Showing posts with label Superstitions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Superstitions. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Origins: All Saint's Day, All Hallows, Samhein, Dia de los Muertos

The origins of Halloween, may have begun with Roman festivals of harvest, but is typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-an or sow-in)",which is derived from the Old Irish and means roughly "summer's end."

The festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the "lighter half" of the year, and beginning of the "darker half", and is sometimes regarded as the Celtic New Year.

It is believed that the border between this world and the otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through.

All Saints Day, or All Hallows or Hallowmas, is a Christian feast day celebrated on November 1, or the first Sunday after Pentecost.

It a day meant to honor all of the saints, both known and unknown. Because Halloween preceded this feast day, that day actually took it's name from this feast day and thus became "The Eve of All Hallows', and eventually 'Hallowe'en'.

In the Christian West, All Saints Day honors those who have attained beatific vision in heaven, while November 2, All Soul's Day, commemorates the departed faithful who have not been so purified and entered heaven.

In the tradition of using holy names taken from the Greek, early names such as All Hallowmas referred to hallowed or saintly, and mas, to the early Christian mass.

The Day of the Dead (Día de los Difuntos or Día de los Muertos) is a holiday celebrated mainly in Mexico and the Mexican immigrant community living in the United States.

The holiday is based on the complicated blended cultures of their ancestors, the Aztec and Maya, and the Spanish invaders, layered with Catholicism.

For more than 500 years, the goddess Mictecacihuatl (Lady of the Dead) presided over Aztec harvest rituals using fires and incense, costumes of animal skins, images of their dead and offerings of ceramics, personal goods, flowers and foods, drink and flowers.

The Aztec, Mayan and other indigenous traditions have enriched the Mexican's attitude about death. From these ancestors has come the knowledge that souls continue to exist after death, resting placidly in Mictlan, the land of the dead, not for judgment or resurrection; but for the day each year when they could return home to visit their loved ones.

Los Dias de Los Muertos is a time for remembering friends, family and ancestors. In the Mexican tradition, people die three deaths.

The first death is when our bodies cease to function; when our hearts no longer beat of their own accord, when our gaze no longer has depth or weight, when the space we occupy slowly loses its meaning.

The second death comes when the body is lowered into the ground, returned to mother earth, out of sight.

The third death, the most definitive death, is "when there is no one left alive to remember us."

The act of preparing an altar by placing photographs, flowers, candles, favorite foods and drink of the loved one provides a special time to remember, and to transform grief into acceptance.

The living invite the spirits of the family to return home for a few hours of laughter, tears and memories.

Once the night has passed, and the spirits have returned to their world, the ones remaining know that for another year they have triumphed in the struggle of life and that the only way to celebrate death is to live with courage.

Beware of the following superstitions of olde!

• Many people used to consider that owls would dive down to eat the souls of the dying on Halloween. They believed that if you pulled your own pockets out, and left them hanging, the dying would be safe. (Good to know, especially the next time you get caught with your pockets hanging out from the dryer!)

• To ward off evil spirits on Halloween, bury all the animal bones in your front yard, or even put a picture of an animal very close to your doorway. (I'll assume they mean collected wishbones and leftovers from Thanksgiving for the burials, and not those of anyone else, for the photos.)

• People used to believe you could walk around your house three times backwards before sunset on Halloween, and that would take care of all evil. (Next time you can't find the kids for dinner, remember you're keeping your family safe at the same time.)

• It has been said if a bat flies into your house on Halloween, it is a sign that ghosts or spirits are very nearer, and maybe they are in your home and let the bat in. (Living in the country, I've had bats in my house on several occasions. My friends claim they live in my own 'belfry', as well.)

• People used to believe that if bats are out early on Halloween, and they fly around playfully, then good weather is to come. (The bats in my belfry are beyond playful. I've been known to be borderline manic.)

• If a bat flies around your house three times on Halloween, death is very soon to come. (Doesn't this negate the good luck of the above?)

• It could be the spirit of a dead loved one watching you, if you watch a spider on Halloween. (And if you're watching, do so respectfully, and don't squish them!)

• Going in for what was once called a 'dumb' supper, meaning that nobody will talk while having supper, encourages the spirits to come to the table. (Well, not only is that term antiquated and not p.c., most families today with teenagers suffer from this predicament, so it's no wonder that most teenagers appear possessed.)

• It is believed that if an unmarried girl keeps a rosemary herb and a silver sixpence under her pillow on Halloween night, it is quite likely that on that very night, she would dream of her future husband. (If you have young daughter's, check their pillows tonight and remove those sixpence.)

• It is said that if you hear someone's footsteps behind you on the Halloween night, you should not turn back because it may be a dead following you. And if you commit the mistake of looking back, it is likely that you might join the dead very soon. (You just can't win on this one. I'm staying home and wearing ear plugs.)

