The Undead and Philosophy: Chicken Soup for the Soulless

By Richard Greene; K. Silem Mohammad | Go to book overview

18
The Fear of Fear
Itself: The Philosophy
of Halloween

NOËL CARROLL


Halloween: The Festival of the
Wandering Undead

Halloween is the night of the living dead. In all likelihood, the festival originated in Ireland where it was celebrated on November 1st, Samhain, which was, for the ancient Celts, the first day of winter, the season of death.

According to legend, on Samhain, the souls of all those who had died in the previous year gather from hither and yon to enter the otherworld. The living would put out food, drink, and other offerings to placate the traveling souls of the dead, perhaps to expiate any wrongs that they had done to them. Bonfires were lit and recently harvested food was fed to the flames as a sacrifice.

This should sound somewhat familiar to you. For it is very probable that the practice of going from door to door dressed as skeletons, vampires, zombies, ghosts, mummies, ghouls, Frankenstein’s monster, and other assorted living dead in the expectation of receiving candy, money, and the like is a reenactment of the itinerary of the wandering Undead on Samhain.

Catholic missionaries penetrated Ireland in the fifth century, entering into competition with the indigenous Druidic religion of the Celts. But rather than attempting to stamp out Samhain entirely, they appropriated it. In accordance with a strategy developed by Pope Gregory the Great, Catholic missionaries melded their myths with the local ones. In this way,

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