Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Grandma's Rules of Halloween & Their Consequences

My family history is mainly Scottish, Irish and Norwegian.  (By the way I fully endorse getting your ethnicity checked out by ancestry or 23 and me or one of those companies, I learned so many fascinating things, but I digress).  

Now anyone that has a history or background that reaches back to Scotland and Ireland, you know there must be some traditions, or rather superstitions when it comes to Halloween.  My family was no different.

My Grandmother from a young age told me the stories about Halloween but they were less stories as they were rules.  And, those rules had consequences if not followed.  Later, when I was older I feared the rules as my immediate family took none of them to heart, but my grandmother always did.

Each Halloween I lived not in fear, but in many ways, we'll say 'guarded.'  Now, nothing ever happened to me.  But to this day I follow my grandmother's rules of Halloween very closely, just in case.  To me, why risk doing something wrong, just in case the stories are real.  Sometimes, reality is scarier than our own mind.

The rules.

#1.  The dead walk the earth during Halloween, kind of like the belief in Mexico's Day of the Dead on November 1st, but instead of being family that is remembered, this is a 24-hour period where all dead walk the earth.

#2.  The 24-hour period of Halloween begins at midnight, between October 30th and the beginning of October 31st.  And the period ends at midnight between October 31st and November 1st.  

Unlike what many believe, Halloween doesn't begin when the sun rises or sets on Halloween day, it begins at midnight, the night before.

#3.  There are two periods of danger on Halloween from the dead that walk the earth.  

The first time is the darkness and night that begins the day, more on that in a moment, and the second and more dangerous part is when the sun goes down at the end of the day until midnight on Halloween night when the dead return again.

#4.  Always, most importantly, have a jack-o-lantern outside your home, lit all night from midnight until morning and relight it the second nighttime until midnight.  

Originally folks used turnips to carve their jack-o-lanterns but of course these days it's easier and more traditional to use a pumpkin but any vegetable you can carve will do.  This is the most important thing you can do, why?  See #5.

#5.  The jack-o-lantern outside your home is designed to scare the dead and protect you.

As the dead awake at midnight early on October 31st, they will walk the earth for the remainder of that period of darkness, looking for victims to inhabit forever.  Those that put jack-o-lanterns outside their homes or apartments will be passed over because the dead will be scared of the faces.  But, if you don't, well, see rule #6.

#6.  If you don't have a jack-o-lantern outside your home or apartment at midnight as Halloween begins the dead will know to return to that place the next time night falls.  

They will return to inhabit you or take you away.  That danger actually wasn't the most frightening part for me.  That would be in rule 7.

#7.  If you carve your jack-o-lantern and the next morning it's smashed outside your home/apartment, it shows that the dead are offended by your carving or it didn't frighten them at all, it attracted them, and now they are angry and will target you by being back again when night falls.  

Thankfully, that never happened to any of our jack-o-lanterns.  But for others they weren't so lucky.  I'm sure it was neighborhood kids that smashed the pumpkins at night but it always seemed that for neighbors that had their jack-o-lanterns smashed that night, something always unfortunate happened to them on Halloween night before midnight.

#8.  If you wake and your jack-o-lantern is gone, things are much more serious.  This is a sign that the dead will return when the sun sets again and take or inhabit you for good.  Grandma told me that a taken jack-o-lantern was a sign they wanted your head the next nightfall.  This could be where the headless horseman story was derived years ago by a writer.

Obviously that last rule never effected me or my family but there was one man two blocks away who always decorated for Halloween.  He did this every year.  His house always stood out.  Now, when I was in my late teens I went home the evening of October 30th and noticed his jack-o-lantern.  It was a happy face; how nice I thought and cute.  The next day as I went to school I noticed the jack-o-lantern was not there.  I thought nothing of it and had forgotten the rules.  I found out later on the first day of November that he had passed away.  My mother told me she saw it in the newspaper and there was an investigation into it as foul play was suspected.  The details of the event past that were never released as far as I know.  Coincidence?  I'll never know and frankly I don't want to know.

But, there was always good news; once midnight arrives on November 1st, the dead must return to the ground for another year, to leave us alone.

Those are the rules.  So I ask . . . Is your jack-o-lantern out tonight?

Bryan Rupp