The Crows and The Ravens

The Crows and The Ravens
-By Angelique Duncan

In mythology crows and ravens have become interchangeable. There are a multitude of legends across the globe surrounding these fine black birds. They are part of a family of birds that are referred to as corvus that has over 40 different species of proud black birds and even colored jays that are referred to commonly as crows. A common theme among crow legends is their high intelligence and use of tools. Depending on the culture they are deemed good or evil, wise sage or trickster or simply nuisance. For many today, they are a symbol of the spooky. This was not always their persona, once they were seen as Gods.

Crows and ravens are found making appearance in creation myths in several cultures around the world. In Native American tribes of North America the Raven brought light to the world. It is said, in varying tales, that in the beginning there was darkness created by a Great Chief who resided in in the heavens. He kept light hidden away in a locked box. Raven, not feeling it was fair to keep light from the rest of creation devised a plan and stole the box. Raven flew away with the box and dropped it to the earth where it split open spreading light creating the sun, moon and stars.

Another Native American creation myth tells that the Raven stole water, light and fire from a greedy grey eagle that despised humanity and kept the elements for himself. The Raven stole the elements and flew around the world carrying light, water and fire in his beak. He hung the moon and sun in the sky creating light. He dropped the water to create lakes and streams. Lastly he released the fire where it fell into rocks. The Raven, once a white bird, feathers had turned black from the smoke of the fire he carried. The Ravens feathers remained blacked as reminder of what he gave humanity.

In another folklore of Native Americans the Raven created the world and took care of humans, giving them vegetation, shelter, clothes and taught them how to take care of themselves. When a great flood occurred the Raven gathered animals by pairs to save them and humanity as well. After the floods reseeded, the Raven fell in love with a human and wanted to marry her. The family however refused to allow their daughter to marry a scavenger bird. As revenge for his broken heart the Raven created mosquitoes to punish all of the humans for their lack of gratitude for what he had done for them.

It is a reoccurring theme that the Crow as a spirit animal is to have great intelligence, creativity and the able to change with ones situation. In many Asian cultures and some South American and European cultures the Crow is a sign of change or birth, literal and metaphoric. The birds are seen as wise messengers and protectors.

However, many cultures have marked the black birds as an omen of death, misfortune and even war. The Crows are known for being scavengers and often will eat leavings of carrion that other animals and birds will not touch. This may attribute to their ill fortune of association with death and foreboding. Observation of their clever demeanor easily explains their prominent place in mythology. However they fell from the perch as creators of the world to more negative connotations.

In Norse mythology two Ravens were the companions of the God Odin. The pair would fly around the world listening and watching and return to give Odin intelligence of what they had seen and heard. Their names were Hugin and Munin, meaning, thought and mind prospectively. From this mythology Crows have gained the reputation as spies and not to be trusted if one is present while a secret is being shared.

In ancient lore, it was deemed bad luck to see Crows before battle. It was thought that they brought defeat and death. The Celtics believed that Goddesses would take the form of a Crow after battle and feast upon the dead.

In Christianity the Crows and Ravens are seen as bad omens and “unclean” and a “flawed creation of God”. In the tale of Noah and his arc, similar to the North American tale of a great flood, the Raven’s role is reversed from savior to selfish slacker. In the Bible tale, the Raven was a grand white bird. Noah sent the Raven to investigate if land had appeared after the rains ended. Instead of returning to let Noah know land was appearing, the Raven stayed on the dry shore and began scavenging and looking for his own food, forsaking Noah and the rest of the animals. Noah sent a dove instead who returned with an olive branch as a sign that all was good. God punished the Raven for his selfishness by turning him black.

Many Europeans believed that Crows were witches or faeries who had taken the shape of the bird to make mischief undetected or to steal shiny objects. The black birds are known for destruction of crops and were seen as sent as a curse by witches to bring financial ruin and misfortune to farmers who had angered a witch.

