Welcome to the spookiest Prefect Blog around! This month, we are honoring the scary season by taking a look at the way some parts of the world celebrate in October. We also have prepared some rather frightening legends from multiple cultures, and left you all with a list of recommended stories on our very own archives to set the horror mood! We hope you're all having a fabulous October! As a special note, the Prefect's Fall Quarter Writing Challenge, the "[Insert Challenge Name Here] Challenge", has been posted. You can find it +here for more spook-tastic details!
Throughout the world, everyone is bringing in the new season in their own spectacular way! In order to celebrate along with them, we would like to present a few fun October Festivities from around the globe!
This is Not Art (Newcastle, Australia)
In Australia, October hosts an event dubbed "This is Not Art," which has been an annual gathering of artists (both emerging and experienced) that has been happening since circa 1998! It is a gathering for sharing ideas, experimenting, and meeting like-minded individuals (who might even become a future partner for collaborating on their artistic endeavours). Thousands of people attend this festival each year, which is made up of approximately 150 smaller events. It welcomes all artists, performers, writers, thinkers, theatre-makers, dancers, and tech-heads to come together for a fun-tastic and creative weekend!
Lake of Stars (Mangochi, Malawi)
Over in East Africa, you will find the country of Malawi and, with it, the Lake of Stars Music Festival! This music festival goes a lot deeper than merely gathering people together for some good times (though it does that, too). In its very core, it also serves to and focuses on influencing the growth of the local economy. Due to the tourist attraction to the small country for the festival, and through ticket sales and volunteer activity to things like flood relief programs, the Lake of Stars Festival helps improve life for the locals and they put on a fantastic show while they're at it!
Concurs de Castells (Tarragona, Spain)
This Spanish event is all about one thing: human towers. Concurs de Castells is an annual competition in which over 40 teams compete to create the most complex and tallest human towers. This event dates all the way back to the 18th century and is still enjoyed by over 6,000 average spectators each year. In a display of Catalan culture, complete with parades, music, and street performances, the event mainly focuses on this competition that creates towers on an average of nine stories high! The teams have five rounds to build their best towers, and a points distribution system helps determine the winners!
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
Have you ever been to a Balloon Festival before? If you have, you're familiar with the many crafters gathered to sell balloon-related goods (among other handmade goods), live band performances, and the main event, watching the many colorful and unique hot air balloons take to the sky. In Albuquerque, this festival surpasses any Balloon Festival you've ever seen by leaps and bounds. Crowds gather to watch over 750 beautifully whimsical hot air balloons rise into the blue skies. Besides watching the balloons, the event also offers filmmaking contests, balloon riding services, AfterGlow fireworks, and balloon races.
Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (Montreal Canada)
Filmmakers and film-lovers alike gather to this 44-year-old festival to experience the spirit of good company, revelry, and fun. This 11-day festival brings people together from around to experience over 300 films, conferences, art installations, cocktail parties, performances, and transmedia projects. It has an emphasis on "the new" and acts as a showcase for all cinema types. They try to keep on top of things as the world (and its technology and media) changes from year-to-year, and encourage the latest trends as well as bringing in fresh ideas and features. The Festival du Nouveau Cinéma remains determined to expand the horizons of Montreal audiences by showing them original ways of presenting and experiencing film.
Amsterdam Dance Event (Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
This electronic music platform and club festival is the leading and largest, worldwide! By the light of day, this conference is the ultimate business and inspiration platform for the global electronic music industry. It focuses on providing music professionals, aspiring DJs, and musicians the latest in technological, human, and business resources. By the dark of night, this festival provides access to the entire whole spectrum of electronic subgenres, with over 2,500 artists performing in 140 of Amsterdam's music and nightlife spaces. In 2017, the festival brought 395,000 visitors from over 90 countries, which makes it the world's biggest club festival.
