October 2006


Today I left early and headed down to the Smoothie job and got started. Got a lot done today. Went to Jersey Mikes for a sandwich. The same place as yesterday. It was not as good today. I will have to go elsewhere tomorrow. 
Today was my friend Dave’s service at St. Luke’s. I was too busy  to get away so off he goes with my blessings from here. He has been in my thoughts all week. I noticed on my cell the last time we talked. It was on Friday October 20th 2006 and he dropped dead next day at 2:30 pm.

Last Call

Seems a bit odd this time of year, as we gather together costumes, carve
pumpkins, collect tinder for bonfires, and hang images of goblins, ghouls
and witches about our surroundings, doesn’t it? Yet if you had lived in
Ireland many centuries ago, this would have been your New Year celebration!

The Celts considered time to be cyclical or circular rather than linear,
with eight ‘stations’ of the year marking the passing seasons. These
important dates were marked with specific rituals and customs, among them
fire-festivals. The two most important fire festivals were Beltane, on May
1st, marking the beginning of summer, and Samhain, on Novermber 1st,
signifying the arrival of winter. Several lesser festivals marked the
passage of time in between these two calendrical polarities.

Like many autumn festivals around the world, Samhain has its origins in the
harvest season. To the Celts, an agricultural people, paying homage to the
cycles of the earth and the spirits they believed inhabited the land was
particularly important. With the harvest completed and the days shortening
into winter, this ritual marked the beginning of a ‘still’ time, when
warfare, crop cultivation, and the bustle of summer activity came to a halt.
It was logical to associate this transition with symbolic ‘death’ – the
death of the land’s fertility, the usual busy activity of the clan, and most
importantly, the ‘death’ of the sun. It is important to consider that in the
context of the Celt’s belief in time as a cyclical entity, death was not an
ending to be feared; rather, it was the pathway to regeneration. Unlike many
other cultures, to the Celts the origin of life was to be found in darkness,
the moon, and night.

At this time of year, the crops would have been harvested and provisions
made for the long, dark winter months ahead. Once Samhain came, all fruit
still left upon the trees was considered taboo for humans, as it now
belonged to the spirit world. Animals not kept as breeding stock were
slaughtered as sacrifices and then made into food to sustain the clans
through the dark period of the year. It was a time for taking stock of the
past year, honoring the great cycle of life that sustained the race, and
welcoming in the New Year. Tara, the seat of Irish kingship, was the site of
great celebrations, markets, and fairs on Samhain.

On these significant days – Beltane and in – it was believed that the forces
of chaos reigned and the barriers between the spirit world and human world
were considerably thinned and navigable, allowing for intermingling between
the living and the dead. The Celts prepared for the return of the dead,
often setting out food and wine to greet the spirits that might come to
visit.

They also thought this the most advantageous time to practice divination of
their own, since the world of the unseen was exceptionally more ‘open’ to
their communications. The Celts did not fear or abhor death the way the
modern world does, and so the presence of the dead was welcomed rather than
dreaded. However, along with the spirits of the ancestors, it was also
thought that mischievous or malevolent ghosts were present as well, so
caution was to be taken. It was for these forces that food and wine was also
set out, though the intent was placatory rather than hospitable. Bonfires
were also lit at this time to appease the spirits of the dead, make
offerings and sacrifices, and cast spells, giving rise to the modern Irish
practice of lighting large bonfires on Halloween night.

As the influence of Christianity came to Ireland and blended with Celtic
culture, familiar Samhain imagery and tradition blended with Christian
influence to create a hybrid holiday. Centuries later, Irish emigrants to
the New World brought many of these customs with them, creating the
widely-known secular holiday, Halloween, that we know so well!

After St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, it became the goal of
monks and missionaries to convert the pagan Irish. Because the natives were
so resistant to Christianity, the Church sought to assist conversion by
substituting Christian ‘versions’ of sacred days and deities for ancient
Celtic ones – hence, the powerful hearth goddess Brigid became St. Bridget,
Beltane became Easter, and Samhain became All Hallow’s Eve and All Saint’s
Day.

Rather than being a day to honor all dead, as Samhain was, All Saint’s Day
celebrated only saints who had no specific feast day of their own. The night
before became known as All Hallow’s Eve, which provided the origin for the
word ‘Halloween’. Since this holiday honoring the dead coincided so well
with the long-established Samhain, it eased the transformation of the Irish
from pagan to Christian. One can find in the ‘Christian’ Halloween remnants
of Celtic Samhain, including bonfires, imagery of gourds and other harvest
icons, and conceptions of the dead visiting the world of the living.