Early Christians believed that the Crow was a sign of evil for it’s black coloring. They believed that to cross one was bad luck. It was told that to see a flock of low flying Crows meant that illness was near. Also, it was believed that a Crow flying over a house and cawing three times meant a death would happen in that home. Another wives tale states that if a Crow caws before the other birds in the morning that dreary weather will come. Some cultures believed that Crows would eat and carry the souls of the dead. It was thought that they were sent by Satan and would only eat the eyes of sinners and therefore carried evil souls to be trapped in the underworld. Properly, the name for a flock of Crows is known as a “murder of crows”, helping to drive home the connotation of death with these birds.

Crows and Ravens have been featured through out fables, literature and popular culture as mysterious birds of intrigue. The Ravens became synonymous with spookiness after the chilling tale of “The Raven” by Edger Allen Poe. The Ravens and Crows secured their place in spooky imagery after being featured in famous motion pictures like “The Birds” by Alfred Hitchcock and the “Omen 2” by Don Taylor.

For many in the United States the presence of the black birds and their familiar caws are a rite of the seasons and a sign that the end of Summer is nearing. Autumn and harvest is close behind. The Crows and Ravens are part of the excitement and imagery that is Fall and for some they are a most welcome and comforting messenger that soon it will be October and Halloween.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

The Curse of the Mummy

The Curse of the Mummy-By Angelique Duncan

When one thinks of classic Halloween monsters, and costumes the mummy will certainly come to mind; gauze wrappings on decayed skin representing the preservation of the physical body, acting as a vessel holding the deceased until their passage to the afterlife. Petrified and mummified human bodies have been unearthed on nearly every continent. Often associated with Egypt, numerous mummies have been found in Asia, the Americas and even Europe. Mummies have always had a mystique surrounding them and evoke the fear of ancient curses, or the notion that the preserved corpse still holds life that once disturbed will return.

During the Middle Ages mummies were highly sought after for varied and unusual purposes. Many mummies were taken from tombs in Egypt and Africa for the pharmaceutical trade. Until the 16th century it was believed that ingesting powder made from mummies had grand healing powers. People believed that the rituals and rites of the Egyptian burial practices endowed the mummies with immortality that would transfer to the living when ingested. Another popular belief was that powdered mummy would stop bleeding and heal wounds. Some unscrupulous “Medicine Men” would sell the ground up corpses of suicides and criminals that were stolen from graves and sell the remains passing them off as authentic Egyptian mummy powder.

After the medicinal demand for mummies ended and despite early Arabic translations of warnings of curses surrounding disturbed mummies, the powder made from the bodies remained in demand until the early 19th century for paint pigment. The paints that were made from the remains created a brown tint that was called “mummia” or “deaths head”. Many of the great masterpieces that hang in museums today were painted using paints made from mummies. The practice was eventually ended and the color “mummia” was made from ground frankincense mixed with other elements.

Thousands of mummified cats were found throughout Egypt. It was common for these cat corpses to be taken and used for all kinds of purposes, one common use was as fertilizer. Rumors and myths exist that mummies were also used as fuel and the wrappings as paper, however these claims have never been substantiated. During the 19th century the practice of desecrating tombs for profit became frowned upon, as archaeology and the study of civilizations became a prominent science. This however, did not detour wealthy Victorians in England from purchasing mummies illegally for entertainment. The Victorians were fascinated by the romanticism of the occult and magic. Egyptology had become the rave and the stories of ancient curses had made their way into the mainstream. The wealthy would hold parties to observe the unwrapping of the mummies and hold séances with mediums in attempts to awaken the deceased they believed incased in the mummy corpses.

Curses were written or depicted on the walls of tombs in Egypt and were originally interpreted by the Arabs who seldom risked tampering with Egyptian magic. As archeologist studied the Egyptian language and imagery the warnings left in tombs were substantiated. A new study emerged from Egyptology, the history of the curses and their validity through documentation of those associated with the digs and their artifacts suffering from strange illnesses and even unexplained deaths.

