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Archive for the ‘Halloween’ Category

Spooks, Monsters, and NaNoWriMo

By L. V. Gaudet

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If there is one holiday that inspires me as a writer, it is Halloween.

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While many of the things we do for Halloween, running around in costumes and decorating our homes to scare the bogeymen away, yet inviting the spooks and ghosts with open arms and their favorite treats, have roots in Pagan rituals and beliefs – Halloween has become as Pagan as Christmas with Santa, flying reindeer and decorated trees is Christian.

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While some of us will choose to celebrate either of these holidays in a more spiritual way, the bulk of us will continue to pray to the gods of commercialism and celebrate them as fun events celebrating family (Christmas) and your community (Halloween) with your family or community, holidays meant to bring us closer together, whether or not we celebrate the religious aspects of either one.

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But that isn’t why Halloween is my favorite holiday.  I love it because the more wacky your decorations are, the better they are.  Skeletons having a tea party wearing Aunt B’s hat, witches protruding from garage doors, and giant hairy spiders that look like they’re doing the cha-cha-cha – it’s all good.  Forget finding the perfect outfit and fussing over your hair for the holiday parties – just smear on some fake blood, back-comb that mop into an unruly rat’s nest, toss on a goofy costume and go have fun!  And the gift giving couldn’t be easier or more fun.  You buy a bunch of bags of candy and toss handfuls into the bags of eager kids while making the odd one perform tricks for your amusement.

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But even more than that, I love the whole theme of the holiday.  I love the festive spookiness.

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I’ve always loved a good horror movie; and a good bad horror movie too.  My favorite books have always been the likes of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and other purveyors of the darker side of our imaginations.  As a child I used to sneak to the basement, crank the volume down low, wait for the television to warm up, and sit much too close to watch Vincent Price movies late at night when the house is in darkness and quiet, and I was supposed to be in bed sleeping.  He was my first favorite actor.  Of course in those days we didn’t have cable and, being the second youngest of five, I didn’t have any say in television viewing and wasn’t allowed to watch those sorts of movies anyway.  So, my earliest experiences were limited to the B horrors playing late at night on the good old trusty rabbit ears when I hopefully wouldn’t get caught.

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Halloween is like a good B horror movie.  You know it’s all fake, and much of it looks badly faked too, but it’s still fun to play at being scared and being spooky.

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My love of horror movies and books influences more than my choice in favorite holidays.  It has a strong influence on my writing.

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As Halloween approaches, I find little ditties and poems about witches, ghosts, and all manner of ghouls rattling around in my head.  I write little Halloween poems for my kids to share with their friends at school.  I feel a terrible itch to haunt the spookier realms of the stores in search of wonderful new frightening decorations.  I feel suddenly inspired to write like I’ve never written before, with both new and old story ideas popping into my head faster than I can possibly note them down, or even sometimes make sense of them.

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And then – just like that – it’s all over.  The kids lay about in near candy comas, parents wander the house picking up candy wrappers, and plastic skeletons rattle their bones forlornly where they hang swinging in the wind down the street from ghosts that look abandoned and forgotten in the light of the new day.

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It is November 1st, the day after Halloween and – the first day of NaNoWriMo.

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For the uninitiated, and I’m more of an uninitiated myself than an initiated, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.  The whole idea of NaNoWriMo is to sit your butt down and write with it, literally.  Ok, almost literally.  It is writing an entire 175 page novel (that’s 50,000 words!) in only 30 days, and you are writing by the seat of your pants.  There is no time for making detailed lists and outlines, no planning, no editing – just a crazed rush to write write write.

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It’s like comparing Halloween to Christmas.  NaNoWriMo is the Halloween of story writing.

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Novel writing is like Christmas.  It’s full of lists and rules and expectations, taking painstaking care to make everything perfect.  The house decorated perfectly, buying the perfect presents, and making the all the right appearances for family dinners and Christmas parties.  Regardless of your vision of it, that vision holds a certain amount of perfection needed.  It also takes a lot of work, but at the same time you have to remember to make it fun.  And, just like Christmas, you get out of it only what you put into it.

