1. REVISED article: Ancient Beliefs and Traditions Reflected in Old Halloween Cards.
2. UPDATED article: Wrong Seat; Right Choice, by Charles G. Snead.
3. Native American and British Place Names in Hampton Roads: Part 2.
4. NEW Feedback.
5. NEW cartoons: The Frankenstein Monster's Bizarro Life.
"The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary."
1928 - 2012
Ancient Beliefs and Traditions
Reflected in Old Halloween Cards
by A. Jane Chambers
When the Roman Catholic Church brought Christianity to the British Isles, the church decided that the best way to convert the pagans was not to ban their religious customs, but to accommodate them. It happened that the Christian holiday All Saints’ Day and the Celtic New Year Samhain (so-wen, so-ween, or saw-win) both occurred on November 1st. Celebration of Samhain (“summer’s end” in Gaelic), like that of All Saints’ Day, began on the previous evening: October 31st.
The evening before All Saints’ Day eventually became the Eve of All Saints, or All Hallows’ Eve—then, centuries later, Halloween (or Hallowe’en): a word combining Hallow (meaning “holy,” “sanctified”)and evening ( even, or e’en). It was for Christians a time to gather in churches to pray and fast before the feast on All Saints’ Day. However, since their Samhain traditions never faded, it was also for the Celtic British a time of superstitious beliefs and fears. They believed that during the transition between summer and winter, the veil between this world and the next was particularly thin, allowing the spirits of the dead to reenter this world, as well as devils.
Immigrants from Great Britain brought Halloween to America in the mid-1800s. The holiday became quite popular by the turn of the century. Halloween greeting cards from about 1890 through the 1920s (primarily postcards) reflect some of the beliefs and traditions once strongly embraced but now rapidly receding if not altogether lost.
The greeting card above reflects the centuries old belief that firelight would scare away ghosts, witches, devils--just as light dispels darkness. Thus the carved pumpkins, their faces illuminated from within by candles, were thought to protect people from evil beings once "got out"—put outside entrances to homes on Halloween or carried by people when they went outside. Americans seldom call them "Jack O’Lanterns" now.
JACK O’ LANTERNS
Jack O’Lanterns originated in Great Britain and were carved from large turnips or, sometimes, potatoes, or even beets (Wikipedia photo below). Such lanterns were used to light paths for people traveling at night as well as to protect them from evil spirits. Native to North America, the pumpkin was unknown in the British Isles. Immigrants were quite delighted to find this large fruit here, which quickly replaced the turnip.
The term Jack O’ Lantern (“Jack of the Lantern”) comes from an Irish legend seldom known in the United States. It is a story (with several different versions) about a scoundrel called Drunk Jack or Stingy Jack, who made a deal with the Devil to give the Devil his soul in exchange for some favor. When the Devil came to collect his soul, Jack tricked him into forgiving the debt. When Jack died, neither Heaven nor Hell would let him in, so he was doomed to wander endlessly in the twilight world of lost souls. Oddly enough, the Devil gave him an ember from the fires of Hell to light his way, which Jack put inside a carved turnip. (Wikipedia gives a fuller history).
Severalold beliefs are evident in the Halloween card on the left. The lady is “guising,” disguising herself, by wearing a white burial shroud to protect her from any ghosts of the dead, who will mistake her as one of their own and leave her alone. Devil and witch disguises were similarly used. She carries a Jack O’ Lantern for light and protection. There is a full moon, associated with both evil (werewolves and lunatics) and good (fertility, sweethearts, and visions of one’s future mate). The owls are a reminder that witches might be around and could mean good or bad luck.
The witches below are quite different: one ugly and old, the other beautiful and young--reminding us of the ancient belief in both good and bad witches, as in the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, which also popularized the color green for bad witches and black for their clothing. The evil witch here looks longingly at the children inside. It was believed that wicked witches were cannibals who liked to eat children, like the witch in Hansel and Gretel, because eating the young and healthy renewed them, giving them eternal life. Blood drinking is a version this same belief in vampire lore.
