Tag Archives: halloween

Credit: Pixabay.

Watch out! More pedestrians are killed by cars on Halloween than any other regular evening

Credit: Pixabay.

Credit: Pixabay.

In the evening of October’s last day, millions of American kids walk door to door in their neighborhoods to collect candy — and they’re not alone. Teens and adults alike dress up and hit the streets too, each with their own version of ‘trick or treat’. But while Halloween is a great opportunity to have fun and form stronger bonds with your community, it can also be a dangerous time of the year. A new study analyzed four decades worth of fatal traffic crashes and found more people are killed by cars on Halloween than any other regular evening.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia, Canada, combed through data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Over a 42-year study interval, 1,580,608 fatal traffic crashes were recorded, involving 2,333,302 drivers and 268,468 pedestrians.

A total of 608 pedestrian fatalities occurred on the 42 Halloween evenings, whereas 851 pedestrian fatalities occurred on the 84 control evenings, the researchers reported in the journal JAMA PediatricsThis means that “the relative risk of a pedestrian fatality was 43% higher on Halloween compared with control evening.” The most vulnerable group were children aged 4 to 8, who had a tenfold risk of fatality from a car crash.

“Halloween traffic fatalities are a tragic annual reminder of routine gaps in traffic safety. On Halloween and throughout the year, most childhood pedestrian deaths occur within residential neighborhoods. Such events highlight deficiencies of the built environment (eg, lack of sidewalks, unsafe street crossings), shortcomings in public policy (eg, insufficient space for play), and failures in traffic control (eg, excessive speed),” the authors noted in their study.

So what should we do? The authors call for measures such as traffic calming and automated speed enforcement in residential neighborhoods in order to make streets safer for kids to cross. Other important measures that might prevent child pedestrian fatalities include improving pedestrian visibility by limiting on-street parking and incorporating reflective patches onto clothing.

The researchers argue that this isn’t about one night anymore. All of these measures will help curb pedestrian fatalities year-round.

“Halloween trick-or-treating encourages creativity, physical activity, and neighborhood engagement. Trick-or-treating should not be abolished in a misguided effort to eliminate Halloween-associated risk. Instead, policymakers, physicians, and parents should act to make residential streets safer for pedestrians on Halloween and throughout the year,” the researchers concluded.

Pumpkins.

This Halloween, do the right thing — fight food waste and eat your pumpkin

The scariest monster this Halloween is food waste.

Pumpkins.

Image credits Alexa / Pixabay.

Throw up your spider webs and hang those skeletons, Halloween is here! As all terrors let loose on the day, excessive food waste is also making an appearance. Millions of pumpkins have been bought for the occasion — and most of them will end up in the landfill, not beneath a pie’s crust. Which is a shame, as pumpkins are delicious.

Pies for everyone! But not really

Eight million pumpkins will get binned on November 1st in the UK alone, The Guardian reports. It’s a terrible waste of a very tasty treat. It’s a downright tragic waste, as the squashes could be used to make “enough pumpkin pie to feed the entire [UK] nation,” the publication adds, citing a study commissioned by stock brand Knorr.

Roughly 58% of all consumers will buy a pumpkin to carve this Halloween, according to the Hubbub Foundation, a charity that creates environmental campaigns “with a difference”. Over half of these buyers (51%) will throw away the pumpkin and leftovers, without cooking or composting it, they add. Only about one-third of buyers will try to cook the pumpkin’s innards.

“Halloween has become increasingly popular in the UK, but unlike those on the other side of the pond, many Britons aren’t cooking with their pumpkin carvings – instead they’re throwing them away,” said Tessa Tricks of Hubbub. “This is contributing to the overwhelming amount of waste thrown away by UK households each year.”

The Hubbub Foundation, which runs the #PumpkinRescue campaign, focused on data in the UK. But the findings translate well to every other country with enthusiastic adherence to Halloween traditions, such as the US. Writing for Inhabitat, Perry Miller says that the land of the apple pie will trash 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins after the festivities. All that extra trash will wind up in the landfill, which wastes money and is bad for the environment. Once there, the pumpkins will start to rot away, releasing methane and carbon dioxide — both greenhouse gases.

Pumpkin patch.

Image credits Vlad Vasnetsov.