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For NaNoWriMo, you throw all of that to the wind.  It’s about having no expectations other than to write something and have fun doing it.  It’s throwing on fake blood, mussing your hair and wearing something wacky instead of being perfectly manicured with perfectly coiffed hair and your best outfit.  Instead of spending an entire evening at one party (working over that one scene or paragraph to perfection), you are running headlong from one to the next with wild abandon and a big smile on your face.

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And the best thing about it is that anyone can do it.  It’s not a private club where members must be authors published by the big publishing houses or wear special robes and hats.  You don’t have to have a degree, be fluent in a particular language, or have a special set of knowledge and skills.  If you can put words on paper or type them into a computer, then you can do it too.

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And those who doubt their ability to write can participate with the comfort of knowing that even the seasoned writers are probably writing no better than you because they’re frantically rushing to put those words down too while crying out, “My lists!  My outlines!  My wine glass for some editing!  Oh, won’t somebody please think of the readers?!”

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Last year was the first time I’ve ever heard of National Novel Writing Month.  In fact, I wondered if the first online stuttering I saw about it was some sort of slow moving viral madness travelling through the dark intangible world of the internet like a B thriller movie.  And this is despite my playing with my love of writing for years.  How can you write for years and never hear of NaNoWriMo?  Easy for me, apparently.

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I toyed with the idea of giving it a try last year, but was too chicken.  Instead I gave myself a mini challenge in honor of NaNoWriMo just to see if I could do it – a mini challenge that I failed terribly.  But, with volunteering in two classrooms and having a young child in half-time school, time when I could put in that kind of concentration on any task was a rare thing.

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I’m thinking about whether or not I should give it a shot this year.  Both kids are in school full time and I may have more time on my hands while looking for a job than I did surrounded by at least one kid most o f the time.  It may be my only best chance of making the word count by the deadline.  And, best of all, it comes fast on the heels of my best writing inspiration – Halloween.

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But, like anyone else, I am not happy with failing.  I balk to some degree at committing myself to something knowing that chances are pretty good that I won’t succeed.  Considering that most writers will have to face a lot of rejection and failure in their lives, and many won’t make it to ever having a book published, that’s something you have to get over quickly as a writer.  You train yourself to concentrate on quality, not quantity, and you hold on to that knowledge that you write because it’s what you love.  After all, being a writer is not about being published or famous, it’s about doing what you love – and that is writing.

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For one month you turn that all on its head and write for quantity, not quality – and all just for the fun of it, to remind you why you fell in love with writing in the first place, before getting into the tedium of endless lists, outlines, drafts, and editing.

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Maybe we can help each other out by repeating this together:

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“It’s all about quantity, not quality.”

“It’s all about quantity, not quality.”

“It’s all about quantity, not quality.”

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– And I quote that line directly from the What Is NaNoWriMo? page on the National Novel Writing Month website.

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http://www.nanowrimo.org/

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Maybe I’ll see some of you over there.  Maybe.

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Until then, happy Halloween!

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Halloween Bash
by L.V. Gaudet
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Ghost ghost, where is the ghost?

He is the party host.

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Which witch has the stitch,

the stitch to sew Scarecrow Mitch?

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We’re getting ready for the Halloween bash,

with treats and tricks and dancing the Monster Mash.

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There will be eyeball stew and finger goo,

and enough candy for me and you.

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Sam Skeleton rattled his bones too hard,

and they fell all over the graveyard.

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Spot the dog stole his leg bone,

and now Sam is hopping after him all the way home.

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This party will be too spooky for me,

I think I’ll just hide behind that tree.

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See see, did you see?

I think that pumpkin just winked at me!

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Grizelda’s Rain Hex

by L.V. Gaudet

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Bad witch Grizelda hexed rain in the air,

So here is a magic spell—if you dare.

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Rain rain now you go away,

So the spooks and goblins can come out to play.

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The houses are decorated quite a fright,

So we can have fun this Halloween night.

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We’ll trick and treat and yell out “Boo!”

Because that is what little monsters do.

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Now if you say this spell just right,

It might just be a starry Halloween night.

