Halloween's coming! Halloween's coming!
Skeletons will be after you!
Witches cats and big, black bats,
ghosts and goblins too! -- Author Unknown
A favorite jingle among young children in schools, Halloween brings with it a fascination for all things scary and gory - haunted houses, devilish costumes, and movies that are not for the fainted-hearted!
Were these scary creatures always a part of Halloween or have we become obsessed with them lately? We take a look. Read about the origin of the festival here.
Ghosts and Mummies
Nearly every culture on Earth believes in ghosts - the souls of the dead wandering in our midst and in haunted houses. Believers claim that while the human body may die, the soul lives on and that this is especially true for those who meet a violent or untimely death.
Unlike ghosts, mummies are real and have been part of many ancient civilizations such as Egyptians, Chinese, Japanese and South American. Movies have created a fear around mummies as the "walking dead' or zombies and they have become a part of our Halloween culture as well.
Bats And Black Cats
These creatures of the night are thought to have special powers according to old folklore and legends.
Silent, solitary, unseen in the dark.... black cats are nocturnal stalkers by nature. It's no surprise they have been associated with witchcraft for centuries. Many black cats were killed along with their masters during the persecution of witches in the Middle Ages.
Certain species of bats suck blood from other animals, and this has led to legends of vampires such as Dracula. The bat's frightening appearance does not help its reputation either. In reality though, bats don't attack unless they feel threatened.
Witches And Vampires
Witches riding on broomsticks by moonlight, or stirring their cauldrons of brew are images we are all familiar with. However, this image is far removed from the true accounts of persecution, torture, and murder of tens of thousands of medieval European "witches" over a 300 year period. Witches were thought to possess special powers and could inflict evil on others. Even America was infected by witch hysteria, evidenced by the Salem witch trials of 1692.
The origin of vampires dates as far back as ancient Babylon and is also found in early Greek and Roman mythology. Graves found in eastern Europe with skeletons pinned down by metal rods show how feared these creatures were during medieval times. Don't miss a fascinating Youngzine article from last year here.
While many of these surreal creatures may not exist, Halloween continues to popularize these myths. What are you dressing up as this year for Halloween?