Canada will also see its fair share of pumpkin waste. Farmer Rob Galey told Inhabitat that pumpkin patches attract thousands of visitors each year from all over the country. They will buy a pumpkin and take it home, but don’t intend to eat it. They’re buying a metaphor, Rob explains. Something that represents an abundant fall harvest, something that will look good in a photo — but not food.

There’s also an ethical side to consider here. Some Halloween pumpkins are inedible and specified as “for ornamental use only” but the flesh of most is edible. With so many people starving across the world, can we make peace with ourselves for this gratuitous display of disregard for food?

I for one am really excited every time Halloween swings by. It’s more of an adopted holiday around these parts, and Halloween traditions haven’t had time to grow roots here. But I will buy a pumpkin and carve it, without fail, every year.

And throw it in the oven the next day with a sprinkling of sugar and a dash of cinnamon.

If you’re looking for tips on how to cook your plump Halloween pumpkin, Hubbub’s #PumpkinRescue campaign page has some pretty nifty suggestions. If you’re in the UK, you can also check out some of the events they’re holding from the 5th October through to November 5th all over the isles, ranging from “carving and cooking workshops to soup tasting.”

NASA releases creepy space sounds for Halloween

As if space wasn’t scary enough, NASA now released the perfect soundtrack.

When you start exploring the wonders and mysteries of the universe, you get to see some interesting things. But NASA isn’t just using its eyes, it’s also using its ears to scout the universe. Some spacecraft have instruments capable of capturing radio emissions, is that I’m saying. These can be converted to sound waves, and the results are quite eerie. Spooky, one might say.

Just in time for Halloween, NASA’s put together a compilation of elusive “sounds.” From howling planets to whistling helium and strange moons, this is how space Halloween sounds like.

NASA also added a description of what these sounds are and how they came to be.

  • Juno Captures the ‘Roar’ of Jupiter: Juno is currently orbiting Jupiter. Juno’s mission is to measure Jupiter’s composition, gravity field, magnetic field, and polar magnetosphere, searching for clues into the planet’s formation. The spacecraft has crossed the boundary of Jupiter’s immense magnetic field, recording the encounter with the bow shock over the course of about two hours on June 24, 2016.
  • Plasma Waves: Plasma waves are interconnected sets of particles and fields propagating in a periodically repeating fashion. Like ocean waves, this creates a rhythmic cacophony that — with the EMFISIS instrument aboard NASA’s Van Allen Probes — we can hear across space.
  • Saturn’s Radio Emissions: Saturn is a source of intense radio emissions, which were monitored by the Cassini spacecraft. The radio waves are closely related to the auroras near the poles of the planet. These auroras are similar to Earth’s northern and southern lights. More on Saturn’s eerie-sounding radio emissions.
  • Sounds of Jupiter: Scientists sometimes translate radio signals into sound to better understand the signals. This approach is called “data sonification”. On June 27, 1996, the Galileo spacecraft made the first flyby of Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede, and this audio track represents data from Galileo’s Plasma Wave Experiment instrument.
  • Sounds of a Comet Encounter: During its Feb. 14, 2011, flyby of comet Tempel 1, an instrument on the protective shield on NASA’s Stardust spacecraft was pelted by dust particles and small rocks, as can be heard in this audio track.

NASA actually has an impressive collection of sounds and playlists; on their Soundcloud page, you can access Rocket Engine Sounds, podcasts, as well as many otherworldly noises. But my favorites are, by far, these spooky sounds.

Black licorice

Tricked into a treat: excessive amount of black licorice can be dangerous, FDA warns

Black licorice

Credit: Pixabay.

This Halloween, the FDA issued a public announcement urging citizens not to overindulge in black licorice. Along with candy corn, black licorice is one of America’s favorite Halloween treats. Few people, however, are aware that too much black licorice can be dangerous for your health and could even be potentially fatal in some extreme cases.

“If you’re 40 or older, eating 2 ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks could land you in the hospital with an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia,” the FDA wrote. 

Black licorice contains glycyrrhizin, a chemical compound derived from licorice root — a low-growing shrub that is found mostly in Greece, Turkey, and Asia — which makes the treat deliciously sweet. Glycyrrhizin also causes potassium levels in the body to drop fast, especially if you ingest it excessively.

