The Origins and Contemporary Practices of All Souls’ Day All Souls’ Day is one of three holidays (Hallowmas) that serve as a reminder that the souls of deceased Christians are still a part of the Christian community. Celebrated on 2nd November, it is a holiday present in most, if not all Roman Catholic, Anglican Catholic and Orthodox churches, with minor variations considering dates and customs peculiar to different areas where the holiday is celebrated. Pope John Paul II probably best reflected the aim of the holiday in his words: ‘For the souls in purgatory, waiting for eternal happiness and for meeting the Beloved is a source of suffering, because of the punishment due to sin which separates them from God. But there is also the certitude that once the time of purification is over, the soul will go to meet the One it desires.’
Having emerged as a mixture of similar holidays from many different cultures, this complex, customladen holiday is somewhat difficult to trace back to its roots. Some Pagan holidays, such as the Festival of the Dead, undoubtedly served as the basis for this holiday, for these equipped people with the belief that souls of our ancestors come back to the ‘realm of the living’ on a particular day, to feast together with their descendants. The celebration of the holiday was reflected in placing one additional, empty chair at the table on which people dined, in front of which a plate with offerings, that came to be known as ofrendas was placed. Ofrendas consisted of many dishes, wine and soul cakes being the obligatory part of every ofrenda. Prior to the meal, which was usually a dinner (for souls could visit this world only during night hours), a lit candle would be placed in a window of the house, to guide the soul to its former home. The ...
References: 1 The belief in soul as a revengeful entity has been preserved in many mythologies, such as those that can be found in rural regions of the Balkan Peninsula. Namely, the cultures present in these regions perceive soul as an entity that remains on Earth for 40 days after the death of the person to whom it belonged. In the meantime, the family members remain burdened by many customs and rituals that need to be precisely performed in order to please the soul. The myth has it that if any of these are not carried out according to common rules (which differ to a great extent among different areas), the soul could turn into a vampire, a bloodsucking creature capable of doing great evils. Equipped with the faculty of metamorfosis, it usually turns into a moth or a bat in order to cross great distances in short time. This usually happens during night, for it has to remain in its grave during daylight time. The Pagan elements in this myth are undeniable, and can be clearly observed in the usage of animals connected to night to stand for dark, evil creatures. The Sun, in the role of the purifier of these cursed souls, is another Pagan element. Over time, the myth got enriched with Christian elements, which are reflected in cross being an obligatory element in the ritual of killing a vampire, which is usually accompanied by reading prayers from the Bible. This myth is quite accurately portrayed in a 1973 Yugoslav movie ‘Leptirica’ (‘The Moth’), based on the novel ‘After Ninety Years’ written by Serbian writer Milovan Glišić.
1. Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II for the Celebration of the Commemoration of all the Faithfully Departed: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/letters/1998/documents/hf_jpii_let_19980602_cluny_e n.html 2. A BBC article on the holidays of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/holydays/allsaints_1.shtml 3. An article on All Souls’ Day, a part of the project of preserving the forgotten legends from Britain’s folk history: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/holydays/allsaints_1.shtml 4. Origins of All Souls’ Day and its connections to Paganism: http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0199.html 5. A brief overview of the historical and scriptural basis for All Saints’ and All Souls’ days (video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJBtcgFl0EM 6. Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church : a userfriendly reference for episcopalians. New York: Church Publishing Incorporated, 2000. (Also: http://books.google.rs/books?id=y_RpbmWNfHcC )
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