• People believe that if on the Halloween night, a girl carrying a lamp in her hand goes to a spring of water, she will see the reflection of her life partner in water. (This sounds dangerous to me, especially if you believe in the superstition just above, and the one following you is already dead. Sure wouldn't want him for my life partner.)

• People have a superstition that if an unmarried girl carries a broken egg in a glass and takes it to a spring of water, she will be able to catch the glimpse of not just her future husband, by mixing some spring water in the glass, but also she can see the reflection of her future kids.

(OK, this is just too much. Now we are being followed by the dead, stuck with them for life and sharing common ghouls.)

• There is the old saying that "black cats are bad luck". It was once believed that black cats were the devil, or consumed by evil spirits. (I 've had several black cats, I loved them dearly, they slept with me every night. Time for an exorcism. Now, do I exorcise all black cats or just me?)

• People used to believe that Satan was a nut-gatherer. Nuts were also used as magic charms on the day of Halloween festival. (At this point, I'm feeling nutty. I think the exorcism has to be on me.)

• If you put your clothes on inside out as well as outside walk backwards on Halloween night. At midnight you will see a witch in the sky. People used to believe witches were the devil, or that they were consumed by evil. (I've been known to do both, on a fairly consistent basis. No wonder I run into so many witchy people and was gifted with a sign that says "If the broom fits, ride it"! It fit and I do.

• There is also an old saying "if the flame on your candle goes out on Halloween celebration; it gives you the meaning that you are with a ghost". (Stocking up on matches, lighters, and battery powered lanterns)

• If you ring a bell on Halloween it will frighten evil spirits away. (Ding!)


My own symbolic representation of this celebration. 

Our dining table set up with some of the traditional crepe paper roses, art cards and figurines as symbolic representations of both life and death, candles to light the way for the dead, goblets of water, candy, and packets of the salt.

By using symbolic items to represent the spirit of the dead, we honor them and their courage and ability to survive the physical world and live a life everlasting. 

We honor these days to symbolically keep the thin wall between us separated during the rest of the year. We remain safe in the present while we remember and honor the past.

Check out my blog post:

My  little trio of holiday flags, given as an October gift.  These simple burlap and felt banners can be seen as prayer flags for those in their colorful costumes and festive spirit and not those darker aspects of this season that so many shy away from. Mine is simply whimsical and fun and so truly easy to create!

Michele Bilyeu
Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon. Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting... from my heart and with my hands. Follow With Heart and Hands Blog on Feedspot

 Currently fluctuating between #32 and #56 . Just scroll their site until you find me (look for my pink and wine art quilt logo) and hit subscribe in their feed. 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Quilts and Quilting: In History, the News, Superstitions and On Our Beds

If you have a cat then you most likely know that cats love quilts! And sure they love fuzzy blankets, boxes, baskets and other surfaces. Science has even shown that if you use tape applied to a floor in a square, cats will still climb inside! Crazy right!?!
But even crazier is the saying "Shake the cat." Shaking is not literal it just means something closer to shake down. Removing something you want out of something else. And if your cat is on your favorite quilt, or one that might be for someone else (someone who might have cat allergies for example) then removing cats from quilts is a whole 'nother thing! And good luck to you!
But there are also traditions and superstitions that the old phrase "shake the cat" came from. And what about other superstitions-especially ones having to do with quilts and quilting?


At long-ago quilting bees, "shaking the cat" meant that a cat was placed on a quilt and usually four girls would grasp the edges and shake the quilt. When the cat jumped off, the girl closest to the cat would marry next!

(Seriously?  They shook a cat?  Oh my! Poor cat!)

2. Some quilters believe that if you sleep under a new quilt, your dreams will come true.

(I certainly hope this doesn't include bad dreams! I sleep under 2 quilts in the summer but five quilts in the winter!)

3. Some quilters believe that if a thread broke while quilting, it would bring bad luck.

(Well now, that explains a lot of things as well as accidental Amish --which traditionally included one imperfect block--quilts!) Stay humble quilters and hide your vanity quilts!

4. Quilt lore suggests that the center squares of log cabin quilts were usually red, to signify the heart and hearth of the home.

(Indeed!  And my heart and a little quilted heart are always part of my quilts signature elements!)

5. Hawaiian quilt lore says that those who make "Ulu" their first quilt will always have abundance.

(The`ulu (breadfruit) quilt was often the first quilt made to insure plentiful food and prosperity to the maker.

 6. The earliest recorded example of quilting can be found on a garment worn by a carved ivory statue from Egypt in 3400 B.C.

