October 31, 2011

All Hallow's Eve

written by Rosa Morgan

For at least one night of the year, I shall lay aside my logic and embrace all the hobgoblin superstition and magic of All Hallow's Eve. Let's start with the tradition of carving jack-o'-lanterns, which originated from the Irish tradition of carving will-of-the-wisps. These tiny turnips with their fearsome faces embodied wandering souls lost in purgatory.

In North America, the native pumpkin replaced the turnips. I love the process of picking out the perfect squash, its bottom flat and its sides unblemished, and whether they wear a spooky snaggle toothed grimace or an impish grin, their glowing embers in the dead of night are sure to imbue a haunting spirit.

Games are an important ingredient for an evening's fun, and nothing brings as much lighthearted laughter, as trying, without aid of hands, to catch an apple on a string, or bob for one in a tub of water. Let us hope this elegantly dressed woman does not spoil her frock, or, if she does, her companion will be at the ready with a nicely starched handkerchief.

Dressing up in a costume to go trick-or-treating, or guising, is a custom evolving from medieval souling, when poor folk went door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), to receive food in return for prayers for the dead on All Soul's Day (November 2). One can choose playful costumes, such as these darling little ones in their pointed hats,

or fearful disguises, like these strange masked people.
Pray, hope the temperatures are cool enough, so they do not overheat, nor hover too close to an open hearth.

I always feel cheated if I'm not a little frightened on this night. Reading a passage from Dracula, making a nighttime trip to a graveyard, or telling a ghost story, always elicits a spine tingling shiver.

So, on this day embrace the kid in you; eat some candy apples and caramel corn, and hide behind the curtain and jump out with a BOO!, for All Hallow's Eve is a tradition we'd be the poorer to lose.

Enjoy: H-A-double L-O-W-double E-N spells Halloween

October 17, 2011


written by Rosa Morgan
Salutations, Gentle Reader,

As we approach the ghoulish celebration of All Hallow's Eve, I thought it timely to consider olden superstitions that our forefathers took to heart.
I myself, do not hold an ounce of stock in them, but they are amusing, and you may find them prudent to follow.

If you are sick in bed, it is a bad omen to hear a dog howling. To counter its ill effect, reach under the bed and turn over a shoe.

Always cover your mouth when yawning, so your spirit doesn't leave your body and the Devil doesn't enter.

Corpses should be removed from the household, feet first, to prevent the spirit from looking back and beckoning another member in the family to follow.

Lest you see a funeral procession approaching, turn around posthaste, and proceed in the opposite direction.

After a loved one has deceased, pray, cover all looking glasses in the house to prevent the spirit of the deceased from hiding there. Also, beware that the next reflection seen in the mirror shall be the next to die.

Stop the clock at the time of a deceased's passing, in order to avoid your own untimely death.

Bodies in graves should be oriented with their heads to the West and feet to the East, so the final summons to Judgment will come from the East.

October 3, 2011

Gall's Phrenology

written by Rosa Morgan

Standing at his lectern, the priest stared steadily upon one man in the congregation: Franz Joseph Gall. With his angry voice echoing off the church's hallowed walls, he pronounced,"There are those amongst us, who have lost their way from our Lord's divine path. With pomposity, they state the mind is situated in an organ as mushy and insubstantial as the brain. What ludicrousness is this, when all intelligent men know that God has imbued our thinking into our very soul, whereupon no one can put his finger precisely on the spot!"

The German doctor had heard similar diatribes from his own peers in scientific circles, so the priest's virulent attack was merely as bothersome as the faint buzz of an offending fly.

The priest bellowed, "This quackery declares human conduct to be innate, and is determined by localized areas of the brain. Do they suggest we disregard our spiritual makeup as well as God and the Devil's influence upon us?"

Shifting uncomfortably in the pew, Gall wanted to swat the boorish priest, saying, "Aristotle, himself, believed mental ability originated in the brain, but I have taken it one step further. I have developed a system called phrenology, which correlates a person's skull formation with his traits and proclivities."

The priest wiped his sweaty brow and continued his rant, "This parlor game of running one's fingers over a person's head in search of bumps and indentations has been taken up with much vigor in England and America. They actually employ it to determine a child's future, or who they shall marry."

Losing his composure, Gall fumed to himself, "What does a man of the cloth know about science? My calculations of the twenty-seven individual organs of the brain are based on precise measurements with calipers. And my methods were enthusiastically received by the prestigious Institute of France, that is until Napoleon Bonaparte reprimanded the professors for being taught anatomy from a German."

By this time the priest was fit to be tied as he railed against Gall's colleague, Johan Spurzheim, who evangelized these preposterous teachings to justify discrimination.

Having had enough abuse, Gall stood up before a shocked congregation, and with head held high, walked out from the church. The popularity of his phrenology would fluctuate throughout the 19th century, and though it eventually was completely disregarded, it went onto influence the development of psychology, criminology, and anthropology.