Things That Go Bump In The Night

” ‘Hainted, it is, with grindings and screeches…’ page 23, THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE.

Ghost. Phantom, apparition, spook. Commonly thought to be the spirit of a dead person appearing in lifelike form.

The Scots, it turns out, are very into ghosts. The word wraith first appears in 18th century Scottish romantic literature; the word bogey first appears in Scottish poet John Mayne’s Hallowe’en (1780). Robert Burns read Mayne’s poem and wrote his own version; according to Burns, Halloween is “thought to be a night when witches, devils, and other mischief-making beings are all abroad on their baneful midnight errands”. Here’s just one stanza from Burns’ (very long) poem:


English churchyard

He wistl’d up Lord Lennox’ March
To keep his courage cherry;
Altho’ his hair began to arch,
He was sae fley’d an’ eerie:
Till presently he hears a squeak,
An’ then a grane an’ gruntle;
He by his shouther gae a keek,
An’ tumbled wi’ a wintle
Out-owre that night.

And the modern English translation:

He whistled up Lord Lennox’ march
To keep his courage cheery;
Although his hair began to stand on end,
He was so scared and eerie:
Till presently he hears a squeak,
And then a grown and grunting;
He over his shoulder gave a peek,
And tumbled with a stagger
Out over that night.


Window in Edinburgh

Halloween – more properly “Hallowe’en” or “All Hallows Eve” – is the night before All Saints’ Day, which was designated by Pope Gregory in the 8th century as the day to revere saints and martyrs. Halloween probably originated from the Celtic festival of Samhain, which was a celebration of the end of summer and the beginning of the long dark days of winter, and associated with death. On Samhain, also celebrated on the first of November, the Celts believed that the line between life and death became blurred, and one could commune with the dead, which included fortune-telling by those spirits. As part of the communion – or perhaps to hide from wandering spirits – Samhain festival-goers would dress in costumes of animal skins and masks.


Edinburgh tombstone

All Saints’ Day could be translated from “All-hallowmas” or the Middle English “Alholowmesse”. The night before, “All-hallows Eve” became “Hallows-even” or “Hallowe’en.” Our practice of trick-or-treating probably comes from the English tradition of giving “soul cakes” to poor beggars who in turn would promise to pray for the souls of the donors. “Going a-souling” was eventually the province of children who would go door-to-door for food and money. The tradition may also have its roots in the practice of leaving food out for spirits, to encourage their benevolence.

Regardless of your feelings about spooks, spirits, or ghosts, you might want to give your modern-day trick-or-treaters a truly soul-feeding gift. In addition to candy, our “Trick-or-Reaters” website offers spooky fun book-related gifts. Just stuff one of these print-outs in their goody bags and trick-or-treaters can visit the website and peruse free offerings from the frightful to delightful.

tor_2flyer_daelynebellHappy Halloween, and remember – we ain’t afraid of no ghosts!

There’s a reference to All Hallow’s Eve in THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE. Can you find it?

And don’t forget – this giveaway ends at midnight on Halloween night! Just in time for ghosts to return to their place of rest.


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