Friday, October 30, 2015

HGB Halloween Special II

In this episode, the listeners scare the listeners with their haunting true tales of their real ghost experiences and then we cover some history of three Halloween traditions or symbols!

Black Cats  (Research by Carbon Lilies)

One of the lasting symbols of the Hallowe’en season is that of black cats but why would these seemingly innocent animals be connected to the creepiest time of the year?

The ancient Egyptians believed that all cats were divine creatures with magical powers and as such, worthy of being worshipped. Sacred cats were kept in a special sanctuary and tended to by priests who would watch them day and night looking for omens and prophecies of things to come. Every little twitch or move of a whisker, could be interpreted as a prediction of the future. Cats were also believed to prevent the spread of disease.  This was no doubt due to the fact they hunted the vermin which even in that day were seen as carries of illnesses. So great was their reverence that the peoples of that time told tales of a cat-headed goddess called Bast (or Bastet in some records). She would give great blessings to those in her favour but her wrath was so great that she was one of Ra’s avenging deities who would punish the sinful and any enemies of Egypt. Cats were Bast’s totem animal.

It was the Druids who first began associating cats with dark forces. Often times a cat will exhibit strange actions like seeing something that is unseen or batting at nothing in the air. This coupled with their amazing ability to see well in near darkness has created the myth that cats can see spirits or ghosts. They believed some humans through use of evil powers were able to shape shift into cats. Many cats were burned during Samhain to rid the world of this evil. (During witch trials, cats were often tortured and killed by Christian puritans along with the supposed witches. Some thought that witches had this ability to change shape into a cat). For a long time in Europe pagan religions such as witchcraft were the dominate belief. These religions were tightly associated with the animals of nature, including the cat. During the rise of the Christian religion in Europe, the church decided that witchcraft was evil and since they attributed cats to witches, cats were deemed evil by association. Cats were considered witches’ familiars. A familiar is a low ranking demon assistant to a witch. Although they could be any colour, the connection to these cats being black is thought to stem from witches working their magic at night (on top of the fact that cats are nocturnal hunters). The cats would appear dark no matter which color they actually might be. Since the time of primitive man, black was a color associated with the night...a time of day they truly feared. That association persists to this day with some people.

There are many superstitions surrounding the black cat:
A black cat crossing one's path by moonlight means death in an epidemic. If a black cat crosses your path while you’re driving, turn your hat around backwards and mark an X on your windshield to prevent bad luck. If a black cat walks towards you, it brings good fortune, but if it walks away, it takes the good luck with it. A kitten is born in May will be a witch's cat. A black cat seen from behind foretells a bad omen. If you find a white hair on a black cat, you will have good luck. A strange black cat on your porch brings prosperity. If a black cat crosses your path, you will have bad luck.

If a black cat crosses your path, you will have GOOD luck. (England & Australia) King Charles I of England owned a black cat and the day it died he was arrested. An old sailor’s legend said that meeting cats in the shipyard meant an unpleasant voyage of storms or other bad luck. In Scottish folklore, a fairy known as Cat Sith (a giant black cat) was believed to have the ability to steal a dead person’s soul before the gods could claim it. This led to the creation of a night and day watch (called the Late Wake) where friends and family would guard their deceased loved one’s soul using catnip and “jumping around a lot” to scare of the soul-stealers. In Japan the Maneki Neko (Beckoning Cat) is considered a symbol of good luck. In Russia, their Russian Blue breed of cats are supposed to be good luck as well. In Latvian tradition, black cats embody the spirit of Rungis, a god of harvests, which is good luck for farmers to have around. In Babylonian folklore a curled up cat on the hearth is seen as similar to evil serpent. Thought to have nine lives, so aligned with the symbolism of nine, a lucky number.

17th Century – Witch Burnings
Some believe black cats are witches in disguise. During the witch-burning era of the 17th century, witches’ cats were put into baskets and burned alongside the witches. A cat on a grave meant that the buried person’s soul was in the possession of the Devil, and if two cats were fighting on a grave, this signified the Devil and the defunct person’s Guardian Angel fighting for his/her soul. Fisherman’s wives kept black cats while their husbands went away to sea. They believed that the black cats would prevent danger from occurring to their husbands. To meet a black cat at midnight is to meet Satan.

