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Undernet Halloween special

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Website authors are allowed to link to this page as long as credit is given to the Undernet User Committee and is also used in a purely educational manner.

Welcome to the Undernet User Committee's Halloween Special. 
This is meant to let you know a little bit of the history behind Halloween as well as get you pumped up for the celebration. 
We will talk a little bit about the origin of Halloween in different parts of the world, then go over the origin of the myth of the vampire. 
This should take about fifteen minutes, if things go well. [1]

This channel will be moderated and invite only, so take the time to jot down the name of one of the ops in case you cant get back in. 
At the end of the 'storytelling', the channel will be unmoderated so you can discuss costume ideas, Halloween ideas, and basically any Halloween-based discussion.
Please ignore the numbers enclosed in brackets at the end of each section, as they are for op reference. [2]

--The Origins of Halloween Throughout the World-- [3]
Celtic: The ancient Celtic (Irish, Scottish, Welsh) festival called Samhain is considered by many to be a predecessor of our contemporary Halloween. 
Samhain was the New Year's Day of the Celts, celebrated on November 1. [4]

It was also a day of the dead, a time when it was believed that the souls of those who had died during the year were allowed access to the land of the dead. 
It was related to the season: by Samhain, the crops should be harvested and animals brought in from the distant fields. [5]

Many traditional beliefs and customs associated with Samhain, most notable that night was the time of the wandering dead, the practice of leaving
offerings of food and drink to masked and costumed revelers, and the lighting of bonfires, continued to be practiced on 31 October, known as the Eve of All Saints, 
the Eve of All Hallows, or Hallow Even. It is the glossing of the name Hallow Even that has given us the name Hallow e'en. [6]

The spirits of Samhain, once thought to be wild and powerful, were now said to be something worse: evil. 
The church maintained that the gods and goddesses and other spiritual beings of traditional religions were diabolical deceptions, 
that the spiritual forces that people had experienced were real, but they were manifestations of the Devil, the Prince of Liars, 
who misled people toward the worship of false idols. [7]

At Samhain, the Norse would slay all the cattle that they did not
believe would survive the winter and offer them to Odin. Odin never ate them so the Norse did, the Norse were like that. [8]

Thus, the customs associated with Halloween included representations of ghosts and human skeletons
 -symbols of the dead- and of the devil and other malevolent, evil creatures, such as witches were said to be. [9]

England: Guy Fawkes Day, November 5, is celebrated in ways reminiscent of Halloween. 
Guy Fawkes was accused of attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament on that day in 1605.  He was apprehended, hung, drawn, and quartered. 
On November 5, 1606, the same Parliament declared the fifth of November a day of public thanksgiving. [10]

The act of treason was viewed as part of a 'popish' -that is, Roman Catholic- plot against the Protestant government. 
Because Halloween was associated with the Catholic church calendar, its importance diminished, 
but many of its traditions shifted to the annual commemoration of the death of Guy Fawkes. [11]

Today, for weeks in advance of November 5, English children
prepare effigies of Fawkes, dummies known as Guys. They set them out on street corners and beg passers-by for "a penny for the Guy". [12]

The eve of the fifth is know as Mischief Night, when children are free to play pranks on adults, just as October 30, 
the night before Halloween, is know as Mischief Night in many areas of the U.S. On the night of November 5,
the Guys are burned in bonfires, just as the ancient Celts burned bonfires on November 1. [13]

Germany: Throughout the Western world, May 1, like November 1,  is a day of traditional significance. 
The 30th of April, the eve of May 1, is in areas of Germany, particularly the Harz Mountains, Walpurgisnacht, or the eve of St. Walpurgis Day. 
Witches are supposed to be especially active this day, as are spirits of the dead and demon creatures from the nether world. [14]

China: The care of the dead through prayers and sacrifices were part of a spring festival of purification and regeneration. [15]

Japan: Bon festival, dedicated to the spirits of ancestors, for whom special foods are prepared, occurs during the middle of the summer 
(one of the most important festive periods of the year).  Three days in length, it is a time when everyone goes home (reminiscent of the American Thanksgiving). [16]

In Mexico and other Latin American countries, the first and second of November are the Days of the Dead - Los Días de los Muertos. 
In some regions, the evening of 31 October is the beginning of the Day of the Dead Children, which is followed on November 1 by the Day of the Dead Adults. [18]

Skeleton figures-candy (sugar skulls), toys, statues and decorations-are seen everywhere. It is a time for great festivity, with traditional plays and food. [19]