Potassium is a key component in muscle contractions, used to jump-start the whole process. So when it’s low, the heart can start beating in abnormal rhythms and can even fail. Blood pressure rises and the muscles weaken.

As outlined by the FDA, the health risks of eating too much black licorice (2 ounces/day for at least two weeks) are particularly high for those age 40 or older. But that doesn’t mean youngsters are all clear, doctors warn.

Black licorice isn’t necessarily bad when consumed in moderation. In fact, it might even have therapeutic effects in some situations. There is scientific evidence that suggests rubbing black licorice on the skin can relieve eczema or heartburn when eaten. There are also claims that black licorice can treat stomach ulcers, bronchitis, sore throat, cough and some infections caused by viruses, such as hepatitis, but the scientific evidence published so far is inconclusive. Black licorice can interact with some medications, herbs and dietary supplements, so check with your doctor before eating the sweet treat.

In any event, if you’re one of those weird people who love licorice, just be careful and don’t eat large amounts of black licorice at one time.

NASA’s pumpkin competition absolutely smashes everything else

There’s nice pumpkin carvings, there’s really good pumpkin carvings, and then there’s NASA level pumpkin carvings. Every Halloween, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) gives its engineers and scientists a bunch of pumpkins and one hour to come up with the best they can — yes, it’s everything you hoped it would be.

This year, they’ve really outdone themselves, with jack-o-lanterns such as a mini-Juno and a Pac-Man pumpkin. As Science Alert so eloquently puts it, it’s really a carving competition as much as a Halloween science fair on crack. In the end, everyone wins.

Here are some of the most spectacular designs, courtesy of Aaron Yazzie, a mechanical engineer at NASA – and before you ask, yes, that is a solar system spinning inside a pumpkin.

Halloween Pumpkins – Where do they come from?

Image via Wikipedia.

Every October, thousands and thousands of pumpkins are carved into scary shapes and lit up from the inside, but why do we even do that? Here, we take a look at how this tradition emerged and became so popular across the world.

[Remember: The ZME Halloween contest is LIVE!]

The origins of Halloween

The origins of Halloween are actually connected to pagan beliefs, and don’t originate in Christian rituals, as many believe. Truth be told, today it’s kind of a hybrid celebration, incorporating both Celtic and Christian traditions.

Halloween was previously called “All Hallows’ Eve”, which already starts to give an indication about its origin. All Hallows’ Eve is a Christianized feast influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, with pagan roots in the Gaelic festival Samhain. Samhain was a festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year. Traditionally, Samhain is celebrated from sunset on 31 October to sunset on 1 November, which is about halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.

Burning scarecrow at a modern Samhain celebration. Image credits: Sylvan Smith.

When the Christians expanded to Western Europe, they came across these Gaelic populations and wanted to convert them. However, they realized that if they tried to replace their celebrations, it’d be really difficult to convert them, so they just mixed two things together and created a hybrid celebration. The pagan harvest fest was blended in with the three-day observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers. Originally, no meat was eaten for All Hallows’ Eve, but today, abstinence from meat is not generally required, although eating certain vegetarian foods for this vigil day is still common, especially apples, colcannon, cider, potato pancakes, and soul cakes.

Which leads us to our question: why do we carve pumpkins?

Jack O’Lantern

Carved pumpkins (or in some cases, turnips), are called jack o’lantern. We don’t know for sure where this practice comes from, but it seems to come from an old Irish legend, the legend of Stingy Jack.

However, carving vegetables has been a common practice in many parts of the world; gourds are among the earliest domesticated plants, and there are some indications that they were carved as early as 10.000 years ago. Gourds were used to carve lanterns by the Maori over 700 years ago, and the Maori word for a gourd is actually used to describe a lampshade. However, today’s Halloween carvings likely occur from the British and Irish regions. So, what about Stingy Jack?

According to the story, Stingy Jack once asked the Devil to have a drink with him; weird, huh? Wait, it gets way better. True to his name, he didn’t then want to pay for his drink, which shows just how much nerve he had. He convinced the Devil to turn into a coin so that he could pay for the drinks, but when the Devil did turn into a coin, Jack decided to keep the money in his pocket, next to a silver cross – which prevented the Devil from turning back to his original shape. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and leave his soul alone.

Still, it gets even stranger.

Jack met up with the Devil and somehow managed to convince him to climb up a tree to pick up some fruit. He then sculpted a cross on the tree’s bark to prevent him from getting down, and forcing a promise that he will be left alone for ten more years, and his soul will not be claimed. Why didn’t he just ask him to be left alone for good, I don’t know. Jack was a strange guy.

But not long after that, Jack’s soul passed away. God didn’t really want the like of Jack in Heaven, so he sent him to hell. But the Devil was still upset by Jack’s tricks and he had to keep his word and not claim his soul. So instead, he sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since. He was called Jack of the Lantern, or for short – Jack o’lantern.

The people thought that by making their own lanterns to scare Jack off. In Ireland and Scotland, they used turnips or potatoes and placed them by the window. In England, large beets were used. The British and Irish that moved to the US took this tradition with them, and discovered that the pumpkin, a species native to America, works perfectly for that, so they used pumpkins instead.

Carved Jack. Image in Wiki Commons.

There are other similar (or different stories), but in all the stories, there’s someone that makes a deal with the Devil to have his soul free.

Today’s Pumpkins

Today, carving pumpkins is as much an industry as it is a tradition. 1.5 billion pounds (680,000,000 kilograms or 680,000 tonnes) of pumpkins are produced each year are grown each year! Interestingly, 90 percent of the pumpkins grown in the United States are raised within a 90-mile radius of Peoria, Illinois, and even more interestingly, most pumpkins are processed into canned pumpkin and canned pie mix – not for carving. There are pumpkin carving competitions, and the scary faces traditionally made on pumpkins are often replaced by other creative designs. The world’s largest jack-o’-lantern was carved from the then-world’s-largest pumpkin on October 31, 2005 in Northern Cambria, Pennsylvania; it weighed 1,469 lb (666.33 kg) on October 1, 2005.

So, prepare your pumpkins and your carving knife, because we couldn’t really imagine Halloween without pumpkins, could we? It’s not about making the best ones, it’s about enjoying a century-old tradition; and keeping Jack o’lantern away.

Stephen King It

Why do some people love horror movies?

Stephen King It

With Halloween just around the corner, preparations in light of the impending artificial ghoul frenzy run amok through each neighborhood. Haunted houses, wild theme parties, trick or treating and as always an onslaught of horror flicks releases from Hollywood. Despite Halloween being considered an idle release time, horror movies have always found an audience no matter the time of year they’re being viewed; of course at night time. But what makes horror movies so popular?

There’s something counter-intuitive to watching movies in order to experience fright, but for some reason or another movie theaters frequently get packed on horror nights. Fear is not the driving factor that keeps people coming back for more, however, but instead the felling of relief the follows, experts say.

“Fear is a negative emotion that comes about when people are under siege or threat, and that is not pleasant,” said Glenn Sparks, a professor of communication who studies the media’s effects on people at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

“After researching this as long as I have, I have not seen any empirical evidence that people actually enjoy the emotional experience of fright,” he added. “Instead, I see evidence that people are enjoying other things that go along with this experience.”

According to scientists, our brain is incapable, at an emotional level, to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not in imagery. So, at an emotional level, being chased by an axe-wielding lunatic in real life is fairly comparable to seeing and experiencing images of such a chase at a distance from the comfort of a chair. You consciously know that this isn’t real, and that you won’t get hurt, however the fear is very much there. When people watch horrific images, their heartbeat increases by as much as 15 beats per minute, Sparks says. Their palms sweat, their skin temperature drops several degrees, their muscles tense, and their blood pressure spikes.

Intensity of relief from fear may be the driving factor

This phenomenon is commonly referred to as “excitation transfer”, and despite this kind of arousal is far from being pleasant, when the extreme sense of excitement wears off, it is replaced by an equally intense sense of relief.

“People may remember a haunted house at Halloween or a scary movie and they think, ‘I really felt good after that,'” Sparks said. “They’re remembering the intense positive emotions they had afterwards, not necessarily that the enjoyed the feeling of fear at all. There was something about the experience they remember as good, even though they know there were negative things, too.”

Nevertheless, there are many theories that state the reasons that make horror films so popular. In teenagers, it’s fairly often for them to go see scary movies simply because adults frown upon them. For adults, at their own term, a feeling of morbid curiosity may be at play. Other theories say people are merely seeking violent entertainment in order to cope with their own feeling of fear or violence.

While some studies advise that watching horror flicks or playing scary video games makes people more keen towards hostility, either verbal of physical, the average horror film thrill seeker won’t have had their personalities altered, Sparks said. It’s not unheard of that some people become severely traumatized after watching a horror flick. Some people are afraid to swim in the ocean after watching Jaws, or some might turn pale at the mere sight of a clown after seeing House of 1000 Corpses.

“I think people should follow their instincts on this,” Sparks said. “People should feel perfectly OK saying, ‘You know what, I don’t really enjoy this, and I’m not going to partake.'”

“On the other hand, if people find it enjoyable and want to do it, that’s perfectly fine, too,” he added.

ZME Science readers, why do you watch horror movies? Reply in comment section below. 

[source]

Instances of Boston Dynamics' Petman robot in various human-like positions. (c) Boston Dynamics

Check out the Petman robot workout – frighteningly realistic [VIDEO]

Instances of Boston Dynamics' Petman robot in various human-like positions. (c) Boston Dynamics

Instances of Boston Dynamics' Petman robot in various human-like positions. (c) Boston Dynamics

I’m pretty sure some of you went out costumed as robots this Halloween weekend, be it as Star Wars’ C3PO (there’s always one at every party, and it never gets lame) or you simply strapped on a drawn out cardboard box. Well, I hope you all had your fair share of laughs and scares, but although we’re all back to our usual boring selves the Petman robot does well in delivering  a reminiscing moment – only this time there’s no costume involved, he’s real deal.

Resembling folklore’s Sleepy Hallow, the Boston Dynamics developed bot for US Army chemical protective clothing may have a police light for a pumpkin, but this doesn’t make him any less mythically frightening. The Petman was specifically design to mimic human dynamics has close as possible, and as such he’s able to display incredibly human like physical behavior and stability. Check the video below which features the robot jogging across a treadmill, effortlessly even after a solid nudge from one of his engineers. Also, if you’re interested how a genuine push-up looks like, Petman puts 99% of us to shame.

The myths and folklore behind Halloween’s most popular characters

The spooky Halloween is almost upon us, and the monsters are rubbing their hands, waiting to come out and create chaos and mayhem. But even though kids costume themselves and all, a lot has changed since the early days of Samhaim, the pagan festival from which Halloween originated. In ancient Ireland fairies roamed the streets, playing malicious tricks on everybody who dared to walk at night, witches concocted magic evil potions all around the world, and werewolves came out howling from the forests. But what is the truth behind these myths and legends ? We’ve gathered a bunch of myths and stories, and I’m gonna let you decide what the truth is; if you have the courage, that is…

Vampires

The belief in vampires is as old as man itself, and throughout the years, many cultures have displayed a profound belief in such mythological creatures that feed on the life essence (usually blood) of other beings. Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Romans, even the Greeks – they all believed that when the sun comes down, white skinned phantomatical creatures with long teeth and a thirst for blood come out of their coffins, just waiting to suck the very life out of as much people as possible. Even in the English language, the word “vampire” exists since 1734, but it wasn’t until Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, Dracula that the archetypal sophisticated vampire was established.

Dracula, the movie

Dracula was believed to come from Transylvania, a region in Romania; he was a member of an ancient order, called the Order of the Dragon, and ruled Wallachia, a neighboring region as Vlad Dracul (Vlad the Devil). It is still not certain exactly why he is believed to be Dracula, but he was extremely cruel and he did have a thirst for blood – maybe in the literal way too.

Brad Pitt, in one of the most popular modern vampire stories

Other cultures have other vampires, but what’s interesting is that most rituals are actually the same. For example, identifying the coffin of a vampire in a graveyard required walking a virgin stallion through the graveyard; the horse was supposed to balk at the vampire’s tomb. Mirrors are also a good way to discover and ward vampires, because it is commonly believed that they have no reflection. Also, the methods of protection against vampires are pretty much the same: garlic is always good to have around. In some countries, during Halloween, huge piles of garlic are put in every window to prevent unwanted… guests. Staking is the best way to get rid of vampires, that we know of, but it’s also the hardest; vampires are known to be fast and extremely agile, so it’s best to do it during daytime, when they sleep.

