It is the Friday before Halloween, and where I live that’s a big deal. Its a fun holiday and it should be better this year as covid restrictions are relaxed (at least where I am). We get a lot of kids at our house nearly 100 every year. We live in one of those developments where people drop their kids off, its safe lot of houses, one way in and surrounded by deep woods. The town I live in also has a curfew on Halloween, 8PM. It’s not a militant curfew, I mean the cops aren’t out in riot gear… but at 8PM they ask you turn your light off and not hand out any candy.
But, how did all this start?
“Today’s religion is tomorrows myth” a wise man. Many celebrations, holidays and religious observances are overlap, borrowed or redundant. When we as a species were in our formidable years around 2000 years ago, religions competed with one another for followers. This isn’t meant to be cynical it’s just how it was. That doesn’t detract from the piety of those at the time, but religion was different then, faith was an absolute. Meaning, there was no internet, cell phone, most people couldn’t read.
Here we are on the cusp of the western worlds holiday season. Halloween ushers in the season, we get veterans day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah and New Year’s Day all within 70 days ( a touch over 2 months). Where do these holidays come from? You likely know some of the stories, you likely know, as an example, that the “12 days of Christmas” run nearly concurrently with Chanukah.
So, what are some of the other holidays that coincide or more accurately, preceded our current festivals? For Halloween there is Alfablot. Here is a link that describes it in more detail
In short, Aflablot is the sacrifice of the elves. Elves in the Viking world mostly represented dead spirits. So, this was a celebration of the dead, for lack of a more eloquent, and lengthy discussion. Sound familiar? Your Norse ancestors would have celebrated this blot toward the end of October. It was after harvest when the world was becoming bleak and barren.
In antiquity, in the Norse world, this was the time of the dead. You prepared most of the year to survive the winter and this was a time when people died to the elements and illness. The Alfablot was a singular ceremony, meaning each house conducted their own, in an effort to reach ancestors and elves in the hopes of communal discourse.
The hope was you would be able to convince the spirits to protect your house and family. There were no trick or treats but, indeed it was similar to Halloweens origins in spirit. Its symbolic of the end of the harvest, a preparation for winter. This Halloween, have fun, enjoy the celebration where you are as winter is coming (Is that you John Snow?).
Happy Halloween and Happy Alfablot !
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