The children bobbing for apples are safe from the evil witch because of the tub of water holding the apples. Remember the Wicked Witch of the West dissolving when Dorothy threw water on her? The ancient belief was that water, used for baptism and spiritual purification, was deadly to evil beings. A common test used for centuries at witch trials was to throw or duck the accused into a body of water. If she floated, she was guilty and would be burned at the stake. If she sank and drowned, she was innocent--yet also dead.
Whereas the bad witch above left is accompanied by dark nocturnal creatures associated with evil, a black cat and hovering bat, the good witch is accompanied by an owl, which can represent, depending on the context, either good or evil. Primarily, however, the owl has for ages symbolized wisdom, especially in western world cultures. It was the favorite bird of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom.
ROMANTIC HALLOWEEN BELIEFS
Bobbing for apples either floating in water or hanging from strings was popular with young adults as a means of discovering their future mates. For example, a young woman who put under her pillow the apple she caught bobbing might dream that night of her future husband. The card left shows another belief--that a complete, unbroken apple peel thrown over a girl's shoulder would fall in the shape of the initial of her intended mate's name. An ancient symbol of love and fertility, as well as hate and discord, the apple is featured in many myths (The Judgment of Paris) and fairy tales (Snow White). Candied apples were once a favorite Halloween treat, but like apple bobbing, seem now disappearing from Halloween traditions.
Beliefs about love potions and signs or visions of one’s future spouse during Halloween used to be popular. The cards below reflect two such beliefs--seeing the future mate at midnight on Halloween in a mirror or in the flames of a fire. Although in Europe and Great Britain most such romantic rituals were performed almost exclusively by young women longing for husbands, in early 1900s America they sometimes were performed by bachelors as well.
TRICK - OR - TREATING
This tradition grew from a Medieval Christian practice called "Souling." On All Souls’ Day (November 2nd, following All Saints’ Eve), Christians gathered in churches to pray for the souls of their deceased loved ones who were believed to be in Purgatory, being cleansed of sins before entering Heaven. Poor people, especially children, would go to the doors of the rich and ask for small “Soul Cakes” or other food in exchange for delivering prayers for the dead in those families. “Souling” evolved over centuries into the practice of children, often dressed in costumes, going to the doors of people and entertaining them by singing, dancing, doing acrobatic tricks, or reciting poems (card right). They would then receive treats such as sweets, fruit, or coins. The words “We make the welkin ring” mean that they make the sky ring with their noisy merrymaking.
The term "Trick-or-Treat" was an American addition to Halloween in the late 1920s-early 1930s. Unfortunately the "Tricks" soon included crimes such as property damage and theft (card left). As a result, a few decades later, to curb such criminal behavior, cities and then states enacted laws restricting Halloween “Trick-or-Treating” to young children accompanied by parents or guardians. This Halloween tradition is now almost entirely commercial, although collecting for charities such as UNICEF retains an element of the original “Souling.”
This last card, beautifully executed, reflects the overall light tone of virtually all of these early Halloween cards or postcards, reminding us that in early 20th century America, All Hallows Eve was not being taken very seriously. It had already evolved into a time of mirth more than a time of dread. The goblins hovering behind the bed of the sleeping girl are more comical than scary. Further, they seem unable to pass through the thin veil (the curtain) between their world and this one. In contrast, the three fairies have passed through that veil and are protectively hovering over the sleeping girl like Guardian Angels, one seemingly touching her with her magic wand. Any “good versus evil” struggle seems already won by these three good fairies, who by their number might recall the Christian belief in the Trinity that defeats the host of demons.
I often gaze upon my life and marvel at how my seemingly trivial choices and actions led to my becoming a happy retiree on Charlie’s Mountain, N.C. One such event happened my first day in second semester World Geography early in January 1961. I was in the ninth grade at Newport News High School. In order to set aside my last class period for athletics, I had to transfer to a different World Geography class for second semester. Knowing no better, I chose to sit at what was someone else’s preferred desk.
Off to my left I watched the approach of a blond-haired, blue-eyed cutie to whom I offered my special “Hello there” smile. Ugh, what a glare she gave me in return! I was stunned. How could someone so attractive make such an ugly face? Why would she? Saying nothing she flopped down behind me where I could almost feel the heat from her breath curling the hair on my duck-tail decorated neck.
Rising to her challenge as well as seeking some cool relief, I turned and offered her my standard greeting for pretty girls, “Hi, I’m Charlie!” That earned me only a terse response which I soon realized meant “You’re in my seat!”
