Friday, November 1, 2013
Hello, and jolly All Saints' Day -- originally the old Celtic Pagan holiday of Samhain. The early Christian church commandeered the Pagan holiday by calling it All Saints' Day, a.k.a. All Hallows. This made the night before it All Hallows Eve, which morphed into Halloween. Samhain had been the beginning of the Celtic year, so the night before-- the last of the old year -- was the Feast of the Dead, and that convention hung on long after the church took over. Thus, a lot of the old Pagan traditions -- witches (originally priestesses) gallivanting about telling fortunes, ghosts (or children masquerading as the same) going from house to house collecting food and drink, telling scarey stories about the dead, and so on -- got attached to Halloween.
Being a good Pagan myself, I celebrated Halloween by sitting out on my front porch, flanked by jack-o-lanterns, dressed as a witch, giving out candy to the wee scarey creatures who showed up at my door. To make it more interesting, I stuffed the candy into a jack-o-lantern carved with a big scarey mouth and told the kids that if they wanted the candy they had to take it from the goblin's mouth. They did, which shows how brave a little kid can be in the quest for candy. This being a largely-empty block in a farming town, not many kids came by, so Rasty and I have enough leftover candy to last us to New Year's. Happy Halloween!
Now for the scarey story. Surely you've noticed, in the past few years, that Zombies have become the new popular monsters -- and not your classic Haitian Voodoo zombies (originally victims of puffer-fish poisoning), but modern killer-virus-animated zombies, half-rotted but still ambulatory, lusting for raw meat (or brains), spreading their plague to anyone they bite who gets away. Now why has this breed of zombies become so fashionable? They're not so sexy as vampires or werewolves, not so pitiable as the Frankenstein monster, and not so magical/mystical as the Mummy; they're completely loathsome, and usually threatening to wipe out humanity. So what's the appeal?
Well, it's a way of dealing with a scarey future. We all know that unscrupulous governments have experimented with germ-warfare weapons for decades, and it isn't much of a stretch to imagine such a disease getting loose in the world -- not after seeing how AIDs and other viral plagues have taken off in recent years. Watching how fictional heroes survive against seas of plague-spreading monsters gives us some reassurance that we'd survive if the zombie virus existed.
But here's the really scarey part; the zombie virus already exists -- and has existed for ages. A few thousand years ago, it made its way across the Americas into Asia and then Europe, wiping out most of the giant mammals of the Ice Age. Its effect on wolves, dogs and other canines contributed to the werewolf legend. Its effect on bats made the otherwise-harmless animals into icons of evil. Some anthropologists believe it's what wiped out the Anasazi culture of the southwest. Yes, it attacks the brain first, and turns its victims into howling, ravening lunatics who run around attacking anything that moves -- after first paralyzing them so that, for awhile at least, they appear dead. Yes, it's spread by bite. Yes, it makes the victims numb to any other sensation, so that they can take wounds and not notice them. Yes, there's a vaccine for it, but no, there's no cure. Fortunately, it also makes the victims incapable of drinking water, so that they die in a matter of days. It's called rabies, also hydrophobia.
Of course, if some Dr. Frankenstein should succeed in altering the virus so that it left the victims capable of eating and drinking, its zombie victims could survive a good while longer. In that case, like the Bubbas of the Apocalypse, anyone wanting to survive the attack would do best to pack a 12-gauge shotgun and be willing to shoot first (in the head) and ask questions later.
Happy Samhain -- and get your pets vaccinated.
--Leslie <;)))>< )O(