Later the widespread belief in the reality of the curses was perpetuated as several famous instances of them coming to fruition were spread through news media. The most famous curse being the deaths surrounding the disruption of King Tut’s tomb when it was excavated. Six people died who were on location at the tombs opening. It was reported by the New York Times that the lead of the project, Howard Carter’s pet canary was found eaten by a cobra. This was pertinent in that it is the imagery of the crest of the Egyptian monarchy. Later six of the team all died from mysterious causes. Rumors at the time stated that the number of deaths was much greater, up to twenty-six deaths, which helped fuel the hysteria and fear surrounding mummy curses. When objects from King Tut’s tomb, including his coffin where exhibited around the world in the 1970’s, many refused to go see the exhibit for fear of the curse and deaths surrounding the discovery.

Another famous curse was documented when Walter Byran Emery took a small statue of Osiris from a tomb dig site. When Emery returned to his room his assistant found him paralyzed on the right side of his body, he was taken to the hospital and by the next day Emery was dead.

In another case when two mummies were removed from their resting place and transported over seas the ship encountered an unpredicted bad storm that tossed them over board. A year later on the anniversary of the excavation 3 family members of the head archeologist all died from mysterious causes.

A recent incident documenting an ancient curse involves an artifact of a ten-inch statue that has been housed in a glass case in Manchester England. It began gradually turning on its pedestal by itself in June of 2013. After staff realized that piece had been shifting direction significantly in a 180-degree turn without any visible assistance, the museum ordered that the case not be touched, the room closed and a camera set up to observe the piece. The footage proved that the piece was indeed moving. Some believe it was the spirit of the deceased whose tomb it was taken from living through the statue. Experts who were brought in to study the artifact say that the phenomenon was caused by vibrations of heavy foot traffic and vehicles on the road outside pivoting the statue on a bump found on the bottom. Some still do not believe the explanation is that simple and hold that the artifact is haunted and cursed.

Science offers that many of the deaths that have surrounded mummies and their artifacts can be explained. It is believed that those who have fallen ill or died were exposed to toxins commonly found in the caves and tunnels where the tombs were housed. Modern science can now identify the dangers of molds, bacteria’s and toxins that early archeologists were not aware of and claim exposure to these things is what caused the mysterious illness and deaths, not the curses left on walls by ancient relatives protecting their dead.

It may be true that there is a reasonable explanation for why so many who disturbed a mummies grave have died or how an artifact pivots on it’s own. However when one is dealing with the dead and curses from antiquity, it’s always best to err to the side of caution
and leave a resting mummy alone. If one shows up at your door on Halloween night be sure to throw in an extra piece of candy, lest you will suffer the curse of a mummy!

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

Jack o’ Lantern

Jack o’ Lantern
-By Angelique Duncan

The Jack o’ Lantern, not much is recorded in written history about these magnificent icons of Hallow’s eve. Most of what we know of the Jack o’ Lantern comes from oral tradition that has been passed down from the generations. However one could hardly imagine Halloween with out them. Plump, orange and glowing. Sometimes flickering a menacing grin, others with frightful faces and some more welcoming and sincere. For most folks the start of the Halloween season begins with a trip to the market to find that perfect gourd upon which to carve out the face that will be lit and stand guard on their porch or on their window sill for Halloween night.

It is understood that our modern Jacks find their origins from ancient Ireland. It was common practice to light kindling in a carved thick flesh of a beet or turnip as a lantern that could be carried or hung from a stick with twine. The use of the pumpkin for carving Jack o” Lanterns did not arise until the discovery of their native home, the Americas.

The lore associated with Jack o’ Lanterns is akin to The Will of The Wisps and in some traditions are interchangeable in their name. Legends of glowing mystical or spirit lights hovering in bogs and marshes that attract travelers from their intended paths have been attached to the Jack o Lantern.

