The Real Reason Halloween is on October 31

Muslims, of course. And iconoclast emperors.

Okay, let’s recap the status of All Saints’ feasts.

Back in the day, the celebration of all the martyrs not otherwise celebrated, or all the saints not otherwise celebrated, usually took place in the spring. In Edessa, it was on May 13, from AD 320 on. In Lebanon and Syria, you have celebrations in Lent, or on the first Thursday after Easter from 411 on, a celebration of all martyrs. In Antioch (from the days of Ss. Ephrem and John Chrysostom) and in Wurzburg, All Saints (ton Hagion Panton) was the first Sunday after Pentecost. In the West, it was on April 20.

When the Pantheon in Rome was turned into the Church of Sancta Maria ad Martyres in 609, the building was dedicated on May 13, and Rome began celebrating All Saints’ Day on May 13. There was some spread of the new date, but it was all voluntary changes. Rome did not push it on other areas. Ireland, for one, still celebrated on April 20. But it was a big feast, and Pope Sergius I wrote a long litany in Greek for it in AD 690.

And then, in 731 in Rome, the date changed again.

It was a sad time in Church history. Emperor Leo III, Leo the Isaurian, was a skilled general and governor from Syria, who had overthrown Theodosius III with the help of other military officials. His strong governance had brought peace to the Empire and driven back the Bulgars and Muslims. But he had also brought in forcible Baptism of Jews and Montanists, and then decided that he could smoothe things over with the Muslims by scrubbing Christianity of images and saints. He declared icons illegal in a series of laws that came out from 726-729. Much of the aristocracy supported him, but most theologians, monks, and normal laypeople hated it. Over in the West, people just ignored Emperor Leo’s dumb edicts. In the East, people who defied the new laws got punished. Ironically, one of the strongest voices against him was St. John of Damascus — who obviously lived in Damascus, in the Muslim caliphate, and thus could not get silenced by Emperor Leo.

Emperor Leo III also had a feud going with Pope Gregory II. In 722 (the year of the forcible baptisms), the Emperor demanded more tax money and tax food from Rome and the papal estates, because there were war expenses. But Rome was having trouble feeding its own people, and had no surplus money or food to send. The imperial governor got insistent, and the Roman populace threw the rascal out. (And the Pope didn’t object or anything.) Since imperial forces in Ravenna were busy holding off the Lombards/Longobards, and since Emperor Leo was too busy to send troops from elsewhere, the Romans got away with it.

In 725, Emperor Leo sent a new guy, Marinus, to be Dux of his Roman lands. Things might have smoothed over, but Marinus made a serious attempt to put a hit on the Pope. He got recalled, another guy was made Exarch of Ravenna, and the plot continued. It got discovered, the plotters talked, and nobody in Rome loved Constantinople.

Then the iconoclasm laws came along. The East says that Gregory II excommunicated the Emperor. The West says that he sent some strongly worded letters telling the Emperor to butt out of religious matters, and that iconoclasm was evil and stupid. Emperor Leo sent a new Exarch, who started a new plot to kill the Pope and the major notables of Rome. This plot got discovered, too. The Exarch then made a deal with the Lombards to attack Rome as a joint force, but the Pope managed to get the Lombards to change their minds. Gregory stayed openly courteous to Exarch Eutychius, and helped him fight off a non-religious revolt. Eutychius was grateful, and things were looking up. Then Gregory II died on February 11, 731. He was later declared a saint; his feastday is on February 13.

Since he was such a saintly guy and had led the fight against iconoclasm, a lot of people showed up for Gregory II’s funeral. One of them was a Syrian priest, Gregory son of John. He seems to have been something of a scholar and a holy type of guy, but he must have really made an impression.

Because on February 22, 731, this visitor to Rome got elected Pope. By acclamation of the people of Rome.

He was so flabbergasted that he followed an old custom, and asked permission from the Exarch of Ravenna. (Because he was from the East, where bishop was more of a government bureaucratic position.) It was granted, and he was consecrated bishop and Pope on March 18. (No telling what his old bishop thought about it.) He was the last pope until Pope Francis to have origins outside of Europe.