Their favorite hang around places are graveyards and churches, but they can get around pretty much everywhere, and they can blend in perfectly when the sun comes down. You’d best keep an eye out for people with white skin and big teeth. There isn’t a special connection between vampires and Halloween, but if you go to the right places, you are bound to see at least a few.

Werewolves

Werewolves are nasty creatures; they were once humans, but now, they periodically or permanently change into antropomorphic animals, most commonly wolves. Lycantropes, as they are also called, become this way after being bitten by another werewolf, or after being placed under a powerful curse. They have the raw power and speed of the wolf, but they also have the intelligence and cunning of the man, which makes them some of the most powerful and feared monsters in the whole world.

In folklore, one of the most common signs of a werewolf is the joining of the eyebrows above the nose – this is the first sign of lycantropy. They were mentioned numerous times in European and African myths, especially in the huge forests in Russia. They were so feared, that people started to begin they wore the taint of the Devil himself, as writes Richard Verstegan (Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, 1628):

[werewolves] are certayne sorcerers, who having annoynted their bodies with an ointment which they make by the instinct of the devil, and putting on a certayne inchaunted girdle, does not only unto the view of others seem as wolves, but to their own thinking have both the shape and nature of wolves, so long as they wear the said girdle. And they do dispose themselves as very wolves, in worrying and killing, and most of humane creatures.

The ancient Greeks wrote some fascinating ideas about werewolves. For example, History’s father, Herodotus wrote that the Neuri, a tribe he places to the north-east of Scythia, were all transformed into wolves once every year for several days, and then changed back to their former shape – a shocking resemblance to other myths. Virgil, one of the most famous Roman poets wrote in a similar fashion. Other reputed people shared stories of werewolves; one of the most shocking was featured in the Satyricon:

“When I look for my buddy I see he’d stripped and piled his clothes by the roadside…He pees in a circle round his clothes and then, just like that, turns into a wolf!…after he turned into a wolf he started howling and then ran off into the woods.”

Werewolves are vulnerable to almost nothing. The only thing known to cause serious damage to them is silver. A silver blade, or a silver bullet will be deadly, but some reports claim that the mere touch of the metal will cause severe burns to the werewolf.

Werewolves like to hand around forests and farms, they cry out like wolves and are drawn by fullmoon. However, Halloween seems to draw them out more than a fullmoon, and at times, they even come out in packs, striking their victims without giving them any hope whatsoever.

Witches

Basically speaking, witches are people who practice witchcraft – and they love Halloween more than any other day of the year. Witchcraft was given a really awkward reputation during the dark ages, when Christianity ruled Europe, and when they ruled witchcraft as a criminal offense that should be punished by death. Speaking of it, there was quite a special way in which it was usually determined if somebody (usually women) was a witch. They tied her to some logs and/or rocks, and if she floated, she was a witch and had to die. If she sunk, and died, she wasn’t a witch, and… well, that’s that.

Witchcraft was common absolutely everywhere in the world. You’ve got shamans, voodoo people, warlocks and even necromancers, in one variation or another on every continent in every corner of the world. There are in fact so many types of alleged witches that it is practically impossible to catalogue them all; there are even stories (though not very many) of good witches, that use spells and potions to benefit others. Most however, are malitious at least, or evil at worst.

Halloween and witches are connected at every level. At first, Samhain (the celebration that originated Halloween) marks the end of the third and final harvest, but also the time when the Crone goddess mourns the death of the old God. It is the time when all the dead souls return to her cauldron of life and death, awaiting to be reincarnated. It is these souls that make the witches’ powers tenfold in the night of Halloween, so this is why they have very special plans for tonight. The Witches greatest Sabbath is scheduled for Halloween night, and even though you may not see witches that often, that’s because they like to stay hidden, waiting and plotting in the dark, waiting for the day they will finally be able to take their rightful place in the world.

Fairies

“Fairy” has different etymologies and different meanings in different languages. Despite today’s common belief that fairies are good natured and helpful (a belief largely promoted by Peter Pan), folklore tells us a somewhat different story. Usually, they are some sort of demons or undead beings, while in other stories they are elementals or air spirits.

