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The Origins of Halloween: Appeasing and Honoring the Dead

The fascinating origins of Halloween date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived in an area that is now the United Kingdom over 2,000 years ago, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day represented the end of the summer harvest and the beginning of winter This was a time that was commonly associated with death.

Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the worlds of the living and the dead crossed. On the night of October 31 they celebrated the festival of Samhain. When the ghosts of the dead returned to earth causing mischief and destroying crops, the Celts believed that their presence made it possible for the Druids (Celtic priests) to make predictions about the future. These prophets provided direction and security for surviving the deadly winter that lay ahead. 

Huge sacred bonfires were built where people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to their gods. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes typically consisting of animal heads and skins. This is where the fortune telling occurred. When the festival ended, they re-lit their hearth fires from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during their season of death - the cold and darkness of winter.

By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had taken over the majority of Celtic land. Over the course of 400 years, two Roman festivals were combined with the Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans honored their dead. The second festival honored Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is an apple and most likely explains the tradition of “bobbing” for apples that is practiced on Halloween to this day.

In 609 AD, Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to honor Christian martyrs and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III (731–741 AD) expanded the festival to include all saints as well as martyrs, and moved the day from May 13 to November 1. By the 9th century, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands where it gradually blended with the older Celtic rituals. In 1000 AD, the church would make November 2 All Souls’ Day - a day to honor the dead.

It is believed that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned, holiday. All Souls Day was celebrated similar to Samhain. Bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils became custom. The All Saints Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

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Paris Catacombs

By the light of torches, candles or miners lights, haunting scenes centuries old appear to unfold. Scenes of skulls, bones and death are everywhere. The passages can be as low as three feet overhead or even less. The air heavy with dust, and the ground underfoot flooded with grimy water splashing way over your shoes. In tunnels up to 100 feet below the surface bustle of one of the world’s great cities, another clandestine world exists.

Consulting maps, self-trained guides lead the way, while others look for opportunities to take photographs. Exploring the Paris Catacombs, also known as the Mines of Paris, carries risk. For one, it is strictly illegal, with special police and their dogs patrolling the vast subterranean network. There is also a very real danger of getting lost, as well as the chance of cave-ins in some places.

(Source: environmentalgraffiti.com)

Sokushinbutsu - The Bizarre Practice of Self-Mummification

Scattered throughout Northern Japan around the Yamagata Prefecture are two dozen mummified Japanese monks known as Sokushinbutsu, who caused their own deaths by way of self-mummification. A successful mummification took upwards of ten years. It is believed that many hundreds of monks tried, but only about 20 such mummifications have been discovered to date.

The elaborate process started with three years of eating a special diet consisting only of nuts and seeds, while taking part in a regimen of rigorous physical activity that stripped them of their body fat. They then ate only bark and roots for another three years and began drinking a poisonous tea made from the sap of the Urushi tree, normally used to lacquer bowls.

This caused vomiting and a rapid loss of bodily fluids, and most importantly, it made the body too poisonous to be eaten by maggots. Finally, a self-mummifying monk would lock himself in a stone tomb barely larger than his body, where he would not move from the lotus position. His only connection to the outside world was an air tube and a bell. Each day he rang a bell to let those outside know that he was still alive.

When the bell stopped ringing, the tube was removed and the tomb sealed. After the tomb was sealed, the other monks in the temple would wait another three years, and open the tomb to see if the mummification was successful. If the monk had been successfully mummified, they were immediately seen as a Buddha and put in the temple for viewing. Usually, though, there was just a decomposed body.

Seven Vintage Tips on How to Keep Your Man

As the literature referenced below, written throughout the early to mid-20th-century tells us, your man is one cold meal short of leaving you. Read the hilariously old tips for keeping your man happy in and out of bed. However, some tips still ring true today. How times haven’t changed much.

1. Don’t Talk

Refer to the first four commandments on “How to be a Good Wife” in Edward Podolsky’s 1943 book Sex Today in Wedded Life:

Be a good listener. Let him tell you his troubles; yours will seem trivial in comparison.

Remember your most important job is to build up and maintain his ego (which gets bruised plenty in business). Morale is a woman’s business.

Let him relax before dinner. Discuss family problems after the inner man has been satisfied.

In his 1951 book, Sex Satisfaction and Happy Marriage, Reverend Alfred Henry Tyrer has more to add to that. Asking for things is “nagging”:

I verily believe that the happiness of homes is destroyed more frequently by the habit of nagging than by any other one. A man may stand that sort of thing (nagging) for a long time, but the chances are against his standing it permanently. If he needs peace to make life bearable, he will have to look for it elsewhere than in his own house. And it is quite likely that he will look.

2. Bad Cooking Will Drive Your Man to Seedy Saloons

Reverend Tyrer states further:

A social service meeting, an afternoon tea, a matinee, a what-not, is no excuse for there being no dinner ready when a husband comes home from a hard day’s work.

Housekeeping accomplishments and cooking ability are, of course, positive essentials in any true home, and every wife should take a reasonable pride in her skill. Happiness does not flourish in an atmosphere of dyspepsia.

3. Be the Hot Steak, Not the Pork Chop

Speaking of cooking, Reverend Tyrer has a metaphor for you.  

Picture a woman preparing a fine meal for her husband. “She remembered his choice of meat and was careful to get an extra-fine cut…her best cutlery and dishes and finest linen are all in evidence, and a little colorful decoration has been tastefully displayed….and as he comes into the house she greets him with a smile of welcome and a touch of manifest love.”  