2013 church photo of Thommy and Charlie Snead
That fateful careless seating decision led me to stop talking so much but instead develop my note-writing skills with Thommy, which thankfully Miss Wise ignored for over five months. I earned only a B that semester in World Geography, but I was blessed to meet and fall in love with my sweetheart, wife, and best friend. She became the mother of my two wonderful daughters, “Ja'Ma” to my two adorable grandsons, the anchor for my career, and the breeze beneath my stubby little wings. I am thankful that this and so much more occurred because I sat in the “wrong” seat over 52 years ago.
Charlie as a CNC sophomore. 1966 Trident photo, p.59.
CHARLES GILLETT (Charlie) SNEAD, after earning degrees at CNC (AA, 1966) and William & Mary (BA, Elem. Ed., 1968; MEd, Admin. & Supervision, 1971), took additional courses at ODU, ECU, & UNC-CH, where he completed the Principal’s Executive Program. After teaching elementary school 4 years in Newport News, he served as Principal in two schools on the Chesapeake Bay. Then he had a career of 32 years in school administration and supervision in NC, including 19 years as Principal of Manning Elementary School in Roanoke Rapids and 4 years as Program Administrator for Exceptional Children, Arts, Guidance, & Preschool Education. He then enjoyed 10 years as Principal of Hendersonville Elementary School, a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in Hendersonville, NC. Now “happily retired” in Hendersonville, Charlie is fully enjoying having extra time with his family, serving his community and church, and returning to Newport News several times a year for reunions with classmates and teachers from NNHS and CNC.
Editor's Update:When I saw this little piece 7 years ago, posted by my former student Charlie Snead on his Facebook page, I got his permission to post it on our website. He and Thommy have now celebrated their 52nd Anniversary. Below is a photo of them leaving CNU's David Student Union after enjoying the 2019 Luncheon Reunion of CNC's First Decaders.
We welcome your FEEDBACK. Send to
Published September 6, 2013
Published again October 16, 2020
with Editor's UPDATE & another photo
Native American and British
Place Names in Hampton Roads
by A. Jane Chambers
Watercolor sketches from 1585 of Outer Banks members of the Secoton Tribe, by Roanoke Colony Governor and artist John White.
PART 1 focused on some of the places that the Jamestown colonists first saw, explored, and in some cases named in late April of 1607, when they first sailed intoHAMPTON ROADS--CAPEHENRY,CAPECHARLES,POINT COMFORT and the Native American village KECOUGHTAN, which would later be a part of the City of HAMPTON. PART 2 focuses primarily on Native American names in the waters of Hampton Roads.
The name VIRGINIA was given to this part of the New World in 1584 by Sir Walter Raleigh to honor Queen Elizabeth 1(1558-1603), called "the Virgin Queen" because she never married. The queen gave him permission to sponsor exploration and colonization of this yet unseen territory. He sent two groups to what is now the Outer Banks. The first Roanoke Island colony (1585) failed, with most member returning to England; the second one (1587), governed by John White, became known as the Lost Colony because of the mysterious disappearance of all the people. Since 1937, the historical outdoor drama The Lost Colony , written by Paul Green, has been performed on the Roanoke Island site of the original colony. Actor and Manteo citizen Andy Griffith played various roles in it, including that of Sir Walter Raleigh.
Bust details from full-length portraits of Queen Elizabeth 1 and Sir Walter Raleigh. Internet photos. Artists unknown.
THE CHESAPEAKE BAY
Chesapeake Bay satellite (LANDSAT) picture.
In 1585 or 1586, explorers from the first Roanoke Colony discovered the lower region of the Chesapeake Bay, which the area's natives called Chesepiooc, or Chesepiook (with other variations),an Algonquian word whose meaning is not absolutely certain. It might have referred to a village "at a big river" (located at the Bay's mouth), or referred to the Chesepian tribe who lived in the South Hampton Roads area now occupied by the cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Virginia Beach. It might have meant "great water." For a very long time, it was believed that the word meant "great shellfish bay." However, in 2005, Algonquian linguist Blair Rudes argued that the word does not mean that (Wikipedia).The name Chesepiooc for the Bay appeared on John White's 1590 map, and the name Chesapeack Bay on Captain John Smith's map, published in 1612.
