Flavin's Corner 

The Horror of the Horizon 

well I live with snakes and lizards 
and other things that go bump in the night 
cos to me everyday is halloween 
I have given up hiding and started to fight 
I have started to fight... 
from "(Everyday is) Halloween," Ministry, 12 Inch Singles, 1993. 

     Concerned about 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. 

     Halloween, or 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 beginning... 

     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  full gale 
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. 

     This Halloween, 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. 

expecting rocks, 

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