Next week we have Halloween, an event that now bears little relationship to it’s original purpose. We watch scary films, dress up as vampires and mummies, have parties and suffer ‘Trick or Treating’. Amongst all the commercialisation we forget that for our ancestors many of these rituals had very real meaning.
The end of October signalled the coming of long, dark nights with real hidden dangers as well as imaginary spirits and ghosts concealed by the darkness. Dressing up in disguises was thought to confuse evil spirits that night be searching for you and the lanterns and bonfires kept the darkness at bay. In pagan times it was known as Samhain and marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the winter season as it falls half way between the autumn and winter solstices. The Christian calendar has All Hallows Eve on 31st October and All Saints’ and All Souls Days on 1st and 2nd November, which merged with and adopted many of the traditions of Samhain.
In the modern world most of us see these traditions as mere superstition, but many of us still harbour fears and anxiety about aspects of our modern life. Most women in the West no longer fear childbirth as women in the past have done, but those days are not so long ago and in many parts of the world childbirth is just as dangerous as it ever was in medieval Europe. Did you know that
99% of maternal mortalities happen in the developing world
800 women die unnecessarily every day due to child birth
63% of births in Haiti take place without medical support
More women and babies die in Haiti than anywhere else in the western hemisphere
There is a charity local to me, Haiti Hospital Appeal, that supports hospitals in Haiti and this year’s Christmas appeal is to raise £200,000 to keep a maternity and neonatal hospital open through 2014. You can find out more about their appeal at aroyalbirth.org and donate there if you feel this is something you would like to help with. Actress Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith from Downton Abbey) recently visited Haiti and this is what she had to say about the appeal.
If you live close enough to West Wickham I will be holding a coffee morning on 31st October to raise money for this cause. Just email me for more details.