Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Of Celts, martyrs, saints, Reformation, Halloween and cemeteries...

Did you know that in the old history, the 31st of October was once a pagan festival? And later, it marked the ultimate day of religious faction and dissension?

SAMHAIN FESTIVAL, circa 5th Century

The Gaelic people [those immortal Highlanders on TV] in the northwest European Celtic territory [now Ireland and Northern France] practice this supranaturalistic belief of the AFTERLIFE. The 31st of October signifies the end of the Celtic calendar otherwise known as the conclusion of the merry “light” season [summer] and the beginning of the staid “dark” season [winter].

The Samhain likeness...

The Gaelic Celts firmly believed that the incorporeal spirits of the people who died throughout that year would revisit and wander about seeking open individuals to dominate for the subsequent year. In order to chase and frighten away these unwanted ghosts, the villagers took to task of dressing up in spooky creature outfits. After which they come out to join the march in the streets whilst creating noise. They truly believe this will drive the spirits away.

In the later centuries, the Romans conquered most of the Celtic territory and eventually Catholicism spread throughout the area.

Meanwhile in Rome, the “Feast of the Martyrs” is celebrated every 13th of May. Conversely in the 8th century, the Pope modified the “Feast of Martyrs” into the “Feast of the Saints”. Later, the dates were amended from 13th of May to the 1st of November.

Was that a fall from heaven coincidence?

It was hushed-hushed that the Pope did it to replace and compromise with the “Samhain Festival” of the Celts. Aha --- the radical Christianization of the occult.

I am not really surprised, after all the Spanish Catholic conquistadores did the same tactic with the Philippine inhabitants in 1521. From nature and supernatural worshippers, they swiftly convinced and transmuted the natives by urbanizing the method of worship into visible effigies combined with a ceremonial twist. Ah, it suited well the pagan culture. Very clever indeed…

The ONSET of the REFORMATION, circa middle ages

The Augustinian monk, Martin Luther.

Born in the eastern part of Germany, Martin Luther always had an immense passion for the scriptures. This fervor eventually led him to service the Catholic Church and later on, question her. On the 31st of October 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses against the Roman Catholic Church on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany. He disputed many of the Catholic doctrines such as the unequivocal rights of the Pope to pardon sins.

This succinctly marked the ultimate day of faction and dissension within the Catholic Church. The act of rebuttal sent the whole of Europe into the dark tunnels and dungeons of the Reformation Age, where the word “heretic” and “heresy” can cost you your life.

Quite a coincidence there… same day 31st of October, both beckoning the deaths and births of something significant.

I am not a Catholic, a Protestant nor a protégée of some religion, but it sure is incredibly remarkable to see how the ecclesiastical world unfolds its history… even up to now.

OUR TIMES, the 21st century

One might wonder, is “Halloween” [bastardized by the Americans originally “All Hallows Eve”], “All Saints Day” and “All Souls Day” celebrated in the Netherlands? The answer is YES and NO.

The Dutch do NOT celebrate “Halloween”. Although I heard that on that night all discotheques are mostly overflowing with drunken wanton teenage kids.

The “All Saints Day” [Allerheiligen] and the “All Souls Day” [Allerzielen] however are up to now still commemorated by a few steadfast and diminishing Dutch Roman Catholics. In other European countries, I believe this is memorialized to the dot? There is no argument that the Netherlands is the most secular country in Europe and in the world. Religious beliefs and practices have been sanctioned to extinction, I’d say scraped off to oblivion.

November 1 and 2 are still shown as important days in the Dutch calendar but it is NOT a holiday where people take off work nor do I see people observing what it really is or was.

It is a grand contrast to devout Philippines… or Mexico where they adorn their homes or graves with the skulls of the dead.

I still remember back then, some 25 to 30 years ago [oh my, I am that old!] my family would travel to the province to visit the graves of the dead relatives. I was very young and extremely fascinated by the event, plus it’s a national holiday-no school, so I kind of look forward to it every year. The long drive to the province invigorated me and the thrill of seeing lighted candles and the lively reunion mood of everyone else enthuse me. Of course the cemetery always received us jovially, it was undeniably a feast.

As a child I thought in innocent confusion, “It’s supposed to be a sad day but people are happy”.

The yearly trip was short lived, helaas. My parents made a scandalous decision that sent my grandmother into hysterics… that is to leave the Roman Catholic Church. I was fairly young and didn’t understand everything so it didn’t matter to me.

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