When millions of the Irish fled their homelands to escape persecution or
hunger, many immigrated to the New World, bringing the customs of Halloween
with them. In America, this secular holiday has become associated with
ghoulish, macabre imagery as well as certain customs, among them
trick-or-treating, dressing up in costume, the lighting of jack ‘o lanterns,
and apple bobbing. In Ireland, though these customs are practiced far less
commonly, the modern inhabitants of the country still celebrate this special
night with large bonfires and ‘ghoulish’ behavior.

The origin of trick or treating comes from a European tradition called
‘souling’. Early Christians would roam from village to village begging for
‘soul cakes’, squares of currant-studded bread, promising to pray for the
giver’s protection from malevolent spirits that might be upon the earth at
that time. Soul cakes were often left out, accompanied by wine, to placate
or welcome the visiting souls of the dead, as well. Over the years, this has
evolved into the custom of children roaming from house to house, asking for
sweets from well-wishers, while subtly threatening a ‘trick’ – the modern
equivalent of a prank from a mischievous spirit – for those who fail to
offer appropriately.

Another common symbol of Halloween is the jack ‘o lantern, or carved pumpkin
lit from within by a flame. There are two origins to this custom: placing a
lit candle within a turnip (which were far more common in Europe than
pumpkins!) kept the flame from being extinguished and was thought to guide
the spirits of the departed back to the hearth of their families.

In another aspect of the custom’s history, there is the legend of an overly
clever lad called Jack who played a trick on the Devil. For his trouble, he
was admitted to neither Heaven nor Hell, but condemned to wander the earth
with no guide in the darkness but a burning coal or ember. He placed this
ember in a hollow turnip to protect the flame, thus creating the very first
jack ‘o lantern. Perhaps you might want to tell the little ones this story
as you carve your own pumpkin!

The custom of dressing up in costume can be traced back to the belief that
the veil between worlds was easily crossed at this time and that the dead
could walk among humans. In order to fool any ill-wishing spirits and fend
off enchantment, it was believed that by dressing up as a goblin or ghoul
one could disguise oneself and avoid being targeted or taken away by sprits.
In time it became common to dress up as a variety of entities associated
with death and spirits – witches, ghosts, vampires, and other supernatural
marauders – giving rise to the little army of ghouls marching up your
walkway.

Parallels are commonly found in many other cultures, including the vibrant,
joyous ‘Dia de los Muertos’ or ‘Day of the Dead’ in Mexico and ‘Festival of
the Dead’ in Italy, as well as Guy Fawkes’ Day and Armistice Day in the
United Kingdom. As all countries in the Northern Hemisphere enter winter,
cultural concerns logically turn towards matters of harvest, death,
regeneration, and survival. All of our modern Halloween customs can be
traced to these matters so important to the Celts – so as you carve your
pumpkin, collect tinder for your fire, or don that wicked costume, remember
that you’re celebrating a uniquely ‘Irish’ holiday!

Today I headed off down the I-5 to hgwy 18 and off at Covington. I had to help catch up a Emerald City Smoothie store we are doing. Met Brad the new guy there. I installed FRP board in the toilet and around the mud sink. I also put in a new door in the office there. Went to some sandwich place for lunch. It was a slower drive home with the traffic. No harm, I’ll start earlier tomorrow and get off earlier.
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8:15pm

Ok just watched “The Lake House” on the ole DVD and it was shite.

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We went over to I-Hop for the breakfast. I worked downstairs putting up cabinets in the laundry room. 99% finished on my part now. Went to Costco for some provisions. Went to Country Buffet for dinner. Went to Love Zone for some items and went home. Terry came by for the visit. Carmen came over with a nice pie for me. Now I sit with half a pie on the counter top.

Well I did make it over to Donegal John’s last night for the Halloween party. Below are a few photo’s.
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Didn’t sleep half the night. Went off to Vashon with Paul. We worked on some final stuff around the house.
Went to Dukes for dinner. I had the new veggie risotto. It was fine. Popped in and bought some DVD’s on the way home. I will feck on over here to Donegal Johns for a Halloween party later on tonight. Well that’s my plan. I would prefer to be going to the Manor in the town of the American King.

Over to the Pointe West again. More odds and ends. Boomed Jim from JJ. up 60 feet in a few areas to touch up the sticker tube holes. Went to the Thai on Alki for lunch. I have gone here a few times and it’s pure and utter shite! Never again. After lunch went up and helped Paul to put on siding at Graham Terrace.
Went to Whole Foods for dinner. Came back and worked in the laundry room. A little bit more left. 2 more hours at least.

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