Halloween costumes in North America traditionally feature death, spirits, witches, bats and the devil, but the constantly changing history of All Hallows Eve offers many more unique ideas for the October 31 parties.
The logical place to start designing a unique costume is with the Druids, who are credited with initiating the Halloween idea when the Celts ruled England and Ireland a couple thousand years ago. Druid costumes are particularly tempting because their history is a mixture of mystery and myth, making it difficult for anyone to challenge the authenticity of the outfit, especially at a party.
The History Channel describes Druids as Celtic priests who preached that the spirits of the dead returned within a year to possess the body of a still-living person. Those spirits or ghosts were supposed to return at the end of summer, October 31. Legend said that to avoid being possessed by the dead, the Celts turned out fires to make their homes dark and cold.
Then, according to Historian Jerry Wilson, they donned ghoulish costumes and “noisily paraded around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.”
There is much more to the Druid legends and myths, but that’s enough to establish a solid connection to Samhain (sow-en), as Halloween was known in Ireland.
Druids carried ax or stick
Some drawings depict the Druid as a backwoodsman with an ax in his belt, others as a monk-like character who carried a 5-foot stick. Either way, the Druids were presumably the wise men of their times who commanded much respect and fear from lesser Celts. That’s an appropriate reputation to carry around at Halloween.
The Druids commanded their Celt followers to sacrifice crops and animals as part of the deal with Celtic gods. That means another historically-correct costume would be one that features a farm animal or vegetable headdress, something similar perhaps to a Green Bay cheesehead. Cows, pigs, sheep, turnips anyone?
Turnips preceded pumpkins.
Turnip heads would be especially appropriate because what we know as jack-o-lanterns today were first made from turnips, not pumpkins.
An Old Man Winter costume would also be historically correct since winter was closely associated with death in those days. But it, too, might need some explaining
Originally an adult observance
Actually, a Halloween party host could open the costume possibilities considerably by providing (and explaining) a Druids and Celts theme for the gathering.
The Druids prepared huge bonfires to sacrifice the animals and crops, but fire departments would frown on reviving that tradition.
These deeper reaches into Halloween history are probably most appropriate for adult costumes, but then North American adults are no longer leaving the celebration to the “trick-or-trick” kids. They can easily defend that trend since the observance was started by Celt adults fighting for their very souls.
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