There are common legends of the Jack o’ Lantern that are similar in their telling’s with slight variances in the story, but with the same outcome. The story goes that a man named Jack, who had spent a sinister existence, was approached by the devil and informed that it was the end of his life and time for the devil to collect his soul to take back to Hell. In these stories Jack is cunning and finds a way to trick the devil so that he cannot take his soul. Some stories tell that Jack tricks the devil with crosses or by manipulating or bartering with the devil into promising that he won’t take him to Hell. In keeping the devils word, he does not collect Jacks soul, however when Jack eventually dies, he cannot enter Heaven either. Jack’s spirit is doomed to wander the earth with only a lump of coal set in a turnip to light his way and keep him warm.

It is said that when one sees a Will o Wisp, it is Jack’s soul wandering. However, legends pertaining to Will of The Wisp predate the stories of wandering or stingy Jack. In some cultures and regions the wisps were thought to be wandering spirits trapped on earth. Others believe they are nymphs or faeries. Some traditions tell that the candles lit in Jack o” Lanterns are the souls of deceased children brought to life on Halloween night.

Although the stories of Jack trapped in the turnip is a popular and accepted tale and where the namesake of the carved pumpkin may come from, the use of carved faces in vegetables on Halloween goes much further back in antiquity to the pre Christianity and Gaelic practices of Samhain. Some historians site that the story of Stingy Jack and other Jack legends may have been modified when Christianity took hold in Ireland to suit a more Christian theme on explaining carved gourds at Halloween.

It was believed that on the night of Samhain, a veil was lifted that allowed the spirits of the dead to re-enter the mortal realm. Beets and turnips were carved with scary faces to ward off evil spirits and unwanted ghost. The lit vegetables would be set around the exterior of ones house and lit with candles or kindling. In some European regions the predecessor to Trick or Treating was guising, in which people would carry carved lit turnips while wearing sheets to scare folks into believing they were ghost so that they would give them food.

When European immigrants came to North America pumpkins were used in place of beets and turnips. The larger fruit with its fleshy shell made for a better carving surface and hollowed easily to hold a light source. The Samhain practice of setting out carved pumpkins on October 31st became hugely popular in the United States, and has been a mainstay of Halloween ever since.

As October descends and Halloween approaches pumpkins will be carved in all manner of faces and set out on porches as effigy to a fella named Jack, ward off evil spirits, respect for children past and serve as a beacon to welcome Trick or Treaters. When you set out your Jack o’ Lantern on this Halloween night with it’s crooked grin and flickering eyes know that you are carrying on a ancient custom that has survived many a century and that yours will be among thousands of Jack o’ Lanterns lit adding to the magic of Halloween.

Happy Halloween! Keep your Jack o’ Lantern lit in solidarity!

Images “The Great Pumpkin of Sincerity” and “Great Pumpkin & His Cult” Copyright Michelle Angelique Duncan

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

Trick or Treat!

Trick or Treat!
-By Angelique Duncan

Trick or Treat! The practice of dressing in costumes and going door to door for treats is as old as the holiday of Halloween it’s self. It survives as a traditional custom in modern times from its origins in ancient Gaelic history and the holiday Samhain.

There are varied yet similar thoughts on why trick or treating has been practiced, however despite region and era, there has always been a common thread; costumed people asking for some sort of treat on October 31st.

The ancient Celts believed that on October 31st a veil was lifted at twilight allowing magical forms of beings to re-enter the mortal world for one night. Some believed that this opening was also extended to the spirit world of the dead as well. In the Middle ages it was thought that ghost were allowed to pass from the “otherworld” through openings in sacred grounds that acted as gateways.

Common practice in the 1400’s was to leave plates of sweets and food for faeries and elemental creatures in ones garden or porch. This was done in hopes that passing faerie troupes would take the offerings in exchange for not making mischief or tear up ones crops. This may be the first inclination of sweets used as a bartering tool to avoid tricks.

