Happy All Hallow’s Eve!

October 31, 2014 / by / 0 Comment

Halloween’s here!

Any thrilling plans this Friday night? Put down that phone before your selfie scares the living daylights out of an innocent procrastinator on Facebook – me.

Originally, we hoped to give you some of the juicy, goosebump-enducing horror stories this century-old institution can tell, and I tried. (Read hKUDOS blogger Chloe Lam’s “Haunted Tales of HKU” here.) I honestly did. But the first two seconds into a Youtube video on the CYM building gave me a premonition that I would not be able to step foot into the CYM canteen until I graduate. So, to avoid narrowing down my already very limited dining choices on campus, I have decided that no, as a proud HKU-er, I would not like to go around campus constantly having to look behind my back, shivering and jumping at every little sound (in case you haven’t figured it out by now, I scare easy). Hence, I have resolved to blogging a little about Halloween’s origin and some fascinating supernatural beings.

Halloween, a.k.a All Hallows’ Eve is held on the 31st of October every year. According to some, this well-known holiday originates from an ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (sah-win) which means “summer’s end” in Gaelic. Back then, it was believed that on this night, the realm of the living and the dead would coincide and the deceased would cross over to cause havoc and distress.

Since then, the festival has evolved into a tradition where many, young and old,

Image from Dixie Delights

dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. There are many versions on how this practice came about. In England, it was said that one of the predecessing tales were that needy people would visit wealthier houses and receive soul cakes in exchange for pledging to pray for the souls of the houseowner’s dead relatives. But in Scotland and Ireland, young folk would dress up in costumes and go around singing, reciting poems, or performing little tricks at different households in exchange for a treat.

Pumpkin carving is also a popular activity during Halloween.

Google Image

It originates from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack who tricked the Devil on several occasions to the point where neither Heaven nor Hell would take him after he died. With only a burning coal to light his way, Stingy Jack put it in a turnip (some say pumpkin) and has roamed the lands ever since, hence creating our favourite Jack O’Lanterns.

There are also many myths on the origins of the supernatural, each juicier than the last. There are even scientific explanations for some folklore. But to live up to the Halloween spirit, I’ve picked the juiciest tales of some of our favourite supernatural stars for your pleasure.

Vampires (originates from Greek mythology)

– a corpse who leaves its grave at night to drink the blood of the living by biting their necks with long pointed canine teeth

Believe it or not, vampires originate from a love story.

A young Italian man, Ambrogio, tried to marry one of Greek god Apollo’s beautiful maidens, Selene. Apollo wasn’t pleased and cursed him so his skin would burn under sunlight. Desperate, Ambrogio made a deal with Hades. For protection in the underworld, Ambrogio would need to steal Artemis’ silver bow. Artemis found out and cursed all silver to burn his skin. When Artemis realized the true story behind Ambrogio’s deceit, she took pity on him and made him immortal, a great hunter, with god-like speed and strength, and fangs to drain creatures’ blood to write poems for Selene. The two lovebirds finally managed to escape but Selene wasn’t immortal and was soon at her deathbed. Artemis took pity on the couple one last time and taught Ambrogio that by drinking Selene’s blood, it would kill her mortal body and her blood mixed with his would grant her eternal life.

Read the romance novel here.

Jiang Shi (originates from Chinese folklore)

– hopping Chinese vampires that suck life force “chi”

Jiang Shi (僵尸) literally translates to “stiff corpse”. The concept of Jiang Shi originates from superstitions and fortune telling of Chinese Taoism which is often accompanied by the phrase “Traveling a Corpse Over a Thousand Li (千里行尸)”. This practice was mainly for people who died whilst working in faraway from home. Some families who couldn’t afford to pay the traveling expenses of the deceased family member would hire a Taoist priest to transport the body back to avoid it being buried in an unfamiliar land. Priests would stick a talisman to the corpse’s forehead which enables the body to find its way home. They move by hopping due to rigor mortis – a stiffness which invades the body and limbs after death. Priests would only transport the bodies at night, and would ring bells to warn others that Jiang Shi would be coming this way. In Xiangxi, their corpses are transported back home with long bamboo rods. When the rods went up and down, the bodies seems to be hopping simultaneously.

 Find out more here.

Pontianak (originates from Malay myth)

– Female vampire/ghost of a woman who died in childbirth

One of the most famous, scariest, and most violent ghosts in Malay culture, Pontianak is believed to be the acronym of “Perempuan Mati Beranak” in Malay which means a woman who died from childbirth. Pontianaks are the ghosts of such unfortunate souls and are known to be vengeful spirits, with a particular hatred for ordinary women. They often appear as beautiful ladies to seduce men and suck their blood and are also believed to target newborn babies.

If you’ve got the guts, find out more here.

Zombie (originates from Haitian folklore)

– animated corpse raised by magical means such as witchcraft (Wikipedia)

The Zombie originates from voodoo and Haitian folklore. Zombie means “spirit of the dead” in Haitian and unlike what most of us think, the original Haitian zombies were not brain-eating monsters but victims. They were corpses under the control of Voodoo to do hard labor. Bokors (witch doctors) are believed to have the power to zombify a person and are greatly feared and respected in this culture.

A more scientific explanation would be that a drug with high dosage of neurotoxin was used to poison victims into a zombie-like state and have them do someone’s bidding – mostly inhumanely hard labor.

The Haitians will tell you more here.

Banshee (originates from Irish folklore)

– Bean-sidhe (fairy woman)

Contrary to popular belief, the Banshee does not bring death but warns that death is near, and is present as an escort to ensure the deceased pass safely to the other side. The Banshee is believed to be an ancestral spirit appointed to warn members of ancient Irish families of death of their kin. According to tradition, the banshee will only cry for certain Irish families, most with O’ or Mc to their surname. The banshee can appear in different female forms, sometimes a beautiful young woman, other times an ugly old hag. In some parts of Ireland, the Banshee is also known as the keening woman whose wail can shatter glass.

Hey, it ain’t that easy. Do your salutes here.

Some of my friends insist there are other creatures in the living world which are just as, if not, even more frightening than those listed above. And these are:

Clowns, Texas chainsaw killer, jokers, imps, dolls (Anabelle, in particular), warlocks, orcs, and snakes.

Note: The information in this post is in no way verified. It could be as true as a documentary or as fictitious as Enid Blyton’s flying chair. Also, read hKUDOS blogger Karen Cheung’s mixed feelings towards Halloween here.

Happy Halloween peeps.

Picture credits to Google Images