Before Halloween became a consumption holiday, it had a somewhat ambiguous cultural history. No one is really quite sure where it came from. It appears to be a case of a myriad traditions, rituals and festivals being narrowed over time into one, and then linked back to an apparent history through its calendar date.
Whatever festival you think it stems from, the general theme is death, but not necessarily in the macabre and horrific sense it has become associated with. It’s also about regeneration and the life that comes after a death, whether it be honouring the legacy of saints (eve before All Saint’s Day, the Christian holy day) or celebrating the end of summer fertility and preparing for the bleak winter (the ancient Celtic harvest festival Samhain).
Like many Christian holy days, All Hallows’ Eve commandeered the date of the Celtic Samhain. And like most modern consumption holidays, Halloween commandeered them all. As a social-ecological system, its transition from harvest celebration to consumption holiday would make a fascinating study of our disconnection from nature. Imagine if kids dressed up as carnivorous plants, wasps and spiders, instead of fake ghosts, zombies and axe murderers….
In an ecosystem, the natural death of plants and animals are a source of nutrients and renewal, a symbol of new generations and new lives. So here is a little ecological photo montage for the weekend, to honour the cycle of life.
© Manu Saunders 2015