The Horror of the Horizon
well I live with snakes
and other things that
go bump in the night
cos to me everyday is
I have given up hiding
and started to fight
I have started to fight...
from "(Everyday is) Halloween," Ministry,
Inch Singles, 1993.
a general boycott of their Ariana Afghan Airlines, a hold
put on assets in foreign banks, as well
as other threatened sanctions by the
United Nations, the "Bad Boys of Islam,"
the Taliban militia, have begun talks
with the U.S. As Catholics (and
some pagans) prepare to celebrate Halloween
this Sunday, I'm reminded of the day-to-day
evil taking place in Afghanistan.
The Taliban, worried about cash-flow and
hinting they might even bring the
terrorist mastermind, Osama bin Laden,
to the table, seem to be playing "Trick
or Treat" with us. The night is
scary, but more so is the horror of the horizon,
as dawn brings judgment to the wicked
and foolish. I get a bad feeling
whenever the U.S. negotiates with scum...
I shudder when
I think of the butchering being performed by the Taliban. My
column from last year, "The
Taliban Tempest," was written in outrage over the
ongoing murder and mutilation. This
week, with Halloween right around the
corner, ...the "outrage" is more intense
and I'm actually shaking as I write this.
The sad and sickening fact of the matter
is, however, I'm not necessarily upset
over the savagery practiced by the Islamic
fundamentalists in Afghanistan and
elsewhere, but rather I'm reacting to
learning about similar evil practiced by US
not that long ago. And, planning
to overlook that stop-sign up ahead, ...it has to
do with the history of Halloween in America.
All-Hallows' Eve, the evening before the Catholic holiday of
All Saints Day, inherited much from various
European pagan celebrations,
notably from the Celts and the Romans.
Folks were used to a holiday around
October 31st, and in much the same way
as the Catholics installed Christmas and Easter, Halloween was seen as
a nod to the calendar and somewhat reworked to appear Christian.
In the spirit of charity, the poor and hungry were encouraged to go door-to-door
and request "soul cakes" from those who were fortunate and well off.
An old English folk-rhyme contains the line: "One for Peter, Two for
Paul, Three for the One who created us all..." It was a form
of begging and a biscuit was the customary offering. Later, decadence
set in, the poor were no longer satisfied with a "soul cake," and began
to demand a mug of beer, a slice of meat, or whatever they felt they could
get. Halloween was starting to turn into somewhat of a rowdy night
(gee, kind of like the modern holiday), when the Reformation slammed into
Catholicism and the Western World changed almost overnight.
Most are familiar
with Henry VIII and his break with Catholicism because of
the Pope's refusal to grant an annulment
regarding his marriage to Catherine of
Aragon. The entire 16th century
in England was a continuing battle between
Catholics and Protestants (some maintain
the "battle" continues 'til this day),
which culminated, after a fashion, in
the notorious "Gunpowder Plot" of 1605.
A group of radicals attempted to blow
up the Parliament, kill James I and all of
the Lords, with the hope of restoring
Catholicism to England. One of the group,
Guy Fawkes, was caught in the act on Nov.5th,
named his accomplices under
torture, and he and the other radicals
were, the following year after a farce of a
trial, hung, drawn and quartered.
Reading the account of the hangings, the
slicing off of genitals, setting fire
to them in front of the victims' eyes, then
disemboweling, followed by hacking the
torsos into quarters, applying tar so as
to keep the body-parts in good shape so
the crowds could view them for weeks,
...well, it kind of grossed me out.
But the real horror occurred later, when the
execution day of Guy Fawkes was turned
into a holiday to supplant Halloween.
When the new holiday began to incorporate
the burning of effigies of the Pope,
it became known as "Pope's Day."
Anti-Catholicism had its own holiday of hate
and America celebrated it from its very
In 1607, just
two years after the "Gunpowder Plot," all of the settlers in
Jamestown, Virginia were required to take
an oath to James I, which included
several openly anti-Catholic proclamations
such as: "ye pope or his successors, or by any authoritie derived, or
pretended to bee derived from him, or his Sea against the king his heires
or successors, or by any absolution of the said subjects from ther obedience..."
When those puritanical "Pilgrims" invaded Massachusetts, they allowed no
celebration or holiday which would indicate an acknowledgment of Catholicism
(i.e., Christmas and Easter), abandoned Halloween, but did allow
the observance of "Pope's Day." The tragedy of the 1692 "Salem Witch-Trials"
may even have fed off of New England's decidedly anti-Catholic mindset.
During the 18th
century, as the seeds of the American Revolution sprouted
and grew, and even afterwards during the
first flowering of our Republic,
"Pope's Day" was observed in America.
Boston was so consumed by this
holiday of hate that rival revelers from
the North End to the South End would
annually compete, often violently, against
one another. Burning effigies of the
Pope, Americans went crazy with hate.
"The little Popes they
go out first
With little teney Boys:
In frolics they are
And make a laughing noise."
North End South End Forever,
1768, Boston, p. 25.
The insanity continued well into the 19th
century, but with the arrival of such
Catholic immigrants as the Irish and Italians,
the holiday of hate gradually lost
significance, and Halloween began a slow
comeback. Guy Fawkes' Day is still
celebrated in England (often as "Bonfire
Night"), but America has, at least on
the surface, put its anti-Catholicism
behind it. [Click here
for more on "Pope's
Day" in early American history.]
Yes, I know, Catholicism
is responsible for the deaths of many innocent
people, ones referred to by the Church
as heretics, pagans, and witches, but at
least they never set aside a holiday to
encourage hate. As Americans we must
struggle within to be proud of our Founding
Fathers (though they didn't stay the
course and renounce slavery), respectful
of the pioneers who showed us the
glory of this great land (while committing
the genocide of Native Americans),
and tolerant of our government today (though
our government is not always
tolerant of us). It's difficult,
but then, ...maybe it's supposed to be.
as well as the Nov. 5th observance of "Guy Fawkes' Day,"
will come and go, at least for me, with
all the significance of turning on the
television and discovering a night of
reruns. New episodes are being scripted
elsewhere, in that place some call "the
rest of the planet," and I'm sure we're
going to see some interesting drama from
Afghanistan. I'd prefer some comedy,
of course, but I don't think the Taliban
have much of a sense of humor.
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