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Halloween 2009

Halloween 2009

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The big day is here.  The costumes are all in order, the house is decorated, and the candy is hiding where the kids can’t get into it.  There is an excitement in the air that comes only with special days like Santa morning, Easter egg day, birthdays, and of course trick-or-treat day.  Kids everywhere are behaving as though they have already eaten ten pounds of pure sugar, and parents are trying to figure out just how they are going to paint “that” on squirming kids’ faces.  Soon the hoards of costumed, masked, wigged, and painted youngsters will be unleashed on the night brandishing all manner of weapons from swords and knives to fairy wands and cherubic smiles.  Screams of excitement and fear will mingle in the night with those magical words summoning goodies from behind closed doors.  Children will crowd on doorsteps, villains and heroes together, princesses and monsters side by side, as they call out their chants.

“Trick or treat,” they will demand.

“Halloween apples,” they sing-song, while hoping for anything but delicious crunchy and healthy apples.

And my personal favorite – and kids make sure you get this one right because I don’t give out the candy until you get up the nerve to say the whole thing …

“Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.  Not too big, not too small, just the size of Montreal.”

Halloween, a night of magic for the young and innocent, but it is also a night of real fear for some parents.  From the urban myths of treats laced with everything from poisons to pins and razor blades, making nervous parents carefully inspect eat tidbit for signs of tampering and automatically toss out anything missing a wrapper or carefully homemade with love.  To fears of the true monsters lurking the darkened streets while masses of children run pell-mell, most supervised and some not.

My fears out there are twofold.  First, and the greatest danger I see, is the witches brew of droves of parents driving their kids to trick or treat up and down their neighborhood streets, mixed with the dark of night, a few hundred excited and careless kids running wild, and one split second.  My other, and much less likely to happen, fear is the encounter between fearless little faces and an escaped pet nervously running loose agitated with excitement and nervousness over the droves of wild yelling kids.

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And of course, no Halloween is complete without the usual list of safety tips.

Kids:

  • Costumes – Not so long that you trip, make certain you can see well, and they should be flame resistant.
  • Houses – Only approach well lit home and do not go inside, especially strangers houses.
  • Route – Know your route and when to be home.  Parents should know your route too.
  • Roads – Stick to the sidewalks.  Go up one side of the street, then cross and do the other side.  Never zigzag back and forth across the road.  Drivers cannot watch all the kids all the time.  Don’t cross unless you are certain the driver sees you.  Wave at the driver to make sure.
  • Treats – Don’t eat anything until after it is inspected by your parents.
  • Groups – Trick-or-treat in groups.  Safety in numbers.  Don’t let a friend take off on their own if they are supposed to be with your group.  Or, take a parent.
  • Help – Know where to go if you need help.  Talk to your parents about which neighbors you can go to on your route if they are closer than home.  Know your home phone number if you get lost.  Talk about how to recognize a “safe” house to ask to use the phone (like a “Block Parent” house).
  • Animals – Never approach a loose pet.  Any animal roaming this night may be scared by so many excited kids running around.  An animal that normally would not bite will bite if it is scared.

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Happy trick or treating on this night of frights and delights.

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Due to time constraints I missed the Halloween blog for a couple days.  So today I will give a list of the missing feature stories.  All are flash fiction stories (1,000 words or less).

Ghost Ship”  When it is dark and you are sailing the seas or find yourself on the seaside, beware.

 “Ghost Ship 2:  Return the Illopogas

Creature

Blood

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A Halloween did you know:

All Hallows Eve and the festival of the dead.  Ancient Celts believed that on Samhain, a harvest festival, the barriers between their world and that of the otherworld (netherworld) weakened, becoming thing, making it possible for spirits to move between the two worlds.  Costumes and masks were worn to confuse the harmful spirits, making them believe the costume garbed mortals were harmful spirits too.  Spirits of the departed were also honored.  Along with leaving open a window or door facing to the west and setting a place for them at the table, loved ones spirits were invited into the home.  The spirits should also be properly entertained and perhaps their favorite meal prepared.  A candle burning in a westward window helps the dead find their way home.

