Don’t get me wrong, I love Hallowe’en; you can’t own every Voltaire album and hate the only day of the year where it’s socially acceptable to be a man in heavy eye make-up expecting free candy (yes, I trick-or-treat at my age; granted, the fact that I can pass for a high school student probably helps). On the other hand, as a polytheist, who sometimes just tosses up his hands and says “pagan”, (because people are fucking stupid), I gotta admit, I’m somewhat perplexed, and occasionally even annoyed, nearly angered, by the fact that this is the only time of the year that the mainstream media pays attention to the pagan and Polytheist community/ies. So, without further ado, here’s my short list of petty grievances:
- “Wicca” is not a synonym for “pagan” and not all “pagans”, be they self-identified or identified as such by society, practise witchcraft. Yes, I know, this is at the top of many people’s lists, but it’s at the top of mine, too. One might think that, at this point in time, that this would be clear, but apparently, twenty years isn’t enough time to update the media to these facts.
- “Samhain” is of little, or even no importance, to many people who might be called “pagan”. I could also insert a mini-rant about how “Samhain” isn’t even universally Celtic, it’s something that belongs to the Gaelic tribes, only. While the Brythonic tribes have a similar festival, Nos Kalan Gwav in the Cornish dialect, or Allantide in English, it’s not to be considered the same thing. Furthermore, I think the night before Samhain is called Hop-tu-naa on Manx dialect Gaelic. And yes, even a lot of “pagans” get this wrong, because why? “Herr derr derr… ‘Celtic’ means ‘Irish’ and nothing else, right? Derrrrrrrrrrrrr… erp?” No, seriously, unless you know that there are both Gaelic and Brythonic tribeS, yes, plural, and that under each Celtic division, there are plural tribes, you should SHUT THE FUCK UP about anything “Celtic”. You know what? Unless you know that there are three times as many native speakers of Welsh, when compared to all native speakers of all Gaelic languages combined, you should shut the fuck up about anything “Celtic”. So yeah, needless to say, there is little reason for Heathens/Asatruar/etc…, to practise “Samhain” (unless they’re Norse-Manx syncretic —and if you don’t know why that is, omfg, the only reason I know that’s an historically valid thing is cos of a character I’ve written into my stories), Romans will have no real reason to practise “Samhain” (barring historic Roman-Brythonic syncretism), and Hellenes will have no real reason to practise “Samhain” (barring modern syncretism). Practitioners of Romuva have no reason to do “Samhain”. Voudounists will have no reason to do “Samhain”. If one is going to count Asian and Indigenous American, Australian, and Oceanic religions as “pagan”, guess what? None of them practise “Samhain”, either. If nothing else, Samhain is proof positive that the Irish aren’t nearly as persecuted as some of us like to think.
- To my knowledge, at least considering the “pagans” I know who honour the Wheel of the Year, Beltain is a bigger deal than Samhain, which tends to be rather solemn.
- Furthermore, the insistence of a clearly evolved connection between “Hallowe’en” traditions and Oíche Shamhna, Hop-tu-naa, or Kalan Gwav traditions is amateurish, at best. The fact of the matter is, Hallowe’en, as it’s currently known, is an American invention and import, loosely based on the traditions for children associated with the Celtic New Year, and a lot of it has only been “retconned” into “ancient pagan tradition”, like guising / trick-or-treating, which, at best, only dates as far back as the Christianised Mediaeval Britain practise of Souling, when the impoverished would send the children door-to-door, begging for leftovers, while the adults gleaned what little was left; eventually, costuming was added (though probably no earlier than the 19th Century) during a brief Celtic Renaissance that had a lot of bad archaeology. Many Manx will insist there’s no connection between Hallowe’en and Hop-tu-naa, or, at best, there’s only the vaguest connection. So not only is the practise of linking Celtic New Year’s Eve traditions with Hallowe’en an act of stereotyping pagans, it’s an act of poor research. But, I suppose, in this day and age where infotainment and Faux News are passed off as “journalism”, and a major world event is only as good as the soundbites it can produce, I’m not too surprised.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with people taking part in Hallowe’en as Hallowe’en, and technically, I can’t stop one from incorporating “Hallowe’en” into one’s religion, but here’s the rub: It’s not a traditionally religious holiday. “Samhain” is not something essential to all pagans, everywhere, nor is it even a part of the practises of all “Celtic pagans”. If not for the free candy, I probably wouldn’t pay much attention to this time of the year, in an ideal situation. But the situation is not ideal, and so that makes this time of the year the month when I am most reluctant to use the word “pagan”, or even read pagan blogs, cos frankly, it’s almost all the same bullshit this time of the year —only a handful of exceptions.
I’m not even a Celtic polytheist, but if I can have more accuracy in the vague descriptions of a Sauin celebration between a fictional character in a story set in modern Britain (I decided to tweak “real life” history for the story; it somehow made sense that this character and her family would be part of a Manx Polytheist survival in my fictionalised British Isles, which is essentially the same as the real-world British Isles, with a few important differences) than the average “pagan” blog can having in trying to describe a detailed history of Samhain, which they use practically synonymously with Hallowe’en, then there’s something seriously wrong with the pagan community.
It’s clearly not about religion and love of the ancient cultures to most people, it’s about playing around at being just weird enough to pretend they’re interesting while being just normal enough to be “safe” and “just like everybody else”. I wager very few modern pagans are actually religious, and you need look no further than a handful of pagan bloggers selected at random during just about any time in October, but the later in the month,, the better; there is all the evidence one needs to realise that “paganism”, to most people, is about posturing and pretending and caring fuck all for learning –I mean, hey, why actually learn stuff when it’s so much easier to just make shit up as you go along?
Remember, kids: Celtic = Irish, and Irish is somehow identical to Scottish and Manx and Ultach. There’s no such thing as Brythonic Celts, and nobody speaks Welsh — LITERALLY NOBODY; it’s a very rare language, and Irish is immensely popular, some-one on the Internet told me so, so it must be true, and I don’t know a ding-danged thing about the people I came from (Ultach, Cornish, and British).