Sunday, October 31, 2021

Notebook: Home Fires

Sir James George Frazer:
Not only among the Celts but throughout Europe, Hallowe’en, the night which marks the transition from autumn to winter, seems to have been of old the time of year when the souls of the departed were supposed to revisit their old homes in order to warm themselves by the fire and to comfort themselves with the good cheer provided for them in the kitchen or the parlour by their affectionate kinsfolk. It was, perhaps, a natural thought that the approach of winter should drive the poor shivering hungry ghosts from the bare fields and the leafless woodlands to the shelter of the cottage with its familiar fireside. Did not the lowing kine then troop back from the summer pastures in the forests and on the hills to be fed and cared for in the stalls, while the bleak winds whistled among the swaying boughs and the snow-drifts deepened in the hollows? and could the good-man and the good-wife deny to the spirits of their dead the welcome which they gave to the cows?

The Golden Bough


Michael Leddy said...

What an evocative passage.

I like the way it assumes a world of fixed abodes: when ghosts come back, they’ll find the people still there.

Chris said...

Yes, it raises the question of what happens to the ghosts if the living emigrate.