But say that same wife “is constantly setting him down to indigestible meals, cold and unappetizing, with nothing properly cooked, set out on a kitchen table with a dirty cloth, she need not be surprised if her husband frequently telephones from the office that business will prevent him from being home for dinner.” 

4. Don’t Be a Sexual Vampire or a Frigid Franny

Dr. William Josephus Robinson, one of the earliest sexologists and advocate of birth control, tells us in his book Woman, Her Sex and Love Life in 1927 warns us of the lures of women becoming “sexual vampires”, sucking the life force right out of your husband:

Just as the vampire sucks the blood of its victims in their sleep while they are alive, so does the woman vampire suck the life and exhaust the vitality of her male partner—or “victim.”

Now, if you are one of those frigid or sexually anesthetic women, don’t be in a hurry to inform your husband about it. To the man it makes no difference in the pleasurableness of the act whether you are frigid or not unless he knows that you are frigid. And he won’t know unless you tell him, and what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Heed this advice. It has saved thousands of women from trouble.

5. Pink Panties are a Must

That the underwear should be spotlessly clean goes without saying, but every woman should wear the best quality underwear that she can afford. And the color should be preferably pink. And lace and ruffles, I am sorry to say, add to the attractiveness of underwear, and are liked by the average man.

6. Let Him Have Some Fun Now and Then

Dr. Robinson says that ultimately, a wife will react to infidelity as her heart dictates:

But in case of an occasional lapse on the part of the husband—there a bit of advice may prove acceptable. And my advice would be: forgive and forget. Or still better—make believe that you know nothing. An occasional lapse from the straight path does not mean that he has ceased to love you. He may love you as much; he may love you a good deal more.

7. Your Husband is the Boss of You

It is fitting to close with the most opposed belief by the women’s movement written by renowned eugenicist Professor B.G. Jefferis, in his 1921 book Searchlights on Health, The Science of Eugenics:

The Number One Rule. Reverence Your Husband.—He sustains by God’s order a position of dignity as head of a family, head of the woman. Any breaking down of this order indicates a mistake in the union, or a digression from duty.

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Letters of Note: Your Loving Santa Claus
During Christmas in the 1870s, when he wasn’t sending horse-led sleighs piled high with food and toys to his less fortunate neighbours, the inimitable Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) could usually be found at the family home with his wife and young children, often pretending to be Santa Claus. On Christmas morning of 1875, Twain’s 3-year-old daughter, Susie, awoke to find the following charming letter on her bed.


My dear Susie Clemens: I have received and read all the letters which you and your little sister have written me by the hand of your mother and your nurses; I have also read those which you little people have written me with your own hands—for although you did not use any characters that are in grown peoples’ alphabet, you used the characters that all children in all lands on earth and in the twinkling stars use; and as all my subjects in the moon are children and use no character but that, you will easily understand that I can read your and your baby sister’s jagged and fantastic marks without any trouble at all. But I had trouble with those letters which you dictated through your mother and the nurses, for I am a foreigner and cannot read English writing well. You will find that I made no mistakes about the things which you and the baby ordered in your own letters—I went down your chimney at midnight when you were asleep and delivered them all myself—and kissed both of you, too, because you are good children, well trained, nice mannered, and about the most obedient little people I ever saw.


To read the rest of the letter, click here.

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Letters of Note: Your Loving Santa Claus

During Christmas in the 1870s, when he wasn’t sending horse-led sleighs piled high with food and toys to his less fortunate neighbours, the inimitable Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) could usually be found at the family home with his wife and young children, often pretending to be Santa Claus. On Christmas morning of 1875, Twain’s 3-year-old daughter, Susie, awoke to find the following charming letter on her bed.

My dear Susie Clemens:

I have received and read all the letters which you and your little sister have written me by the hand of your mother and your nurses; I have also read those which you little people have written me with your own hands—for although you did not use any characters that are in grown peoples’ alphabet, you used the characters that all children in all lands on earth and in the twinkling stars use; and as all my subjects in the moon are children and use no character but that, you will easily understand that I can read your and your baby sister’s jagged and fantastic marks without any trouble at all. But I had trouble with those letters which you dictated through your mother and the nurses, for I am a foreigner and cannot read English writing well. You will find that I made no mistakes about the things which you and the baby ordered in your own letters—I went down your chimney at midnight when you were asleep and delivered them all myself—and kissed both of you, too, because you are good children, well trained, nice mannered, and about the most obedient little people I ever saw.

To read the rest of the letter, click here.

Raising the Dead — The Long Abandoned, Vintage Colombian Hotel

This was the abandoned Hotel del Salto, also known as the Tequendama Falls Hotel, located in San Antonio del Tequendama, Colombia. The old hotel overlooked the Tequendama Falls on the Bogotá River in Colombia. It was opened in 1924 and shut its doors in the 1990′s. For the last 20 years, the hotel had stood abandoned with a grand haunted past. But it is now a museum.

In 1923, the building was constructed as a mansion by the architect Carlos Arturo Tapias, as a symbol of the joy and elegance of Colombian’s elite citizens of the 1920’s. The house was named “The Mansion of Tequendama Falls” and was built during Colombia’s presidency of Pedro Nel Ospina (1922-1926).

The hotel was abandoned in the 1990s, for more than two decades, due to river contamination. The hotel’s French Gothic design and neglected beauty enhanced the idea that the hotel was haunted by local residents. After 20 years, the abandoned beauty was finally put to good use. The hotel has become the Museum of Biodiversity and Culture, restoring the old building’s beauty and purpose. 

source 1, 2