Spirits who had returned on Halloween night were also left offerings of food. Some documentation from the 15-1600’s suggest that folks would leave food for weary souls as they traveled looking for their loved ones. Samhain was considered New Years and it was customary during this era to hold huge elaborate feast. At these feast plates would be set out and a chair at the table reserved for those who had passed away.

Just as departed loved ones could pass through gateways on Halloween night, it was believed that the wretched could return as well. To pacify these ill intended spirits folks would leave sweets on their porches to appease bad ghost to not haunt them and move on from ones home to the next.

The earliest documentation of Halloween costumes comes from the 1600’s. Men would dress in scary spirit costumes to scare away evil ghost and enchanted creatures. In return for the service of shooing away the bad spirits to make way for the visiting family ghost, people would offer ale and breads to these men. As the practice grew in popularity some would sing or perform for beer and treats. This became known as “guising”. Folks would become opportunistic in the practice and dress as monsters and scary ghost, threatening people’s homes with mischief if treats were not given.

In some regions it was customary for men to go “guising” door to door to farms to gather food donations for Samhain feasts. If the farmer obliged then his home would be bestowed with good fortune through the coming year. If He did not, then he would be met with a curse of misfortune.

With the rise of Christianity the churches advocated the celebration of All Souls Day in lieu of Samhain. All Souls Day falls on November 1, or 2nd depending on region. All Souls Day began as a day set-aside for monks to pray for the souls that were trapped in purgatory. The holiday expanded as a day to pray for all souls of the dead. Folks would go to cemeteries and decorate the graves of their loved ones. Not completely willing to let go of superstitions, the practice of leaving “soul cakes” out for the dead became a common practice. Children would go “Souling” through out village’s carrying candles or lanterns singing and offering prayers for the dead in exchange for soul cakes. It was believed that when a soul cake was eaten after a prayer a damned soul was released from hell.

As immigrants from Scotland and Ireland migrated across Europe and to North America during the 1700-1800’s, the Gaelic Samhain traditions followed. In some regions boys would dress as ghost and demons going house-to-house demanding food and drink otherwise they would wreak destructive havoc and mischievous mayhem. Livestock would be let free from their stockades, crops destroyed and broken windows were common on Halloween night. Although it would be much later in history before the term “Trick or Treat” would be used, the practice of giving treats to ward of “tricksters” was in full swing and in true form of its more modern practice.

The practice of knocking on doors on Halloween night carried on into the 1900’s. Halloween was very popular in the 1920’s as it lent itself for fancy dress up parties and lavish festive feast that were popular during the era. In England and North America the poor would dress in costumes and go into wealthier neighborhoods begging for money and food. Halloween became known as “Beggars’ Night. Soon it became commonplace and children of all ranks would go door to door festively in costumes to receive treats in exchange for not playing pranks. During the mid 1930’s the Term “Trick or Treat” was born and Halloween had become a children’s holiday.

However during the 1940’s with sugar rationing and a generally somber mood created by World War II the festive revelry of costuming and asking for candy became frowned upon and Halloween made a return to Beggars Night. During this conservative era it was believed that Trick or Treating was the practice of poor immigrants and not behavior for dignified, proud American and British children.

After the war ended and the American economy became strong along with upward mobility of immigrants socially, the practice of Halloween parties and Trick or Treating returned in full force. The tradition of knocking on doors in costumes and yelling “TRICK OR TREAT” for candy was the norm. The tricks were not violent and usually took the form of knocking over trash bins, applying dark polish to windows, throwing bath tissue in trees, throwing eggs or other devious deeds of vandalism like smashing pumpkins.

