by Dr Anne Mathers Lawrence
Was Halloween a medieval festival?The origins of Halloween have often been traced back to the middle ages, and the usual ‘early witness’ is Bede. His The Reckoning of Time, an extremely influential book on the calculation of time and the Christian calendar, was written in the eighth century. Bede discussed how the ‘ancients’ and the pagan Anglo-Saxons divided the year into months. For the English, he says, November was ‘Bloodmonth’; and it followed the religious rituals celebrated in ‘Holymonth’ (September) and the onset of winter in ‘Winterfilleth’ (October). The name Bloodmonth he explains as meaning ‘month of immolations’ – November was the month when cattle were consecrated to the pagan gods and slaughtered. There is no mention here of any significant Christian festival held at this time, but the association with death is clearly strong.The feast of All Saints, celebrated on 1st November, appeared…

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