Frankfurt Book Fair (Frankfurt, Germany)
This isn't just your average book fair. Frankfurt's 70-year-old event hosts 7,000 exhibitors from 100 countries and nearly 300,000 annual visitors. For book fans from all over the world and international publishers media, it is all about printed and digital content and the relevant topics for the coming year. The book fair is the most important international marketplace for content, as well as a key trendsetter for society and a major cultural festival. The first three days are for business and industry only, but the public is invited to attend the last two days. These final days are filled with book signings, readings and the perusal thousands of new and exciting titles.
Jewish Festivities in October
This year, only two Jewish holidays falls in October -- Simchat Torah and Shemini Atzeret. However, they're the last of a whole series of interconnected festivals and approximately every second year, the majority of them do fall in October, so we're going to cover all of them. Strap in. They're kicked off by Rosh Hashana, which never falls in October, but it's the Jewish New Year. None of the following holidays are spooky in any way, unless you count the inherent threat of death on Yom Kippur (check out the +extremely metal list of ways you can die that we recite) and the threat of wasps on Sukkot if you decorate your sukkah with fruit. Wasps are terrifying.
Yom Kippur -- lit. "Day of Atonement", this is... well, exactly what it says on the tin. Ten days after Rosh Hashana, you fast (no water or food) for 25 hours, and you're basically asleep or praying, so it's pretty easy to avoid food when you're sitting in a synagogue with hundreds of other people who are also hungry and thirsty. You also wear all white and since you're not meant to wear leather shoes, the shoe choices can be... interesting. You atone communally for all the sins you've committed against God, but the sins you've committed against other people you need to make amends yourself -- God can't do anything about those. There's the idea that God decides whether you're going to die in the coming year on Yom Kippur, but it's just a metaphor, honestly.
Sukkot -- Just five days after you're done praying for an entire day without food or water, you have to start eating your meals in a little tent-type thing you rig up in your backyard called a sukkah (sukkot is the plural). It's got to have three walls and a roof made of palm fronds where the fronds cast more shade than there is sunlight BUT you can also see the stars at night. It's a complicated business. Once you've satisfied all eleventy billion rules however, you get to just enjoy it for a whole week! It symbolises the temporary dwellings that the Jewish people lived in when there were in the desert for forty years after they left Egypt. You also wave a bundle of plants and an etrog, which is like a very large and expensive lemon that doesn't taste very nice. I don't know what it's like in the northern hemisphere, but October is perfect weather down here in Australia for chilling outside, it's delightful.
Shmini Atzeret -- I had to google this one, I'm not going to lie. I knew it existed, but I didn't really know what it was. Shmini means 'eighth' and 'azteret' shares a root with the word for 'halt, stop'. It's the day after Sukkot ends, and it's a day when we just take an extra day to enjoy God's company, really. It's like when you have a friend stay with you for a few days and you really like their company so you're like "aw, why not just stay an extra day". Also, this is the day you start praying for rain.
Simchat Torah -- This one is the most joyful by far. Every year Jews read the whole Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and on Simchat Torah, we get to the end. BUT because we love the Torah so much, we get really excited and then immediately read the beginning again, starting the cycle anew. There is lots of dancing, some drinking, more dancing while holding heavy Torah scrolls, and general merriment.
And then, finally, we get to rest all the way until Chanukah! We have survived another holiday season, Halleluyah.
Día de Los Muertos
Across the world, the end of October brings Halloween. Houses are decorated with lights and spooky creatures and kids run around in costumes in search of sweet treats. It’s a great holiday, but not the main reason that I look forward to the close of the month. Instead, I anxiously await the first of November because that’s when Día de los Muertos begins.
Día de los Muertos translates literally to The Day of the Dead and is a celebration that honors ancestors with food, drink, music, and family celebrations. It is a tradition that originally comes from Mexico, however, it’s growing popularity has led to celebrations in other Latinx countries and in the Southwestern United States.
Like much of Mexican culture, Día de Los Muertos is rooted deeply in Aztec culture. In the 16th century when the Spaniards invaded, they tried to stop the Aztecs from celebrating believing the holiday to be sacrilegious. Their efforts had little effect. Eventually the holiday was shifted from summer when it was originally celebrated to November where it coincided with All Saints Day.
