History of Halloween
Calan Gaeaf – The Welsh Halloween
Calan Gaeaf is the first day of winter (1st November). The night before (31st October) is known as Noson Calan Gaeaf or Ysbrydnos – when the spirits come out to visit.
Originally this was a Pagan festival where people celebrated the end of the summer and the end of the old year. People believed that the gap between the living and dead was closer on this night, and spirits could cross into the living side.
There are many Celtic traditions surrounding Noson Calan Gaeaf. Here are some of them:
People wore masks on Noson Calan Gaeaf in order to keep the spirits away. This is why people make nasty faces in pumpkins today and put them in the windows or doors of the house.
People didn’t light a fire in their houses on Noson Calan Gaeaf, just in case the spirits would feel at home and want to stay!
Another tradition was to make a bonfire. Each member of the family would mark a White stone and throw it into the bonfire. If one of the stones was missing the next day, it meant that there would be a death during the year.
‘Twco Fale’ – Apple Bobbing was also popular. Girls would try to pull an apple out of a barrel of water using only their teeth. The first girl to pull an apple out would be the next to get married.
There are also many stories in Wales which include Ladi Wen – a ghost of a girl in White, and the Hwch Ddu Gwta – a black sow without a tail.
Y Ladi Wen, or the White Lady, is a type of “boogeyman” that has it’s origins in Celtic Mythology. While there are many variations to the story about her, she usually appears in a terrifying form and at times will ask for help in an attempt to lure people to their doom. Parents use these stories to serve as a warning to their children about the dangers of immoral behavior. As for Ogmore Castle, it has it’s own unique tale concerning the White Lady.
The story goes that a man was visiting Ogmore Castle in an attempt to find it’s hidden treasure, which was widely believed to be guarded by the White Lady. When he found the spirit, he demanded she give him to the treasure. She agreed and took him to it, and the man smiled at the vast treasure that consisted of a large amount of gold guineas. However, she did have one rule for him: he could only take half of the gold but leave the rest. He agreed, but deceit was within his heart. Later on in the evening, he returned to the castle. Going to the spot where the treasure was, he filled his pockets with as much gold as he could hold. When he began to leave the castle, the White Lady appeared and was filled with anger. She accused him of being a thief, a charge he denied. However, she forced him to remove his jacket, and this is when the gold fell to the ground. She was none too pleased and viciously attacked him with her claws, badly injuring him. Though he escaped alive, he became very ill soon after and wasted away until he died. While doctors believed it was an unknown illness that killed him, the locals knew it was “The White Lady’s Revenge!” What is the moral of the story: don’t be a liar, greedy, or a thief.