In the late 1980’s efforts were made to take the “trick” out of Trick or Treats. Children older than 12 years of age were discouraged from dressing up and going out on Halloween. Adult chaperons were encouraged and churches and retail establishments would host organized Trick or Treat events. Group Halloween parties for children held indoors in lieu of taking to the streets were commonplace. By the mid 1990’s virtually all the trick was removed from Trick or Treating and Halloween night had become all about the treats. Trick or treating through out neighborhoods made a come back in the early 2,000’s and is holding strong as an annual children’s holiday and night of nostalgia for adults and is widely celebrated in the United States and gaining popularity through out the world.

The acts of wearing costumes demanding treats under threat of tricks still exist as an integral tradition to Halloween. As October 31st approaches remember to leave your porch light on and to have plenty of sweets at the ready. For that knock at the door may be a whimsical child out for Tricks or Treats or it may be a wandering ghost or faerie spirit set free to roam on Halloween night.

Images “Set free on Halloween” and “Trick or Treat” Copyright Michelle Angelique Duncan

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

Christmas in July, Halloween in June

Christmas in July, Halloween in June
-By Angelique Duncan

Most folks have heard the expression “Christmas in July”. It usually is used to express a great and unexpected surprise. There seems to be differing opinions and documentation of when the slogan was actually was first actually used. Some historians trace the term back to the 1930’s and 1940’s to different Christian church entities and clubs in regards to annual events involving decorated trees, gift giving and all the trappings of the winter holiday in the hot summer month of July. First official use of the term “Christmas In July” was from an American movie of that title that was released in 1940. However the concept has much deeper and practical origins.

The notion finds its roots in the Victorian era of the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The Victorians, despite being quite extravagant in their winter celebrations with in decorations and gifts were also frugal and inventive people. The practice of purchased gifts at the Christmas holiday did not surface until much later in modern history. The Victorians would primarily give hand made gifts. The common practice was for each family member to make a gift for each other member of the family. For this to be pulled off in time for winter, a lot of planning and preparation was required.

Most gifts were made from what one could find in nature or in ones home. The making of gifts and holiday decorations for the home became part of the summer ritual. During the summer months, materials from nature were readily available. Starting the craft projects early in July gave a window of roughly 6 months to complete the projects of sewing, collecting and drying flowers, canning and preserving special foods from the garden, using oils to sent sachets and pomanders and to build collages or paint objects.

The Victorian practice of hand crafting ones Christmas gifts carried over into the 1930’s during the Great Depression when resources were scarce. In lieu of purchasing items, holiday gifts were from what one could make from what they had on hand. Later in 1944 during World War II, the United States Postal Service and greeting card industry promoted a postal campaign to collect letters and cards in early July for soldiers overseas to help ensure that they would be received for the holidays.

In the 1950’s with rise in incomes and commercialism advertisers for department stores caught on to the phrase to help boost retail sales during the leaner profit months of summer. The idea gained momentum for bargain hunters, who would begin their holiday shopping early in the year. This also allowed for retailers to push out old inventory to make room for the next year’s products.

In the years of the 1950’s through the 1970’s retail marketing of the Christmas holiday season began the day after Thanksgiving, on what is now known as Black Friday. Stores would set Christmas displays and begin their holiday sales for what is considered season of the greatest profits for retailers though out the months of November and December.

In an effort to extend the shopping season and sell more Christmas merchandise retailers began to push the start of the holiday season earlier and earlier each year. The market for winter décor exploded. By the late 1980’s retailers would begin to play holiday music and stock Christmas items the day after Halloween. By the 1990’s and into the new millennium retailers began putting out their holiday merchandise as early as June and July and have capitalized on the “Christmas In July” slogan in hopes to capture revenue from folks doing their holiday gift and decorating shopping early.

The phenomenon of capitalizing and commercializing holidays carried over to Halloween. With the rise in popularity of Halloween in past decades, retailers have taken notice. Sales of Halloween themed items for home decorating, parties, yard decorations and costumes now follows a close second to Christmas related sales and is gaining.