It is a time to play with death and decorating family graves, which is preceded by religious services and followed by picnics. 
The human skeleton or skull is the primary symbol of the day. [20]

Unlike the American Halloween, in Mexico people build home altars, adorned with religious icons and special breads and other food for the dead. 
The Day of the Dead incorporates recognition of death as a concept with rituals that remember the deaths of individuals. [21]

Halloween has become one of the most important and widely celebrated festivals on the contemporary American calendar, 
and it is not even officially a holiday. No day off is given for Halloween, no federal decree is proclaimed establishing it as a national holiday. People simply do it. [22]

--The Myth of the Vampire-- [23]
The belief in the vampire and ghoul was prevalent even in Babylon and Assyria, 
where it was maintained that the dead could appear again upon the earth and seek sustenance from the living. 
The belief is, in all probability, linked up with the almost universal theory that transfused blood is necessary for revivification. 
Baths of human blood were anciently prescribed as a possible remedy for leprosy. [24]

Greek Christianity has been credited by many as the origin of the vampire belief. 
The belief was undoubtedly developed greatly under the influence of the Greek Church, 
and utilized by the Greek priests as an additional power which they possessed over the people. 
It did not become prominent in Greece until after the establishment of Christianity. [25]

In Crete, the belief in vampires (or katalkanas) and their
existence and ill-deeds forms a general article of popular belief throughout the island, 
but is particularly strong in the mountains. [26]

Germany - Nachzehrer [27]
In some parts of the Kaiser's dominions, food is still buried with the corpse in order to assuage any pangs of hunger that may arise and even this
is not done, a few grains of corn or rice are scattered upon the grave as a survival of the ancient custom. [28]

In Diesdorf, it is believed that if money is not placed in the mouth of a dead person at burial, or his name not cut from his shirt, he will,
in all probability, become a Nachzehrer, and his ghost issues from the grave in the form of a pig. 
Another sure preventive of such a calamity is to break the neck of a dead body. [29]

Russia - Vrykolaka [30]
The Hungarians believe that those who have been passive vampires in life become active vampires after death; 
that those whose blood has been sucked in life by vampires become themselves vampires after death. [31]

In many districts the belief also prevails that the only way to prevent this calamity happening is for the threatened victim to eat some earth
from the grave of the attacking vampire, and to smear his own body with blood from the body of that vampire. [32]

 Bulgaria [33]
The vampire tradition in its original loathsomeness, however, is to be found only in the Bulgarian provinces, where the knowledge of the
superstition was first imported from Dalmatia and Albania. In the former country the vampire is know by the name of wukodlak. [34]

St Clair and Brophy state that "the vampire is no longer a dead body possessed by a demon, but a soul in revolt against the inevitable
principle of corporeal death. He is detected by a hole in the tombstone which is placed over his grave, 
in which the hole is filled up by the medicine man with dirt mixed with poisonous herbs." [35]

Vampirism is claimed to be hereditary as well as epidemic and
endemic, and vampires are also stated to be capable of exercising considerable physical force. 
Stories are told of men who have had their jaws broken, as well as their limbs, as the result of their struggles with vampires. [36]

When the Bulgarian vampire has finished his forty days' apprenticeship to the world of shadows, 
he rises from the tomb in bodily form, and is able to pass himself off as a human being living in the natural manner. [37]

In Slavonic countries the vieszcy is said to be possessed of only one nostril, 
but is credited with possessing a sharp point at the end of his tongue, like the sting of a bee. [38]

Plato and Democritus say that souls lived for a certain time close to their dead bodies, which they sometimes preserved from corruption, 
and that they could cause the hair, beard, and nails to grow in their tombs. 
The early Christians also believed that the dead could come out of their sepulchers to make room for more exalted personages, when these were interred close to them. [39]

The old witches on broomsticks myth does have basis in fact; 
the festival celebrated by medieval witches involved running around with a broom between their legs, which is where the myth comes from. [40]

That concludes the storytelling section. We would like to thank the entire Undernet User-Committee for making this event possible. 
This transcript is available at http://www.user-com.undernet.org/liveevents/halloween.php [41]
This script contains long excerpts from University of Tennessee Press and Dudley Wright's "The Book Of Vampires". 
Special thanks to Merielle de Dios for providing these excerpts. Thanks also go to Tom Fosdick for additional information about Samhain. [42]

<@LiveEvents> We will now unmoderate the channel for open discussion. On behalf of the Undernet User Committee, have a great Halloween! =) [43]

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