Pagan Holidays – Halloween and Berikaoba

A scary Halloween weekend is over. No more magicians, ghosts and witches wander on the earth. The world calmed down, and Halloween hysteria on different blogs is going to the end.

 

Happy Halloween Pumpkin

 

It is known that Halloween comes from the ancient Celtic religious rituals, although now it is much more fun rather than sacred ceremonies.

“The ancient festival of Halloween – Oidhche Shamhna –  is another relic of our Gaelic past. Literally, it is ‘the night before Samhain’ and ‘An t-Samhain’ in modern Gaelic simply means November. It was thought that on the night between the death of summer and onset of winter that the door between our world and the netherworld opened. This allowed spirits to pass between both worlds. In Scotland, young men would impersonate the dead by blackening their faces or by wearing masks, sometimes made of animal hide, and carry a ‘samhnag‘ or neep lantern.”

 

Halloween monster

 

This year I had my first Halloween experience In the United States. 2 days ago I was in a Haunted School House, which was full of ghosts, vampires, witches, dead corpse and graves. There you would hear unexpected scream from any corner, or would be attacked by an ugly monster from the mysterious darkness. The corridors were too narrow and with the least light. Sometimes there was totally gloomy there. The atmosphere was full of beastly roars, screams and strange sounds. Does it seem scare? Maybe for some people it was a test for braveness, but for me that was only a good fun.

Many religions are not keen on Halloween and address it as a satanic ritual. They sometimes aggressively attack to innocent celebrators of Halloween. Especially it deals with the countries of strong religion traditions, like orthodox Christians or Muslims. I think that religious leaders sometimes exaggerate facts or misinterpret some events. For me Halloween appears to be a demonstration of human creativity and interaction, where different people can meet and “exhibit” hidden talents. This night they play roles of their favorite characters. It is something new about their personality. So if you want to learn more about someone, Halloween night is a perfect opportunity for it.

I suppose that United States is not the only country with paganism-originated holidays. Georgia has also many traditions that date back Before Christ. Berikaoba is one of the oldest performance, full of non-Christian elements.

 

Berikaoba

 

It is an animist cult, popular mask theater, which combines components of singings, dancing and music. The actors use masks and improvisation for the performance.

Berikaoba means a cult of fertility; it comes from the word Ber, which means a Child. Originally Berikaoba was a holiday to glorify Godness of Fertility. It reflected renewal of the universe, creation of the world, birth of the cosmos from the Chaos. Plays symbolized death and revival of the deity. The holiday mainly was connected to New Year and Spring. But later on it lost religious meaning and expressed social problems of the people, fighting against enemy in the comic way. Berikaoba was integral part of Georgian life till the end of XIX century. The tradition was almost forgotten during XX century, although it revived in the last decades.

In the traditional theatre there are some main characters: a groom, a bride, a bear, a priest, a doctor, a matchmaker and so on.

 

Preparation for Berikaoba

 

All of the show participants, including a Bride, are men. There are some scenarios for Berikaoba, although Berikas (the actors) use creativity and improvisation in the play. They go door to door, even village to village and people give them sweets, food even some money for their performances.

Berikaoba always was followed with scrummage and wrestling. Finally, all its participants ended with joyful feast.

Some resources on Halloween and Berikaoba:

Return to Halloweentown – a film about an attractive witch, her first days and challenges in the Witch University. It’s full of magic, fantasy and good fun.

Video of Berikaoba, scene from old Georgian movie – Maia Tskneteli

Kevin Tuite about Berikaoba – Department of Anthropology, University of Montreal. The post reflects his experience in Georgia in 2006. It includes narrative and photos about Berikaoba.

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What was your Halloween experience? Does your country have any masked holiday that comes from the ancient time? Do you believe in witches, werewolves, wizards and a magic world?

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