October 31 is a membrane “they” can pass through, get in amongst us.

This one’s David doing his thing, brooding over words. In this case – it’s Halloween after all – the words ‘goodbye’ and ‘Halloween’. With some creepy history and a great moment in Eng Lit thrown in for some seasoning.


London Calling.

David here.

David creaking open some word doors. Getting into their darkest recesses.

On Halloween.

“When we say goodbye on Halloween what we’re really saying is ‘God be

with you’. Tease the word goodbye apart and it comes into view, like a print

coming up in a darkroom: God be [with] ye. The ‘with’ is completely

elided, but for the rest – well, it’s all there.

And as for Halloween – well, again, if you trust your ear you can hear the

trumpets of the past. Hallow is short for Hallowed. And een is an elision of


So it’s the Evening of the Hallowed. The hallowed being the saints, the

saints honoured on All Saints Day – November 1st. And the rest of

the silent majority get in on the act on All Souls Day – November 2nd.

So we’re really talking a Festival of the Dead here. And why at this time of

the year? Well, souls schmouls and saints schmaints – because the cultural

roots of all of these goings-on go down a lot deeper. Down into a distant

Celtic past. That territory is pagan – and that means light, sun-worship. And

this time of the year – well, we’re all very aware of it – the light is high-

tailing it out of these northern climes. And with the onset of some serious

darkness, well, the Celts believed that at this time of the year the bourne

between this world and ‘the beyond’ got real thin. Thin enough for spirits –

for the ‘departed’ – to pass through.

So think of October 31st  as a membrane. A membrane ‘they’ can come

through. Come through and get in amongst us. And they do.

You might well see one or more of them on the Halloween ghost walk. Or

hear them. Or sense them. It has been known to happen. And no, I’m not

making this up. We’ve got the video and the audio to prove it.

And now on another note, a related note…

“For some serious, how about this little set of reflections. It was in

the Middle Ages – in the West – that relations between the living

and the dead underwent a major change. The ancient world didn’t

like its corpses. It feared them, was repelled by them. That’s why

the Romans, for example, buried their dead outside their towns

and cities. Along the roads that led into the countryside.

The Middle Ages dansed to a different macabre: their dead were

integrated into the urban space.

Every town, every village was built around a church and a


And historians think that the cemetery might well have antedated

the church. So when we go into those churchyards on

Halloween night we’re, well, turning our back on the classical

world and ‘going mediaeval’. It’s Hello Wallace but Goodbye


Or if you’re of a literary bent how about goodbye Horace, hello

Horatio. Horace being the roman poet, Horatio being Hamlet’s best

friend. And particularly to the point here – Horatio’s there with the

two soldiers, the two sentries, there on the battlements of

Elsinore at the witching hour – and sure enough, he sees the ghost.

Actually if you’re going to be a purist about it Horace and Horatio

are the same name. Horace is Horatio anglicised.

But for our purposes – and I think we can safely say, for

Shakespeare’s purposes – Horatio couldn’t be better named. His

name means “hour” – man of time, keeper of the hours.

So who better to have on hand when that ghost, that rough beast,

its hour come round at last, slouches toward them on those dark

and wind-buffeted battlements. That hour come round, that thing

coming toward them, its chains clanking like a striking clock,

who better to have on hand, than the keeper of the hours.

God be with you. Goodbye.

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