- First pour a glass of decent vino on Uncle Benny’s headstone and secondly, place a generous amount of trick-or-treat loot on tombs and cemetery plots—whether they’re your relations or not.
- For home and personal protection, I highly recommend the remedy used by ancient Greeks to keep their unruly ghosts at a distance. (Greek ghosts, BTW, were known as daimons, from which comes our word demon.) Outside each Greek house, the inhabitants put a generous amount of pitch above the exterior doors, afterwards leaving a hearty meal of mixed grains on the lawn for the daimons. Their other ghost-busting strategy? Everyone chewed hawthorn leaves on the nights in question.
Writer Vicki Leon penned the book How To Mellify a Corpse, where she explores, among other things, the worlds and practices of the ancient Greeks and Romans, a superstitious lot. Vicki was gracious enough to answer a few questions giving us some advice on Halloween, hysteria, and ends by telling a ghost story! Welcome, Vicki…in your new book, How to Mellify a Corpse,the Romans and the Greeks had a lot to say about ghosts and exorcisms. Can you give us some tips on how to protect ourselves and our homes around Halloween, presumably when there are more spirits hanging around? Ancient folks, especially the hyper-organized Romans, fretted quite a bit over their dearly departeds. Family members, called Di Parentes postmortem, got the royal treatment—unless they were babies, in which case they were buried in the back yard. However, unlucky individuals that were fatally struck by lightning had to be planted right on the strike site. Those who weren’t kin or lightning victims were known as Di Manes, or departed souls. Whichever category you fell into, as a shade or spirit you were looked on as divine and worshipped accordingly. Apparitions of old were a great deal more demanding than modern spirits. Whether buried or cremated, the newly dead required immediate transfusions of food and drink. Thus Romans built graves, sepulchres, columbaria, and mausolea with built-in pipes or slots down which wine, milk, and (at times) edible solids were poured or stuffed. This time of year, you might want to go all-out, since during October and November, the divine ghosts (family or otherwise) require special treats: barbecued animals, garlands of flowers, special graveside lanterns, wine, and other beverages. This Hallowe’en, at a bare minimum I would suggest that before doing any reveling, today’s partygoers should: