Samhain/Talk

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also the name of glenn danzig's first band after he left the misfits. i see no particular reason to put pop culture trivia in the wikipedia, so i think it can stay on this page. :-)


Mediterranean peoples had elaborated cults of the dead (remember the Egyptians?), and Christianity had cults of the martyrs and the saints entirely separately from the Celtic parts of the empire. Only the date is implicated in Samhain/All Saints, and I'm not even so sure about that. Almost all Christian liturgical dates go back to the Eastern Mediterranean, an area not involved in much Celtic contact (despite the Galatians). This is, in general, an exaggerated thing; there are, after all, only so many days in the year; cf., Christmas = sun festival; Easter = fertility. Bonfire, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is indeed Bone-fire. Admittedly, the clearest pagan example is meaning 4, but I think that's enough to revise upward in certainty! --MichaelTinkler

Your points about Mediterranean cults of the dead are well made, Michael, and something which made me have a good hard think about it; moreover 31st October is only an approximate date for Samhain eve, and was almost certainly not uniform throughout the disparate Celtic lands. As Christianity consolidated its administrative stranglehold, it is probable that the multiple dates on which Samhain (and possibly other similar festivities) were consolidated centrally in order to give the Christian religion the facade of coherence. Celtic mythic culture was not, as you are probably well aware, limited to the extremities of Europe; it was once widespread throughout France, Italy, Spain, and has many points of commonality, including some dates of festivities, with Norse and Germanic mythologies: it seems likely that all the autumnal pagan festivities were rolled up within the umbrella of what are now Hallowe'en and All Saints Day. sjc

stranglehold? facade of coherence? Well, a tad non-npov there. In fact, the 'facade of coherence' is in large part a facade projected back by 18th and 19th century historians on a Church that was cheerful enough about ambiguity, especially in the calendar. There never was a push for standardization across Christendom of the calendar until after the council of Trent. What standardization existed in western Europe was actually the result of an odd accident - the Franciscans chose the calendar of Rome for their internal usage as a matter of convenience (they took a vote on it). The fact that they were both an international order (unlike the Benedictines, who were federated instead of centralized) and mobile (liable to be stationed anywhere in Europe where they had relevant language skills, or even just expected to learn a few new languages) meant that they spread the pattern of the calendar of saints as observed in the city of Rome. One of the greatest irritants when I teach later medieval art is sorting out the "usages" in all the prayer books - each diocese had its own serious quirks, and only the major feasts (and I mean only the feasts of Christ) were standardized. Even the feasts of the events in the life of the Virgin other than Annunciation (which, after all, is supposed to be nine months before the fixed holiday of Christmas) were mildly irregular. Your last sentence (all the autumnal festivals) is the most likely explanation, all in all. --MichaelTinkler

I am firmly of the opinion that that NPOV can be safely done away with on /Talk pages! I'll try and get the article to reflect the idea of the roll-up, though... (I hadn't realised that the Christians were quite as revisionist as you are suggesting, though, and that has given me a little food for thought...) sjc

we need an entry on something like 'cult of the dead' or 'the dead' or some such, with sections on 'the early christian cult of the saints', 'honoring the dead in Islam', 'the dead in the Celtic world view'. What do you think the title should be? I tend to use 'cult' because I deal with the saints all the time, but it's not the normal english usage. 'The dead' sounds a little barren. And I'm not *really* talking about 'the afterlife', per se. I like this article's phrase 'the world of the dead', but it's a little spooky. Yikes!
And yep, the history of the Catholic Church is an ocean! --MichaelTinkler

How about something terribly dull like 'Cultural beliefs concerning death and the hereafter'? sjc

hmmm. yes, that is dull. I have a yearning for something snappier, but if nothing else springs to mind, I'll use something close to it. --MichaelTinkler

Maybe we need to get a couple of journalists in to write the page titles... sjc

Harvest/Seasonal (of?) death festivals?? JHK
I can see Rupert Murdoch offering you a job, jhk... :-) sjc
Many of these festivals are oriented more towards ancestor worship/veneration, particularly the Asian festivals. Maybe we need a page on that concept? I'll think about it. --Dmerrill
that's what I'm looking for, Dmerrill - a decent title. Veneration of the Dead? Then we can lead off to cross-cultural entries or such. --MichaelTinkler
I like Veneration of the dead...jhk

Could you add pronunciation of 'Samhein' and other Celtic names ? Taw

I'm gradually doing it as I go along. But you should be aware that there is no standard Celtic pronunciation for most of these names and events, (and usually no standard spelling)... A Scot will pronounce a word differently from a Manxman and a Manxman differently from a Breton. We are talking about big geographical and historical and linguistic differences here. sjc