformation of Halloween into a local, safe, and community-friendly tradition through the 20th century)
- Haunted Mazes (as mentioned elsewhere, such as Corn Mazes)
- Bonfires (sometimes representing parting ways with the past and making way for the future, as part of Halloween's liminal symbolism)
- Costume Parties, Dances, Contests
- In the 1920s, historical, exotic, fairy tale, and comical themed costumes are the norm; with horrific subjects being in poor social taste.
- In the latter half of the 20th Century, costumes might get increasingly more gruesome and horrific in parallel to the content of horror and other films.
- Trick-or-Treating or Guising (by the 1920s, communities were re-inventing "guising" as a safe community activity to discourage the traditional vandalism and extortion associated with the practice. In Canada between the 1950s and 2006 children would also collect spare change for the UNICEF organization while trick-or-treating).
- Pranks and Vandalism (youthful pranks and vandalism have long been a darker part of Halloween tradition, ranging from the relatively harmless, such as scaring people, to throwing eggs at houses or "rolling" trees and houses with rolls of bathroom toilet tissue paper, to breaking windows or setting fires or assaults; police may have to work overtime to watch for dangerous activities)
- Costume Parties, Dances, Contests
(To do. These would be more unusual locations where Halloween might be celebrated.)
The Deep Ones (May Eve and Halloween)
"Those sea-things liked human sacrifices. They had had them ages before, but lost track of the upper world after a time. What they did to the victims, it isn't for me to say, and I guess Obed wasn't too sharp about asking. But it was all right with the [Kanaky] heathens, because they had been having a hard time and were desperate about everything. They gave a certain number of young folks to the sea-things twice every year - May-Eve and Halloween - regularly as could be, and would also give some of the carved knick-knacks they made. What the sea-things agreed to give in return was plenty of fish - they drove them in from all over the sea - and a few gold-like things now and then.... It seems the sea-things liked mixing with humans, and having joint ceremonies on the big days - May-Eve and Halloween....
"...And what did they all howl on May-Eve, and again the next Halloween? And why did the new church parsons - fellows that used to he sailors - wear those queer robes and cover themselves with the gold-like things Obed brought from the sea-things? ...How would you like to hear the howling night after night from the churches and Order of Dagon Hall, and know what is doing part of the howling? How would you like to hear what comes from that awful reef every May-Eve and Halloween?"
- H.P.Lovecraft, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth"
The Deep Ones apparently keep Halloween and May Eve as sacred holidays around the world, using them for mixed celebrations among humans and other beings, and as days to trade sacrifices with outsiders for strange goods and services from the deep seas.
Why these specific days are important is unknown; perhaps the Deep Ones inherited these holidays from the human pagan cultures they interacted with, or perhaps pagans borrowed their holidays from their dealings with Deep Ones.
The Deep Ones and their human, hybrid, and alien cultists seem to celebrate these holidays with hideous bargains and trades, human sacrifices (apparently in the form of "marriages" to the sea creatures), mass orgies in monolithic circles or temples, chanting and wailing, conjurings of horrors from the sea deeps, the conversion of humans into atavistic sea-things, the casting of spells and the workings of monstrous miracles and curses, and other grotesqueries.
Belomas (Far Future)
"Tie a ribbon to the door / And light a candle in the glass / For all the dead that died before / Are coming home this Belomas" - Sara Newton, "The Beloved Dead"
Belomas is a Festival of the Dead in the far-future setting of The Chronicles of Future Earth. The Festival takes place over the nights of the four Sayibdis (Saturdays) of the month of Galom, and each Sayibdi evening families get together to enjoy each other’s company and remember the dead. Pumpkin cakes are left in the Ancestors’ Niche in every house, and children tie black and orange ribbons to the doors of their houses and put candles in the windows so their dead ancestors can easily find their way home. It is a quiet time of joy, after the harvest and before the first snows of winter arrive.
Lemuralia (Invictus: Imperial Rome; May 9-13)
"The Roman calendar has many holidays, festivals and holy days. The time is approaching for the feast of Lemuralia, three sacred days (May 9th, 11th and 13th) when all good Romans performed rites to exorcise the unwholesome spirits of the dead from their homes. This was accomplished by making offerings of beans and mola salsa, special salted flower cakes made by the Vestigial Virgins from the first ears of wheat of a harvesting season. Such gifts usually were enough to satisfy the restless dead for another year, but every once in an unfortunate while the dead aren’t so easily appeased." (Scenario: "Lemuralia")
Martinisingen (Germany, November 10 or 11)
Walpurgisnacht (April 30)
Australia & New Zealand
Japan, Korea, China, etc.
(To do. There may be some American import of the holiday, but some of these countries have traditional festivals that are similar to Halloween as well: "Hungry Ghost Festival", et.al.)
Hungry Ghost Festival (China)
(To do. Seventh Month of the Chinese Calendar, with the main celebration on the 14th or 15th day.)
Mexico, Central and South America
(To do. There may be some import of the U.S. version of the holiday, but there may also be traditional festivals that are similar to Halloween, such as "Day of the Dead" et.al.)
Dia de Muertos / Day of the Dead (Mexico, October 31 - November 2)
(To do. Before Spanish colonization, this holiday was celebrated at the beginning of Summer in honor of the Aztec goddess of the Dead.)