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Halloween 2009 – 3 More Sleeps

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I’m noticing more houses on the street becoming playgrounds for the ghoulish creatures from the land of B horror movies and nightmares.  But it sure is a far cry from the fanciful ghoulish wonderland I remember as a child.  It used to be that you could tell a house’s motives even before the day witches, goblins, and vampires roam the night.  Almost all the houses participating in the ritual of Halloween treat giving had some kind of decoration.  Later, as droves of fairies, cowboys, and two-legged pumpkins roamed the darkening streets with all manner of monsters, each house told its own story.  Decorations meant they embraced this night.  No porch light and no decorations meant keep off my property, there will be no treats here tonight.  A decorated house with no porch lights meant the candy well had run dry.

Some things have not changed over the years.  Bigger kids mugging smaller kids for their candy, the occasional house being T-Ped or egged (usually the ones where the homeowner were less than kid friendly), and the stern admonition to not eat any candy until it could be thoroughly inspected by a parent.  And, of course, there has always been the ones verging on teen-hood and are at that awkward stage of being too old for trick or treating, but still long for those youthful days that are so fresh in their memories.  Eventually they manage to sneak off one way or another for some late trick or treating before all the houses shut down for the night.  I don’t mind those kids.  I was their age once and remember that longing.  Some of them even manage to come up with something resembling a costume, while others mumble and hang their heads, thinking they should be embarrassed or ashamed.

One thing that certainly has changed is the number of parents roaming the streets.  When I was a kid that one night of the year the dark belonged to the children.  Gaggles of giggling kids roamed the neighborhoods, racing from one house to the next, trying to hit as many houses as they could.  You saw the occasional preschooler waddling along, parent in tow.  But usually they were done before the school-agers were out.  They’d hit a few houses, and then quickly retire to the warmth of their homes to hand out candy.  Now, almost every group of kids has at least one adult guardian shadowing them through the darkness.  Parents keep a wary eye, homeowners keep a wary eye, and kids no longer race about with the same free-spirited enthusiasm as they did when they ran free once upon a time.  After all, they now have to behave and let their slower travelling parents, who are generally not inclined to race pell-mell from house to house, keep up.

Has the world we live in really become so much more dangerous over the years?  Or has the global world of technology and communication only served to make us more aware of the dangers that lurk in the night?  Are the dangers really that much more prevalent than before, or that we know of, or have we just turned paranoid?

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Today’s feature story is a double dose of flash fiction storys (1,000 words or less).

First up is “Snow“.  It is a somewhat surreal look at a how things happen around each of our own little worlds, separate from each other.  Oh yeah, and there’s a killer too.

Then we take a peek “Behind a White Curtain” where we look at this same story in a more focused way.  And that focus is on the killer himself and his world.

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A Halloween did you know:

Did you know that the custom of begging door to door for treats (trick-or-treating) while dressed in costumes dates back as far as the middle ages?  This was practiced not only at Halloween, but also when people went wassailling at Christmas too.  At Halloween people (mostly the poor and children) went souling, begging door to door for food.  They would be given soul cake in exchange for giving prayers for the dead.

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An interesting read – Halloween Candy

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Here’s a fun Halloween candy game for the kids. 

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And here is a frightening visage from HALLOWEEN 2008 (cue spooky music):

2008 10 31 sid 5yrs & robyn 45mos halloween (3)

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Bookmark Halloween 2009 - 3 More Sleeps by L.V. Gaudet

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Halloween 2009 – 4 More Sleeps

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Halloween party planning is afoot.  Rumors are spreading faster than notes and invitations, kids are eagerly discussing who brings what treat, and mothers are frantically thinking fast how to “make” 25 of the best boo-and-goo orange iced pumpkin cupcakes on the block with little or no warning.

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Today’s feature story is a flash fiction story (1,000 words or less) called “The Woods “.  It is about two brothers doing as brothers do, daring each other to go into the spooky woods beyond their house.

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And just for fun, here is a Halloween poem I wrote to get the kids stomping and yelling.  “Witches, Goblins, and Spooks – Oh My!

