Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The Origins of Halloween Costumes
Apotropaic literally means to ward off evil but apotopaic devices are often devices that are so terrifying that they scare away evil. My favorite examples of apotropaic devices are the gargoyles and terrible monsters that line the outside and insides of medieval cathedrals in Europe. The most holy places in the medieval world were lined with horrifying demons and monsters that are often depicted devouring people and animals. These horrors were so terrible that medieval people thought that even evil spirits would be frightened off.
Costumes were used as both apotropaic devices and disguises to confuse the spirits. In Scotland, young men interpreted the dead by blackening their faces. These costumes evolved over the years and were eventually used in the late medieval practice of souling when poor people would go door to door asking for food. This practice eventually evolved into costumed trick or treating. So as you plan your costume this year remember that it should not only be interesting, but it should scare off evil spirits as well!