THE JAMES RIVER
On May 13, 1607, the English colonists landed at a place they quickly named JAMESTOWNE to honor their king, James 1 (also James VI of Scotland). They would eventually name the river where they landed the James also. During the years 1607-1609, Captain John Smith, their first leader, with a small crew and 30-foot boat, soon began exploring and mapping the lands and waterways of the Bay. Smith created a very detailed map published in 1612 in England. Above is a detail from that map that includes, circled in red, POWHATAN FLU (Latin for "flow" or river) and above it IAMESTOWNE (letters J and I were interchangeable then). The native Americans, Smith had learned, had named this major river to honor their king, Powhatan , chief of the Powhatan Confederacy, ruler of some 30 tribes in tidal Virginia.
Detail (L) of a portrait of King James, ca. 1605, by John I. de Critz; statue (R) of Captain John Smith located in historic Jamestown.
THE YORK RIVER
Like that of the James, the York River area was first settled by the tribal natives of Virginia many centuries before the arrival of the English colonists and was named by them the PAMUNKEY, after a tribe by that name that lived on its banks. On the detail above from Smith's Map of Virginia, that name is at the mouth of the now York River, but hard to read. The Jamestown settlers of 1607 named this river the Charles River, in honor of the second surviving son of King James (later to be King Charles l). A few decades later, after the English Civil War began (1642), pitting King Charles I against Parliament, the Charles River and Charles Shire (county) were renamed YORK. Wikipedia states that "the river, county, and town ... are believed to have been named for York, a city in Northern England." However, the ERD's 50 State Guide states that "York is named for James II of England, created Duke of York in 1644." James II was the son of Charles I, who would be tried for treason and beheaded in 1649.
Also on that section of Smith's map above, circled in red is the name of the headquarters of Chief Powhatan, the village of WEROWOCOMOCO. It was located on what would later be the Gloucester County side of the York River. The word werowocomoco is an Algonquian name combining the words werowans (weroance), meaning "leader" and komakah (-comoco), meaning "settlement" (Wikipedia)--the settlement of the leader. Notice that Jamestown is to the left, relatively close to Powhatan's village, an historically significant fact.
We welcome your FEEDBACK. Send to
Published October 2, 2020
RE: Native American and British Place Names in Hampton Roads: Part 1--and Sept. 18th issue in general
FROM PATTY LOTTINVILLE KIPPS (AA, '63): I really enjoyed Jane's article on the Native American and British word origins. I have a big interest in this topic also. Looking forward to the second part of this word origins article. I also like the TOP 40 remembrances. Really, I like it all and appreciate all the work going into producing these projects on the website. Thanks.
FROM JANIE WOLF (widow of CNC professor Dr. Bill Wolf): Enjoyed the newsletter--especially all about Hampton Roads. Jane is a great researcher and writer!
RE: Native American and British Place Names in Hampton Roads: Part 2--andOct. 2 issue in general.
FROM BARBARA RHYNE JACOBS (CNC FD friend in TX): I always enjoy and learn so much from the articles that Jane writes. I look forward to receiving the next group of articles from the CNC First Decaders website. Congratulations to the staff for continually producing such interesting information.
FROM DR. BILL WINTER (CNC professor emeritus): Good issue. Very interesting.
FROM JOANN HOLDER PARKER (CNC FD friend in FL): What a wonderful thing to do to honor our veterans.
We welcome your FEEDBACK. Send to
Published October 16, 2020
BLAST FROM THE PAST
The Frankenstein Monster's Bizarro Life
Published October 17, 2020
Dr. Jane Chambers, Editor and Head Writer
Ron Lowder Sr., Webmaster
Donations to our Treasury are gratefully accepted. Make out checks to CNC First Decaders. Mail them to Sonny Short, FD Treasurer, 12738 Daybreak Circle, Newport News, VA 23602.
Your DECADER committee ALWAYS enjoys feedback on items that appear on this website. The feedback can be positive or negative...doesn't matter. It is just super for us to know that you are actually visiting YOUR website and have something to share.
Please don't hesitate to send us an email with a comment...we LOVE to hear from you!