One might think that a holiday celebrating the dead would be somber, but Día de Los Muertos is actually very lively and happy. Each family builds an altar in their home which carries photos of all their loved ones who have passed on. Altars are traditionally decorated with bright orange marigolds. Ofrendas (offerings) of favorite foods and drinks are left out for hungry spirits. Shots of tequila or beers are also not uncommon.
Families also visit the cemeteries and decorate grave sites leaving similar offerings. Trails of marigold petals can often be found leading to the altars as a sort of pathway for the spirits. Massive displays of candles are also often found at the cemetery entry where people can light them in prayer for an ancestor.
In the cities, impromptu parades called calendas spring up. Bands with trumpets, trombones, drums, and tubas lead processions of dancing people through the city, pausing periodically to play a song here or there. These often go on for hours and can get quite rowdy as the crowd size increases.
Face painting is another common tradition. Ladies and men alike paint their faces to look like calaveras (sugar skulls). It’s common for women to braid flowers into their hair and dress in bright dresses.
Finally, Pan De Muerto (Bread of the dead) is baked and eaten. The exact origins of the bread are unknown, but it is said to be a symbolic stand in for a idol’s sacrifice. The round shape of the bread represents the body, the cross and round decorations on the top represent the skull and bones, and the red sugar is said to represent the blood. The bread itself has a light cinnamon flavor and is usually enjoyed at breakfast with coffee.
All in all, Día de Los Muertos is easily my favorite fall holiday. It has the fun elements of Halloween with a deep significance and rich cultural roots. Between the altars, breads, foods, and parties, it’s easy to see why it’s growing so quickly in popularity.
Commercialization of Halloween in the US
In the United States, the epitome of what "melting pot" culture refers to is the holiday of Halloween. It's a blending of pagan and religious beliefs, rituals, and traditions from all people living in America. Halloween is recognized nationally on October 31st, also known as All Hallow's Eve to precede All Hallows Day or All Saints Day on November 1st. Jack-O-Lanterns derive from the carved vegetable lanterns that Celts would make during Samhain to light the way for good spirits while a bonfire was meant to keep away evil ones. For many children in the US, carving their own Jack-O-Lantern is a rite of childhood and there are national pumpkin carving contests where artists create beautiful works of art in pumpkins ranging from the size of your hand to one thousand (1,000) pound behemoth pumpkins.
In the 1800's is when the large influx of immigrants from Europe changed the way Halloween was celebrated into the more modern version that happens today. They brought over many games synonymous with this time of the year such as bobbing for apples, telling ghost stories, and general mischief and pranks that sometimes turned into vandalism and crime. Something else that began to become a widespread activity around Halloween was children dressing up in costumes and going door-to-door for more lighthearted fun. This was the early version of "Trick-or-Treat" that kids still do today. It has been called both "Beggar's Night" and "Trick-or-Treat Night," and it often does not fall on the actual day of Halloween, as cities and towns typically schedule it sometime during the week of Halloween instead. Children dress up in costumes (and sometimes so do the parents!) and go door-to-door telling jokes and getting candy and snacks in return for a few hours the night of the event.
This commercialization and handing of candy out to kids means that US candy companies jumped on the potential profits to be made during this holiday. Many companies release specially shaped or designed packaging such as adding pumpkins, bats, and skeletons and the colors to purples, blacks, and oranges. Decorating companies also leapt at the chance for profit as well, creating all sorts of Halloween-themed decorations from glittery foam pumpkins to giant inflatable ghosts to put in the front yard. There are often contests in neighborhoods for best decorated home and (unofficial) best house to give out candy -- this often is the house that handed out king-size candy bars every year.
With this decorating intensity, another thing that happens during Halloween-time in the US is the idea of Haunted Houses. These are often run by local municipalities, companies, or even on the grounds of theme parks like Universal Studios and Disneyland. The main objective of these places are to scare the living daylights out of everyone who passes through, including small children and parents. Some places even require waivers due to a possibility of being hurt and to allow the actors inside to be able to touch you as part of their act to scare you more. Often times there is a small charge to get in, as it helps pay for the decorating of the place and cost to run electricity and other things while the Haunted House is in operation. Sometimes though, places will simply ask for a donation of any amount to get in, or if the Haunted House is being put on to support a local food bank or similar community center, they will ask for canned food or other types of donations. No matter the cost of entry though, the main object of Haunted Houses is simply to scare those who pass through and to give them a good show while they are there.
