I dwell in a lonely house I know
That vanished many a summer ago,
And left no trace but the cellar walls,
And a cellar in which the daylight falls,
And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow.
O’er ruined fences the grape-vines shield
The woods come back to the mowing field;
The orchard tree has grown one copse
Of new wood and old where the woodpecker chops;
The footpath down to the well is healed.
I dwell with a strangely aching heart
In that vanished abode there far apart
On that disused and forgotten road
That has no dust-bath now for the toad.
Night comes; the black bats tumble and dart;
The whippoorwill is coming to shout
And hush and cluck and flutter about:
I hear him begin far enough away
Full many a time to say his say
Before he arrives to say it out.
It is under the small, dim, summer star.
I know not who these mute folk are
Who share the unlit place with me—
Those stones out under the low-limbed tree
Doubtless bear names that the mosses mar.
They are tireless folk, but slow and sad,
Though two, close-keeping, are lass and lad,—
With none among them that ever sings,
And yet, in view of how many things,
As sweet companions as might be had.
–Ghost House by Robert Frost
I always associate the poetry of Robert Frost with winter but once upon a time many many years ago I stumbled upon his Ghost House poem and found it absolutely perfect for Halloween.
It is All Hallows Eve, and the spirits are are out to haunt and hunt. Wherever you are, remember that it is all about enjoying yourself, not scaring the living daylights out of your soul and that of your neighbour. I recently heard a Berliner say they refused to celebrate all this American nonsense, but truth be told, Halloween isn’t even American to begin with. It is a day that got lost in translation when it crossed the Atlantic Ocean from the UK and Germany. Some immigrant decided to collect elements from several cultural festivities in Europe once they reached The New World and conjured up the commercial Halloween as we know it today.
Originally an ancient Celtic fest called Samhain, this was the festival of the dead and a celebration of the last harvest before winter. Christianity then imposed All Souls day and All Saints Day, relegating Samhain to the eve of All Hallows. According to Celtic tradition, the transition between light (summer) and dark (winter) happens on Samhain, but this is also a critical period for the spirit world, when the boarders between the worlds spread thin, allowing some of them to escape. The idea of dressing up as one of the spirits is rooted in the Celtic belief that this would confuse the spirits and hence prevent them from harming you.
October is the harvest season for pumpkins all over Europe, and the tradition of pumpkin carving has its roots in South Germany, Switzerland and Austria in a festival called the Rübengeist, which literally translated is the Turnip Ghost. According to tradition, the pumpkins and squashes were harvested, carved into lanterns and then carried around during a Erntedankfest (Thanksgiving) procession. Unlike Halloween, costumes are not part of the festival. Some of these pumpkin processions or parades can still be witnessed in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. If you ask the Irish, however, they will tell you a whole different version of the origin of Jack O´Lantern.