Celtic Regions
The Celts believed to kill a cat brings complete misfortune, while to tread upon its tail is also considered unfortunate, but in a less degree. If a black cat suddenly abandons the house of its masters, there will be a great disaster in that house soon. Seeing a black cat in your dream could represent bad luck or a warning of something unfavorable that may take place in your life.

Killing a cat in Egypt was a heinous crime, punishable by death. When a household cat died mourning rites were performed for it. Stray cats were treated with honor and fed, and the household cat was allowed to share the family’s food. Cat amulets were produced and elaborate cat-sized sarcophagi crafted for cats who had died, who were often embalmed as humans were.

The History of Bobbing for Apples (Research Assistant Sharon Spungeon)

While it may seem unhygienic given what we now know about communicable diseases, the traditional take on the practice of bobbing for apples seems to have come from Roman roots.
Not surprisingly, there are varying interpretations of both the root of the custom and its meaning, however, a few concepts are consistent:

1) There is no doubt that the apple itself played a significant role in the “harvest festival” that emerged as the Romans adopted Celtic and other rituals.
2) The apple was seen as representing the goddess of fertility, Pomona. When sliced in half, the seeds form a pentagram, the symbol of fertility.
3) The process of “bobbing” for the apples either on a string or in a container of water, was seen as a foretelling of future marriages. The first to bite into an apple was believed the first who would get married.
4) Young adults and families from near and far would come to the fall festival in hopes of securing their family’s survival. Keep in mind that life expectancies and family security were highly dependent on young people marrying early and having many children.

The ability of an apple to predict your future love life seems uncertain at best. The fact is that sticking your face into a vat of cold water seems like perhaps one of the least romantic activities I can come up with, not to mention one of the least sanitary. I especially shudder at the thought of all those runny noses at the end of October getting shoved in as everyone tries to bite into an apple. Seems more like a cesspool to me, but my opinion may be somewhat jaded. I expected to find in my research some correlation between “witch dunking” and bobbing for apples and was happily surprised to find nothing of the sort.

The History Behind Cauldrons (Research Assistant April Rogers-Krick)

 A cauldron is a large potbellied kettle with an arc shaped handle.  They are used for cooking and or boiling over an open fire. Most modern cauldrons are made from cast iron.  However throughout history cauldrons have been made of many different metals.  A cauldron dating back to the first century BCE and made of silver was found in Denmark in 1891. It is believed that it was made by Thracians, but people remain confused on the issue because it does contain Celtic pictures on the plates on the sides of the pot.

You can find many references to cauldrons in mythology. In the Welsh tale of the Cauldron of Dyrnwch the Giant, the cauldron is said to be able to tell the difference between brave men and cowards. The cauldron would not boil the meat of a coward, but would boil quickly if the meat belonged to a brave man. Norse mythology tells of Odin who was said to have received wisdom and intuitiveness from a cauldron.

Celtic legends and mythology give a rather varied history to the cauldron. It has been called the Cup or Cauldron of Cerridwen, and was used in rituals as an emblem of Divine inspiration and abundance. Celts also saw the cauldron as a magickal tool of regeneration for the Gods. Considered to be a sacred door to the Summerland, it was seen as a way of thanking the Gods for the abundant crops in the fields, the abundance of water and numerous flocks in the area, and was a way to ensure honorable passage to reincarnation or Summerland. They saw the cauldron as representing change, renewal, dedication, resurrection, reincarnation, inspiration, transmutation, transformation, and abundance

In Western culture cauldrons have largely fallen out of use as cooking vessels and gained an association with witchcraft —a cliché popularized by various works of fiction, such as Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. In fiction, witches often prepare their potions in a cauldron. Also in Irish Folklore, a cauldron is said to be where leprechauns keep their gold and treasure.

Music in this episode was provided by Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech. Pieces include:

"Welcome to HorrorLand" Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

"Metaphysik" Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

"Day of Chaos" Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

"Evening of Chaos" Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Axe Muder Hollow Story:

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