During the early 1990s and 2000’s Halloween entered a surge in popularity in American culture. However availability of quality unique Halloween decorations was limited in the big retail market. Most decorations and costumes prior to the late 1980- 90’s were home made. As the desire for Halloween décor that was on par with Christmas decorating grew, so did the market for Halloween art. Small independent artist and individuals who built yard – haunting décor had found their niche. With the advent of the Internet and the growth of an online upstart auction site known as eBay, demand for handmade Halloween soared. An entire market of Halloween collectors was born. One of a kind direct from the artist creations was highly sought after.

As this national love of all things Halloween grew, national retailers took notice and followed suit. The large retail chains began to offer Halloween collectibles, home decor and elaborate yard art that hit their shelves by late August and September. Big retailers honed in on what was offered by the independent online sellers and created an entire industry of Halloween retail revenue.

Sales of Halloween themed collectibles for home decorating, parties, yard decorations and costumes now follows a close second to Christmas related sales and is gaining. With this popularity of Halloween, retailers now set out mass-produced Halloween items as early as July, often along side the Christmas wares. This has drastically hurt the profits of small independent Halloween artist and yard haunters who once enjoyed a reliable fall retail season for Halloween sales.

From this history a campaign of Halloween in June was born. Independent artist Julia Chibatar proprietor of Ghostgap had the idea in 2013 to create a month dedicated to Halloween outside of it’s traditional month of October as an answer to the commercial concept of Christmas in July. Halloween in June is a month long celebration of all things Halloween with particular emphasis on independent Halloween Artist and their handmade wares. The celebration is a combined effort of Halloween groups comprised of independent artist to raise awareness of the small retail businesses and artist who gave origin to the Halloween retail phenomenon. It is an opportunity to showcase one of a kind handcrafted works available for purchase direct from the artist before the onslaught of big retail Halloween hits the shelves.

Halloween in June is presented by Spooky Cute Etsy Team
Halloween Artist Bazaar Artist Group
And Halloween 24/7 Etsy Team.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

Spirit of Halloween

Spirit of Halloween-By Angelique Duncan

Growing up in the 1970’s Halloween was a big deal. Before the “Candy Man” poisoning and alleged unconfirmed reports of razor blades in apples. Before the fears of devil worshiping cults stealing children and the belief ones neighbor must be a psychopathic killer, Halloween was huge. The urban legends of Halloween horrors hadn’t taken grip. The October holiday’s reputation had not been tarnished by the cultural fascination with fear that had arisen in the late seventies and early eighties. October 31st was an enchanting street party spanning one evening as communities came together, watched out for each other and owned their neighborhoods and ironically were not ruled by fear.

Halloween was the greatest spectacle in one night that a kid could dream of. In the neighborhood where I grew up, Halloween night was an occasion when the entire neighborhood was engaged and the community of neighbors came together. As the sun went down the streets began to fill with all manner of monsters, superheroes, and witches. Pirates and up right cats ruled the night. The build up to Halloween began promptly on the first day of October.

Over the weeks building up to October 31st the houses transformed from normal suburban homes to haunted vignettes. Pumpkins would start to show up on porches, sheet ghosts hung from trees. Orange and black streamers appeared and rattle-ly plastic skeletons were hung from beams and steeples. Home made scarecrows and monsters made from old work clothes and stuffed with newspaper would prop in lawn chairs and benches. The retail world had not yet caught on to the phenomenon of Halloween, so most of the visual spectacle of yard decorations and costumes were home made. There was a sense of sincerity and creativity shrouding the Holiday.

One essential component to every home was the carved lit Jack o lantern, no matter what motif one haunted their yard with; it was not complete with out the iconic glow from the face of a hand carved pumpkin guard. On Halloween night the assembled masterpieces formed from kitchen knives and powered by tea light and votives would smile their candle lit grins in unison.

The entire month of October was spent building ones costume. Once one decided what persona they would be for the night, it was time to assemble the costume. Back then it was deemed cooler to have created your own costume than to have bought one at the few stores that retailed them. Before the marketing of blockbuster movies and commercially licensed cartoon characters became a booming industry, the store bought sort of costumes were prefab plastic mask and tie back costume made from that odd sort of woven plastic nylon “fabric” that seemed to only appear at Halloween. Planning ones costume and getting it just right was essential. Weeks were spent in preparation; collecting bits, sewing and gluing this and that until all the pieces came together.

Finally, after much anticipation, October 31st had arrived. As tradition held from years before, the festivities would commence at dusk. The scramble would begin to get the pumpkin lit, the candy bowl by the door and costume on. Once the sun had sufficiently fallen on the horizon, with bag, pillowcase or bright orange plastic jack o lantern bucket in hand Trick or Treat would begin. Halloween night had arrived.

The little ones came first, accompanied by their elders who had taken on their own costumed personas. The next wave was the school age Trick or Treaters taking to the streets in packs. Later as the moon had ascended high in the October sky, the big kids came, these were the ones who put the trick in Trick or Treat. Halloween night would go on and wasn’t over until midnight. Today one is fortunate if masked visitors knock after 9:30. Back then the knocks would last well in to the night not fading until 11:00p.m. or midnight, even if the magical eve fell on a school night.

Through out the night neighbors flooded the streets in costume, the small children and the oldest of adults. Folks would decorate their baby’s strollers in black and orange or pull their small children in wagons that had been spooked up in Halloween flair. Through out the Autumn air the sounds of collective shouts of TRICK OR TREAT!” laughter and random screams drifted as if on a constant loop.

Nearly every house kept their porch light on. Most folks would answer the Trick or Treat knock in full scary garb or at least in a minimum witches hat or animal ears and drawn whiskers. If a resident had gone out for the night their neighbors would hand out candy in their stead and let the Trick or Treaters know not to trick their house. Folks would usually stand on their porches or driveways waiting for the costumers to come.

In our neighborhood the haunted garage was a common attraction. At least 3 to 4 houses would be decked out in mazes and stations where Trick or Treaters would dare to earn their treats. Friendly competitions would arise as to who would have the scariest garage for that year and bring in the most visitors. Word would spread like wildfire on the streets where the best candy or baked goods were being given and where the best-haunted garage could be found. At the end of the night one was sure to find popcorn balls, candied apples on sticks, rice krispie treats and printed Halloween bags filled with cookies assorted among all stripes of chocolate bars and packaged cadies. Ones bucket or bag would be so full that one might even have to work their way home to empty it so that one could go out and fill it again.

Once tired feet and aching legs had won over the excitement of the evening, and every last house visited, one would make the journey from the other side of the neighborhood back home. The sounds would have quieted some, lest the occasional Trick Or Treat holler heard in the distance. The streets would be littered with wrappers and plastics left from eaten treats and the occasional split skin from a smashed pumpkin that had suffered an untimely, and gruesome fate. Back home one would spread their bounty across the floor to revel in another year’s well-earned Halloween bounty. With sticky hands and sweet filled bellies one drifted to sleep with dreams of the big questions for next October…”What face to give the pumpkin? How to make the yard more scary? What do I want to be for Halloween”?

Reflecting on Halloweens gone by, one hopes that folks will keep the cultural experience of this historical celebration running and children today could have the same fond memories in their own neighborhoods. It is up to us who carry our own happy reflections to keep the spirit of Halloween alive for the following generations. Reclaim the holiday. Hang a ghost from your tree. Find the biggest bowl you can and fill it with candy. Put on a pointed hat and talk to your neighbors, know whom they are. Gather your kid’s friends and plan a Halloween Trick or Treat extravaganza. If you don’t have kids, gather your own friends and haunt up your yard, hand out treats and make Halloween great again in your neighborhood. Keep your porch light on and keep a Jack o lantern lit in the spirit of Halloween.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.