Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, October 31, 2016


"Scholarly Spook" at Cheekwood
Today is All Hallows’ Eve, or Halloween. It’s believed to originate in the Celtic festival of Samhain, a pre-Christian festival held around November 1 to mark the end of summer and the beginning of winter. It was the biggest holiday of the Celtic year: a combination of harvest festival, New Year’s Eve, and community meeting. Animals were brought in from the pasture and made secure for the coming winter, and some of them were slaughtered to provide salted meat for the winter. It was also a time of year when the veil between living and dead was particularly porous, so the spirits of the dearly departed were more easily able to return to their earthly homes. And it meant that other otherworldly creatures — like fairies, leprechauns, and other tricksters — were more likely to be among us. But even though ghosties and ghoulies wandered among the living during Samhain, the supernatural wasn’t the main focus of the holiday the way it is for Halloween.
As the Christian Church grew, Samhain blended with a Christian holiday known as All Saints’ Day, All Hallows’ Day, or Hallowmas, which was originally observed in May but later moved to November 1. It was a time for believers to honor and remember those who had passed on to heaven. This blending was not coincidental. Early Christian leaders told their missionaries that if they wanted to convert pagans to Christianity, they shouldn’t waste time on trying to suppress their rituals and practices, but rather they should consecrate those practices to Christ and incorporate them wherever possible. This had the effect of establishing Christianity among the pagans — but it also preserved many of the pagan practices instead of quashing them. So Samhain and All Saints’ Day rituals influenced each other and eventually merged, and that is when we begin to see the traditions that we associate with Halloween today.
One such tradition was the practice of “souling,” common in Britain and Ireland in the Middle Ages. Poor people would go door to door on Hallowmas and offer to pray for the souls of the family’s dead relatives, in exchange for an offering of food. It mingled with the practice of “mumming”: dressing up in costumes and performing wacky antics in exchange for food and drink, and eventually trick-or-treating became a traditional part of Halloween. WA

“All great things must first wear terrifying and monstrous masks, in order to inscribe themselves on the hearts of humanity.” Nietzsche

(Do not underestimate the power of costume)

Free Speech Update. My follow-up to the Dean's response (he'd complained about students standing and watching the "freak show" and said if you don't want to be called names you should just move along):

Of course. My concern is that the conspicuous display of "open air" free speech on our campus is such an exotic event that students can hardly be faulted for treating it as a rare spectacle. Just walking away from an obstreperous and amplified hate-monger planted for hours on end in the middle of campus is easier said than done.
Mr. Skelly does in fact put on a "freak show," year after year, of the sort sure to dissuade many from valuing their first amendment rights. I'd love to see time limits, and an orderly process whereby the more thoughtful gawkers will be encouraged to become participants. More transparency and publicity for the process of gaining access to our "free speech zones" would be a big improvement.

The provost observes:
This group takes advantage of our Facilities Use policy, apparently hoping that we will deny them access. They apparently won some money in a lawsuit against Tennessee Tech a few years ago.
So apparently it's mostly a matter of legal caution that the fire-and-brimstone evangelists regularly appear on campus. We're still awaiting answers to these questions: Have other groups or individuals have been denied access because they don't seem to pose a legal threat? Who is charged with implementing our Facilities Use policy?What are the extra-legal criteria by which Facilities Use permits are granted?

Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. Just as an extra tidbit of cool information, our carving of pumpkins comes from olden days carving of turnips! They carved turnips to scare away any and all evil spirits that came near. There was an original story of a man named Jack who wasn't allowed to enter after his death so he was forced to make a lantern to guide his ways in the afterlife and so they called it a Jack'