It’s that time of year again when autumn starts to bleed into winter, when the nights get longer and the damp foggy air smells of apples and burning wood. I’ve always been a Halloween girl, addicted to scary stories and tales about things which go bump in the night so I suppose it comes as no surprise that Hallows End and the Day of the Dead are my favourite WoW festivals of all.
Long before I played WoW, I learned all about the rituals of both albeit from two completely different sources. All Hallows Eve from family, time spent in the garden learning how to twist a handful of plants into a “wickerman” as well as ghost stories around the fire and pumpkin carving, the candles kept burning until morning. My knowledge of the Day of the Dead came from backpacking across Mexico armed with a dog eared Spanish dictionary and bucketfuls of curiosity. We spent the Day of the Dead at Teotihuacan before returning to a Puebla lit by candles and full of marigolds.
The Gilneans and the Forsaken
When Hallows End was revamped, I was glad that Blizzard chose the Gilneans as the perfect counterparts to the Forsaken. As neighbours, it’s entirely possible that they would have had similar beliefs and customs so both burning a Wickerman, albeit for ever so slightly different purposes makes perfect sense.
This time of year celebrates the end of the Harvest, the bringing in the fruits of the summer and the slaughtering of livestock to keep the cold winter days at bay. Even as everything begins to die, it brings with it the promise of rebirth, of a new start and that’s precisely what the Wickerman quest offers.
The idea of a Wickerman has been around for centuries, Julius Caesar wrote about it, claiming that the Druids burnt their enemies inside it (although he did have a reason for wanting to paint them in a savage and dangerous light) and in more modern times it’s featured in books and films.
Dooking for Apples
Apples have long been associated with fertility and certainly when I “dooked” for apples as a child, we would peel them, throw the peel over your shoulder and then frantically try and read the initial of our future husbands from the mess on the floor. Surprisingly though, I didn’t marry anyone called “S”, the shape that apple peel tends to squiggle into when thrown from a great height.
The roots of disguising yourself as something else and going door to door seem to have many possible origins. As far back as Celtic times, people would dress up as those recently deceased in an attempt to confuse evil spirits.
Pumpkins and Jack o’lanterns
The term Jack o’lantern was originally coined to describe a will o’the wisp, those creepy balls of marsh gas blamed for leading many travelers to a sticky end in soggy ground. Family tradition has it that they were carved out of sturdier stuff than pumpkin once upon a time and that modern generations have never had it so good. Placed in windows, their candles should keep evil spirits away until dawn and the safety of All Saints Day.
The Day of the Dead
La Calavera Catrina
Appearing in many guises, like on the decorative plate seen here next to one of Frida Kahlo, La Calavera Catrina is one of the enduring symbols of the Day of the Dead. “Catrina” used to mean a wealthy or well dressed Lady and you don’t need to spend long in Mexico around October/November to discover that “Calavera” means skull. So essentially, at least on paper, she’s a skull in an expensive hat but in reality, she’s so much more.
So next time you dance with Catrina, remember you are staring the “skull beneath the skin” in the face, the reminder that all us, regardless of money, power and gear score, will die.
Bread of the Dead
Otherwise known as Pan de Muerto, folklore has it that the dead ask for bread and sugar to help them on their journey and this sweet bread provides the perfect sustenance for the soul on it’s final trip.
The Aztec flower of the Dead, Cempasúchil plays a massive part in the Day of the Dead celebrations, adorning altars and forming a path of petals to enable the souls of the dead to return to spend precious time with the living. So it seems only fitting then in Azeroth, they aid us to see both the spirits of our ancestors but also hidden secrets like these forgotten ghosts haunting Raven Hill.
Tradition has to be important to all of us, but blindly following without understanding is both pointless and potentially dangerous. Don’t eat your own wedding cake, never leave a cloth on a table over night, no shoes on the table, always smash an egg shell into tiny pieces… rituals that you grow up with, so familiar they’re apart of you, actions your body takes without your brain engaging.
Filed under: Festival Fun and Frolics, Holidays, Random Musing | Tagged: Bread of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Dooking for apples, Forsaken, Gilneas, Guising, Halloween, Hallows End, Jack o'lanterns, La Calavera Catrina, Marigolds, Pumpkins, Wickerman |