Every secondary student in their literary studies should have read and pondered on MACBETH, William Shakespeare’s classic play of loyalty, prophecy, treachery, insanity and death. This plays sums up the human experience in all of its Elizabethan glory.
The troubling scene of the three sisters in the woods as they relate their baleful mischief on their human and animal victims freezes the reader’s blood. When Macbeth and Banquo stumble upon their night conference of evil, the three are ready to rip Macbeth’s goodness from his body with a delightful prophecy which most humans would find impossible to resist.
These three sisters were not actual humans because they had features of both men and women without an ounce of the human spirit of compassion, caring or love. As Banquo said, these “instruments of darkness” are “bubbles” of the earth, existing in their own plane of existence with their shadows touching the human realm.
Perhaps, the Bard of Avalon based these three witches on the legends of Lilith, Lamashtu, and Lamia. These three female demons have their origins in the early history of ancient civilizations.
As many scholars know, according to the Jewish midrash Lilith was the woman created in Genesis One to be Adam’s wife. Like Adam she was made from the dust of the earth or the dust from under the throne of Elohim.
Unfortunately, trouble arose between Adam and Lilith. Going before the council of worlds, Lilith demanded justice for her grievances, especially her right to be recognized as Adam’s equal, but as the proceedings progressed, she realized that her place would always be second to Adam in the cosmic order. In her desperation and angry she spoke the Ineffable Name, the Tetragrammaton, which no created being was allowed to say.
At this the council went into total silence and shock. Lilith flew back to earth and chose separation from Adam.
Lilith took her children West of Eden. She settled near the Red Sea.
Adam wanted her and the children back so the council sent Semangelof, Sansenoy and Senoy, three messengers of the council elite guard to cajole Lilith to return. She refused.
Adam was given another companion in Genesis 2 made from one of his ribs. Lilith faded until the Sumero-Babylonians resurrected her story.
She and many of her great, great grandchildren survived the Great Deluge by finding safe refuge in the cave of treasures where Adam was buried. The flood waters were not allowed to touch his final resting place.
Legends and myths have been with us for countless generations. The ones about the dark forces seem to haunt us, especially on dark and stormy nights. Perhaps, the phantasms of the night season are just glimpses to the world unseen.
Halloween brings its own assortments of legends, myths and history. The world unseen intrudes into human reality with its dark shadows. The astral planes align with mystical precision.
Orange and black colors prepare for its arrival. With hallowed eyes and a candle, carved pumpkins dot shadowy door steps and windows in darkened rooms.
In the old country it was turnips which were decorated and hollowed out to welcome or scare away spirts on the night of the dead. Costumes were a means of confusing the spirits.
The famous “dookin for apples” was not mere child play. Apples were viewed with infused divine properties. Perhaps, the old adage “an apple day keeps the doctor away” had its origin in this contest.
Black cats became associated with witches dressed in black with pointed hats and flying broomsticks. Of course, if a black cat crossed in front of you, it was a definite omen of bad things to come.
I remember my grandfather rotating his railroad cap when a black cat crossed his path. This was to reverse the portent of misery ahead.
Walking under a ladder or breaking a mirror were crimes punishable with a whipping, a good-old fashioned one, especially on Halloween. Bad luck was a coin of currency which no one wanted on Halloween.
The depiction of witches as wretched hags was popular in books, television and films. They had no redeeming value except to frighten children and make animals disappear for ritualized practices.
In 1963 we went down the street to the theater to watch THE THREE LIVES OF THOMASINA, a Disney production where a young woman living outside of the village was branded a witch—but the lovely Lori MacGregor was no witch. She was a bit odd and had a natural healing talent when it came to animals, but still the locals shunned her.
In 1964 ABC television in the USA premiered the series BEWITCHED which was about a good witch named Samantha with her family of witches and warlocks and assorted others. Television viewers were given a balance between MACBETH’s three sisters and other witches who were beautiful and mostly good, except when they played a bit of mischief on a human.
Then in 1966 ABC took a gamble on a daytime serial called DARK SHADOWS. It introduced the teenage viewers to a whole host of characters and plots about the interplay between good and evil. Monday through Friday afternoons were a daily reminder of Halloween.
What would Halloween be without the latest horror movie or a golden oldie from Universal Pictures? I remember watching the original 1931 FRANKENSTEIN from Universal on our old black and white television—which gave us nightmares, especially if we went down to the old fishing hole, where we always watched out for the monster.
As we grew older, those things which went bump in the night just became part of our memories. The things which frightened us as children gave way to the real fears of an adult world where life became a precious commodity.
Halloween has a long history. Like the other holidays, it has been commercialized to where candy, costumes, and all the other items are big business.
However, the world in 2014 is a more dangerous place for children seeking treats for their bags. The trick lies in the dark shadows where innocence is lost and harsh reality is a taste which cannot be easily removed.
Have a safe and joyful Halloween. Watch out for the night bubbles of earth!
G. D. Williams © 2014
Robert Burns’ HALLOWEEN Poem
Edgar Allan Poe’s SPIRITS OF THE DEAD Poem
People have been making jack-o’-lanterns at Halloween for centuries. The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.” According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks…
Halloween Traditions and Celebrations Around the World
BEST HORROR MOVIES –Rotten Tomatoes
Your costume is ready, the pumpkins are carved, and there’s a gallon of apple cider in the fridge. Now all you need to make All Hallows’ Eve complete is a good horror movie. Fear not: Rotten Tomatoes has got you covered. With Halloween just around the corner, we went down into the crypt, opened the coffin, and summoned the best-reviewed horror films of all time. Behold–it’s RT’s Horror Countdown, a compendium of horror shows with enough vampires, zombies, specters, and mad slashers to keep your spine tingling long after your trick-or-treat candy has gone stale.
The Black Cat Image
The Three Lives of Thomasina Poster