Still, fairies are not evil, but rather malitious. A fairy will never try to throw the world in darkness, but may steal a baby every now and then, but usually they just known for their mischief and malice, playing everyday planks on people. Cold iron is the most common protection against fairies, which could come quite in handy, because in most legends they are not the small benevolent winged beings you might know, but would be rather a large, glowing figure.

As with many other mythological creatures, they are drawn in large numbers on Halloween, so usual light pranks may turn into a big ordeal on Samhain. There is however another belief, that fairies gather on Halloween to protect people from other malevolent spirites, such as witches or goblins. Either way, their intent and wishes are not yet clear, and maybe this Halloween will show us more clearly what fairies are like.

Zombies

Yeah, we know zombies. They may be slow, but they’re hard to stop, and they’re nasty. Halloween draws out more zombies than ever. It’s not quite clear if they come out because of all the spiritual energy of the day, of they are somehow summoned by witches or other spellcasters, but one thing’s for sure: zombies are the centerpiece of Halloween.

There aren’t many old legends and folklore about zombies, except for Haitian and other cultures that practiced voodoo. There have been many studies regarding the phenomenon, including medical research, the most famous of which was conducted by Wade Davis, a Harvard ethnobotanist, but zombies have gotten a lot of attention in modern culture, and this Halloween we’ll be definitely hearing a lot from them.

Demons

Demons are the top of the piramid when it comes to evil. They are at the core of every evil doing, and are responsible for every major plan concocted by supernatural creatures. Present in every mythology, as well as Christianity or Islamism, demons can rarely enter our plain of existence though.

However, Halloween is the time to be a demon. It is said that during this day, portals open that bound every plain of existance, so demons can enter freely in our world, given the right conditions. These conditions usually have to be fulfilled by lesser evils.

The legends and folklore about demons are so many you can’t fully characterize demons; some say they are fallen angels, some say they are evil powerful spirits, while others claim they are just energy, without a body of their own, waiting for one to possess. Either way, the word around the demon world is that they’re planning something big this Halloween, so best keep an eye out.

[These are just myths and folklore, tied together by figments of my immagination. Hope you had fun reading this post, I definitely did writing it. And have a happy bloody Halloween !]

A short history of Halloween

halloween pumpkinThe 2008 Halloween is almost here, and it seems to be the word on everybody’s lips this time of year. It’s celebrated mostly in America, but not so many people know about it’s origins, how it developed, and how it’s different from what it used to be many years ago. This is by no means an exhaustive resource, just a brief history of what was once called Samhain.

Throughout the Celtic territory, the druids celebrated four big holy days, Samhain, Oimelc, Beltane & Lughnasadh. They were referred to as the fire festivals, as for the celts fire was a symbol of dinivity, truth and beauty. Samhain marked the end of the harvest and the stocking of the supplies for the winter; it was the most important of all, and it probably marked the Celtic New Year. They lit up fires and frequently threw bones from the livestock in them, and they also used costumes or masks, to immitate the spirits or to placate them. Samhain was the beggining of the dark period of the year, the hard winter that was to come.

The name Halloween comes from All Hallows’ Even, as it’s the eve of the “All Hallows’ Day”, also known as the All Saints’ Day. It was a pagan celebration, but some popes tried to blend it with the Christian religion, and the result was that All Saints’ Day and Halloween were celebrated on the same day, despite the fact that they are now celebrated at the distance of a day. Today there are many symbols that surround Halloween, the most well known being of course the carved pumpkin, also called jack-o’-lantern. These lanterns have their origin in Europe, and they were at first carved from turnips. The name also comes from a European legend. A gambling and hard drinking farmer, calld Stingy Jack tricked the devil into climbing a tree, and then locked him there by carving a cross on the tree. The devil then tricked him to wander the night only with what light he had with him, which was of course carved from a turnip. Today, it’s much easier to carv in pumpkins.

Halloween is also very popular in Europe, especially in Ireland, where it originated from. Samhain is the time when the dead visit the living, and large bonfires are lit in order to prevent evil spirits from doing anything… evil. Just as in the US, here people dress up in ghosts, spirits, monsters etc. This started as it was a bay to blend in with the spirits, but then it just turned into trick or treating.