While the holiday of Halloween stems from a wonderful mixing of religious and cultural traditions that used to center around the end of harvest season and a way to celebrate before the start of November, today it has become a much more gaudy, silly, and also scary holiday for those who live in the US. Trick-or-Treating is still fun as adults for many people, and Haunted Houses may be an annual family and friends event for others. No matter how we celebrate Halloween in the US, it's a fun holiday filled with delicious candy and fun decorations for all to enjoy.
The Best Month of the Year
For me, October brings with it a number of wonderful things.
First, it's the cooler weather -- a nice relief from the hot summer. With the cooler weather, of course, comes the annual changing of the leaves! The trees trade their once lush green to a vibrant display of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns. Even after they shed their colorful cloaks, it only means more fun (by way of raking them up into a pile and jumping into them, of course).
It feels almost as if those fast and carefree days of summer slow into a tranquil and more reliable tempo. Plus, pumpkin and apple-flavored everything hits the shelves in mass quantities, which are always exceptionally fun to explore.
And the decorations go up! Much like with the winter holidays, colorful lights line the streets. Except these lights are brightly golden, green, red, and cheerful. These lights come in ghoulish arrangements, and where a snowman might be in a few months, a life-sized mechanical werewolf can be seen. People string cobwebs, hang skeletons, place pumpkins, and create replicas of cemeteries, where you might find a hand of a zombie plunging through the earth to snatch an unexpecting passerby.
It's the time of year where people actively seek to frighten themselves (and others). Scary movies are featured (like the new Halloween movie releasing this month). The lines for Haunted Houses are incredibly long but so worth the wait, as you enter your own personal horror flick, waiting to be chased by a masked man in a chainsaw or jump-scared by a witch hiding behind a door. Some people even create miniature Haunted Hallways for the kiddos to traverse while out trick-or-treating -- for only the bravest will be able to pass through and earn themselves a full-sized candy bar!
But it's not only the frights that can attract people to this month. Around here, it's also Harvest Season. Fruits and vegetables are reaching full size and ample ripeness. The reddest of apples, the most golden gourds, and the juiciest tomatoes are all ready to be picked. This is truly when the Farmer's Markets thrive, offering a vast rainbow of colors and shapes to the population.
Hayrides and corn mazes are in season, too. If you've never been to a corn maze, it's a fun little adventure that I highly recommend. It's even more fun when you go at dusk, knowing that you'll be stuck in there well after-dark and things feel slightly more spooky than they do during the daytime.
People throw parties and dress in costumes! You haven't lived until you've eaten meatloaf and sausage links meant to replicate human organs . So go ahead and embrace your weirdo, spooky self this month (I know I will be), as it's the only month that it's really publicly acceptable to do so .
Most of all, this month brings will it all kinds of nostalgic activities with my family. From trick-or-treating (which I now get to do with my daughter), to Cupcake Wars (coming soon!), to group-decorating, parties, apple-picking, pumpkin-picking, potato-picking, and canning/jaring/baking all the things I've grown in my garden, October truly is my favorite month.
Spooky Myths and Legends From Around the Globe
Halloween has always been notorious for its myths and legends, but frightening tales are not always season-exclusive! Here are some favorite tales from around the world! As a fair warning, make sure to read these with all the lights on and your favorite plushies to keep you safe -- it's about to get spooky in here!
The Blood Countess [Hungary]
This tale is interwoven with early myths of vampirism, about a Hungarian Noblewoman named Countess Erzsébet Báthory de Ecsed (also known as the Blood Countess). To cut a long and twisted story short, the Countess was known (and convicted) for murdering females to bath in their blood, believing that this was the answer to eternal youth. The Countess was convicted of around 80 murders, but testimonies and eyewitness accounts have boosted numbers into the 600s, and apparently, attendants of her estate estimated that between 100 and 200 bodies were removed from the premises at the time of her conviction.