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A Halloween did you know:

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Did you know that the jack-o’-lantern got its name from the will-o’-wisp, a torch made from a bundle of sticks or paper?  There are numerous folklore tales from around the world.  The details vary, but the premise seems to be much the same.  A soul of ill repute appears in association with a strange flickering light.  It may be the soul of a man or beast, depending on the culture.  In some stories it tries to lure the unwary, in all it is something best avoided.  When you see strange flickering lights at night or twilight resembling a flickering lamp, make haste for home.  It might be something not of this world in search of a victim to torment.

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What are the lights really?  Some believe these strange lights, the will-o’-wisp, or ignis fatuus in Latin, the “ghost lights”, are the product of gasses created by organic decay.  Another theory is that they are the result of electricity being created by a tectonic shift, and the heating up of rocks containing earthly goods like quartz or silicon.  Yet another theory is glow in the dark owls.  Yes, apparently owls do glow in the dark.  Those darned barn owls and their luminescent plumage apparently may have been terrorizing lone travelers for centuries.  And of course there will always be the original (and more fun) folklore myths about what those eerie lights in the distance really are.

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Just in case, I think I’ll walk a little bit faster and keep my eyes steady on the road straight ahead the next time I happen to be strolling at twilight past bogs, swamps, or marshes, and any other lonely stretch of pristine land – just in case.

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And now a very spooky picture just for Halloween.

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Tia (R.I.P.) the Devil Dog

2008 10 15 tia 8yrs - my couch! (7)

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And for something even more frightening … I don’t know what they are or where they came from, but they sure have a scarily uncanny resemblance to something I know … but what?  I know those can’t possibly be MY kids.  My kids don’t eat bananas, swing from trees, or chase down gazelle for dinner   – much.  Whatever they are, I think they ate my kids.  (You are what you eat and all that).

2007 01 21 Robyn 25mos & Sid 43mos in constumes (12)

Bookmark Halloween 2009 - 4 More Sleeps by L.V. Gaudet

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Halloween is just around the corner.  The decorations are up, kids costumes bought, the pumpkin is awaiting carving, and we’re putting off buying the candy so it doesn’t get eaten before Halloween.

 

In honor of Halloween, I’ll be sharing a few ghouslish tidbits.

Today’s feature story is a flash fiction story (1,000 words or less) called “Knock on Ginger“.  It is about (yes you guessed it) the game we have all played at some point as kids.

 

A Halloween did you know:

Did you know that Halloween has Celtic roots?  According to an article on Wikipedia, in the festival of Samhain the end of the harvest was celebrated with tones of the  festival of the dead, a festival honoring deceased community members.

 

Quoted from source:  Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samhain

“Celtic Reconstruction”

“According to Celtic lore, Samhain is a time when the boundaries between the world of the living and the world of the dead become thinner, allowing spirits and other supernatural entities to pass between the worlds to socialize with humans. It is the time of the year when ancestors and other departed souls are especially honored. Though Celtic Reconstructionists make offerings to the spirits at all times of the year, Samhain in particular is a time when more elaborate offerings are made to specific ancestors. Often a meal will be prepared of favorite foods of the family’s and community’s beloved dead, a place set for them at the table, and traditional songs, poetry and dances performed to entertain them. A door or window may be opened to the west and the beloved dead specifically invited to attend. Many leave a candle or other light burning in a western window to guide the dead home. Divination for the coming year is often done, whether in all solemnity or as games for the children. The more mystically inclined may also see this as a time for deeply communing with the deities, especially those whom the lore mentions as being particularly connected with this festival.”

 

 

And as a final note I’d like to share with you  HALLOWEEN 2007 (cue spooky music):

 

Halloween Princesses

Halloween Princesses

 

 

 

 

 

 

2007 10 31 robyn 34mos halloween barbarian fairy princes (7)

2007 10 31 robyn 34mos halloween barbarian fairy princes (9)-2cropped

2007 10 31 sid 4yrs halloween snow white (2)

2007 10 31 sid 4yrs halloween snow white (3)-2cropped

Bookmark Halloween 2009 - 5 More Sleeps by L.V. Gaudet

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