How the ancient world invoked the dead to help the living..

One is amazed to see how Halloween is celebrated across schools in India. This is not just limited to schools in Metros but even the interior ones. An event marketed as Halloween is seen as this cool and hip and called as we are globalising. But a similar event with a Hindi or other regional languages name will be scoffed at as anti-development and what not.

Prof. Evelien Bracke of Swansea University writes on how all such events are basically to help the living. It is all too ancient as well:

Though it may seem as if Halloween is a modern con trick designed to get us spending our hard-earned cash on an American celebration, this is not the case. In fact, dressing up, knocking on neighbours’ doors and asking for food at this time of year is a very old tradition. Communities on the British Isles were taking part in similar rituals as far back as the 16th century.

For centuries, people have believed this was the time when the boundary between our world and the spirit world became permeable. Terrifying outfits and specific rituals were designed and used to ward off or appease evil spirits roaming the earth around All Hallow’s Eve. But evidence has also been found of ordinary people, as early as the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans, using magical incantations throughout the year to call on those departed to help the living.

The Romans thus had similar concerns regarding angry spirits, but, like the Greeks, they also saw the uses of those vengeful dead in their daily quest for happiness.Though the Romans certainly invoked spirits for aid, they also felt the need to placate the dead. According to the Roman poet Ovid, at the Lemuria festival in May, the pater familias – that is the head of the household – walked around the house at midnight, throwing black beans on the floor to pacify any ancestral spirits who might be vengeful because they had not been buried.


The modern notion that those who have died before their time are eager to wreak havoc is thus not universally applicable. By means of the correct rituals, however, any spirit might be pacified or compelled to assist.

The modern Western world likes to think it is far removed from these Greek and Roman rituals – impervious to magical superstitions – and the restless dead confined to the cinema screen and Halloween costumes. But studying these past rituals can help us understand that these magic spells had a powerful function for the ancients, intended to last for many centuries.

More than anything, it demonstrates that it is not the dead that need to be feared, but the living who conjure them for their own nefarious gains.

This is so true.

One sees it in India all the time as well. Success of such serials which keep reappearing every once a while shows the same..


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