Awesome and very interesting! I never knew some statues wear quilts though I've seen a few  wearing face masks in the news lately! And then there's that rapper at the 2021 Met Gala. 

Wrapped in a very puffy quilt that a fashion designer embroidered his first name on claiming design rights. Guess what?  

She had dozens and dozens and dozens of inherited quilts so she donated the this puffy quilt to a thrift shop.  And that designer had purchased it and claimed design rights. Leading us to wonder if he made the quilt and then turned it into a garmet. Answer is neither.

By giving the quilt to someone else turn it into an evening "wrap".  Interesting--what!? 
The oldest actual quilt still in existence is also from Egypt, from 980 B.C.. This quilt, held in a museum in Cairo is made from colored gazelle leather.

(Poor gazelle! And the cats thought they had it bad! No wonder gazelles run so fast!)

7. Piecing together a quilt as a memorial for departed loved ones has a long history.

(Indeed but not as great or long as our own memories of them! Love memory quilts!)

In 1987, a group of activists formed the NAMES Project Foundation, and began gathering quilt panels stitched together by people who had lost loved ones to AIDS.

The Aids Memorial  Quilt continues to grow, and new panels are received every week. The quilt is now way too large to be displayed in its entirety.

In October of 1996, it covered the entire National Mall in Washington, D.C., and weighed approximately 50 tons!

(A major effort and beautiful example of loving and accepting others as we do our own loved ones and honoring all health struggles that lead to loss.)

8. Early schoolteachers used thimbles as  "must-have quilting tools" to enforce strict discipline. The teacher would knock disobedient students on the top of the head with a thimbled finger.  

(Oh dear! Poor thimbles!)

The term “thimble knocking” was used by "ladies of the evening'  around the same time period.  They used a thimble on their finger to knock on the window glass to attract the attention of males walking by.

(Oh my goodness! Who knew?  Ladies! Be careful when wearing your thimbles NOT to knock on the window to get someone's attention. It might not be the kind of attention you meant! )

During the 1800s, a thimble was used as a spirit measure or alcohol shot glass, helping coin the phrase, “Only a thimbleful.”

(Caution! When experiencing a bad quilting day, look out for repeated thimblefuls!)

9. One old quilt superstition says you must never make human figures on a quilt. It is believed that the figures will walk and visit you at night.

(Darn these Sunbonnet Sue's and Sam's, away! away! No wonder I don't sleep well at night!)

10. Another superstition is that if you make a quilt, be sure to finish it or marriage will l never come to you.

(Lucky my marriage came BEFORE my first unfinished quilt! Because they're stacked up ever since and even more in my pile once 3 kids and  4 grandkids came along!)

11. Tulips in quilt patterns signify love, pineapples indicate hospitality.

(So breadfruit, tulips, and pineapples are all good on quilts so far! Glad i made a tulip pillow at least! Sorry breadfruit and pineapples!)

12. Postage Stamp Quilts are made as the name suggests -- each square is the size of a postage stamp and a quilt may contain many thousands of these tiny pieces of cloth.

(My closest quilt to a postage stamp was one honoring free precut 2" aquarist!  Are those considered  "extra large collectors stamps"? 
But the recipients haven't known the difference at least! But it was pretty clear that this quiltmaker must have been given all those tiny little cut squares as I don't have the patience much less the hand agility anymore to scissor cut thousands of squares!)

13. There are many quilts most of us hope hope to make some day, but many quilter's greatest ambition is a Dear Jane Quilt.

The Jane Stickle quilt was made during the American Civil War. She signed her quilt "In War Time 1863."

(Its take me from now until 2063 and then both the quilt and the still-living quilter would BOTH be miracles!)

Jane created a masterpiece consisting of 169 4.5"square blocks surrounded by fifty-two 8"x5" triangles and four corner triangles.

She pieced and appliquéd her blocks and every block is different!

And I love those amazing quilts and their even more amazing quilters!

But right now I'm worn out from creating my clever to me in my own mind comments.

It's almost winter. Going to climb under my 5 quilts for a bit of a rest with a good book now and oh yes my cat! I used to have three cats all piled in a line on me in bed. Does that make me a square tripled? Thank you very much dear cats. If you were dogs it'd be called a "three dog night!"

Happy Quilting to all of you hopefully Happy Quilters! Dont walk under any ladders carrying your unfinished quilts and step on a black cat! Poor thing is always being tossed about as it is!!!

Sleep well all of you cats allowed on quilts. Dogs too!


And Chickens? Yes my newly hatched chicks had their own quilt placed on their screening roof inside my house at night!

  Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon.

 Currently fluctuating between #32 and #56 . Now #48. Just scroll their site until you find me (look for my pink and wine art quilt logo) and hit subscribe in their feed.  

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Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon. Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting... from my heart and with my hands