La Llorona (The Weeping Woman] [Mexico]
Legend has it that La Llorona is the spiritual remains of a mother who was accused of drowning her children in the local river. Her ghost haunts rivers and creeks alike [specifically the Sante Fe and offshoots of the River], searching for children to drag into the watery depths. Recipient of the title, The Weeping Woman, she is always reported to be in a grievous state of crying when spotted. Children are warned not to venture out after dark, in fear that La Lorona will catch them. While some tales say that she will only take children, others claim that she will take pretty much anyone. It's probably best, however, to steer clear of a weeping woman in white if you're ever out near the Santa Fe after dark.
The gjenganger is a particular type of spirit that has an actual physical entity about it -- it is completely corporeal. As is said for most unhappy ghosts, it is said to be the spiritual remains of someone who has some unfinished business in their life and often were met with a violent end. Gjenganger seem to target the family and friends of the deceased person and can inflict actual damage (even kill) as they have a physical 'body' and can interact on the physical plane. However, a gjenganger will not brutally attack anyone. Instead, they spread pestilence and plague by "pinching" their victims, which causes a necrosis that will slowly kill the person infected. This pinch is known as dødningeknip or the dead man's pinch. Like other mythological entities, holy symbols seem to ward them off, and there are also precautions in place that can be done to prevent a loved one from rising as a gjenganger. To mean, they seem to be some cross of spirit, zombie, and vampire, which is pretty cool (and absolutely terrifying).
The Man-Eating Tree [Madagascar]
A German explorer and botanist by the name of Karl Leche wrote a letter in 1874 (which soon went on to be published in journals and newspapers), detailing his discovery of a man-eating tree. Of course, to a botanist, this was an astounding discovery. The tree was described as having a thick, bulging trunk (shaped similarly to a pineapple), and had huge three-foot-wide leaves covered in tiny hooks. With a sweet and tempting nectar in the plant's center and protruding tendrils that stood taller than a full-grown man, the plant was a spectacle of curiosity. Tale has it that Leche bore witness as one of the locals drank from the nectar, who was then captured by the tendrils and the giant leaves closed around them. Leche wrote that after 10 days, the tree unfurled its leaves once more, and where was once a person then lay a skeleton -- just bone. While the tree's existence or the validity of Leche's letter have neither been proven or disproven, if you're ever out wandering the jungles of Madagascar and happen upon a giant, frightening plant, it's probably best not to drink from it. Which would you prefer to tango with -- the Man-Eating Tree or the Whomping Willow?
The Girl in the Bathroom [Japan]
Nope, she's not named Myrtle, though she does like to haunt the girl's bathroom of one particular Japanese school. Legend has it that if you go to the third stall of the third floor's girl's bathroom and knock three times while reciting the girl's name (Hanako) when you open the door, she'll be there. I've found two versions of what happens at this point. The first is that you'll be grabbed by one of her bloodied hands, and the second is that she appears in the form of a giant lizard, which will eat you. Either way, it's probably best not to do it (especially if there's a chance you're going to be devoured by a lizard). And, apparently, she's not the only ghost known to haunt public bathrooms in Japan!
What are some of your favorite myths and urban legends? We'd love to know!
In the spirit of the season, we would like to present some of our favorite Dark/Horror Fic Recs (with some tasty treats for the authors)!
OooooOOOooOOOoooo! That's a wrap, folks! We would like to give a huge shoutout to @TreacleTart for providing us with the Dias de Los Muertos piece as well as those lovely pictures! We hope you have a wonderful and safe month, full of excitement, love, and spooks! >3
Jewish Festivities in October - Emma
Dias de Los Muertos with Photos - Kaitlin
Commercialization of Halloween in the US - Madi
Spooky Myths | Worldwide Festivities | Fic Recs - Rumpels
Header/Divider | Layout
Fic Rec Graphics - Rumpels