Pope Gregory III started things off with a bang, by sending nice letters to the exiled/deposed Patriarch of Constantinople, and nastygrams about iconoclasm to Emperor Leo III. The emperor put the pope’s messenger in prison.

Pope Gregory III doubled down. He put up a full ikonostasis at the base of the two-story main altar structure of the old St. Peter’s Basilica. He called a synod against iconoclasm and for devotion to Mary and the saints, to be held in November 731. And he also ordered a new oratory to be built in the main nave, all the way down front, and just to the left of the doors going to the main altar. The oratory featured two altars (one honoring Mary, the other St. Gabinius) with a big arch covering them, and a consolidation of saints’ bodies and relics, buried all around the floor and under the altars. And with images and statues, of course!

On November 1, 731, just before the start of the synod against iconoclasm, the new oratory was dedicated. Pope Gregory III announced that from now on, the feast of All Saints in Rome would be celebrated on November 1. (Which of course made the eve of the feast a time for fasting, prayer vigils, and whatever stuff you do to stay awake during fasting and prayer vigils.)

Emperor Leo III sent a fleet to punish Rome, but it was wrecked.

The new date of the feast was still promulgated by free choice; but a lot of kings and missionaries were interested in it because it was a blow against iconoclasm. (And overbearing Byzantine emperors.) Ireland doesn’t seem to have picked up the new date for a long time.

Pope Gregory III reigned until his death on November 28, 741. (He and Emperor Leo III died in the same year.) He was buried in his oratory of Mary and the saints. Unlike Leo, Pope Gregory III was later declared a saint, and his day is December 10.

So there’s no Celtic pagan holiday. The reason we have Halloween is an emperor who was soft on Muslims and hard on icons, and a Pope who fought back.

Everything else is just decorations and candy.

* Other achievements by Pope St. Gregory III — Appointed St. Boniface the archbishop of Germany, and a papal legate, in order to support missionary work among German pagans and lapsed Christians. Founded and perpetually funded a hospital for the poor, dedicated to the Eastern Ss. Sergius and Bacchus. Founded a monastery in Rome named St. Chrysogonus. Restored Rome’s walls. Restored and decorated many churches in Rome. Helped recapture Ravenna from the Lombards.

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I Love Time Team, But Sometimes….

I’m watching an old episode of the UK Time Team. They are excavating a joint convent, with houses of Gilbertine nuns and canons. One of the archeologists is set up to do living history by dressing up in a nun outfit and trying to live nun life.

The “experts” explain that having your hair cut short or shaved, and wearing an outfit that is identical to all the others in your community, is all about stripping away your individuality, sexuality, and humanity. You’re not supposed to be a person anymore, ever.

They say this on a military base.

With men and women enlisted and officers helping at the dig, in uniform.

You also have her eating a fair-sized bowl of barley pottage, a fair amount of small beer, and a piece of hard dark bread for lunch. That’s a very nice, filling lunch that could keep you going for a whole day, but the expert describes it as “holy anorexia.” They don’t mention what the men ate, which would have been the same thing!!

(Also, the archeologist does not do the obvious thing, and soak part of the bread in the soup or the beer, and use the rest to clean the bowl.)

They have her listening to a reading while eating in the refectory, which is compared unfavorably to conversing with your co-workers. Nobody compares it to audiobooks, or BBC audio dramas and book readings — even though many kids traditionally listen to stories over the radio at teatime or lunch.

(You can find the episode online and on Amazon Prime. Chicksands is the place, and “The Naughty Monastery” is the title.)

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“De Corpore Domini” by St. Albert the Great

This is a work covering similar ground to “On the Most Sacrosanct Sacrament of the Eucharist”. But it’s a series of theological treatises, and it comes from the end of the man’s career.  More later.

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We Are Okay

Multiple tornados in the Dayton area tonight. We are okay.

My younger brother had two trees fall in his driveway, but they missed his car and house!

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Nancy Drew Movie?

Yup, apparently there’s a new one. Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (2019).

First off — Nancy steals Trixie Belden’s hairstyle and hair color. Seriously. It’s glaringly obvious. Nancy Drew once had blonde hair, and then later had “Titian hair,” but she was never a straight-up redhead like Trixie. She also never had short hair — that was left to others.

Of course, if that’s the actress’ natural hair, fine. (Apparently she’s actually a very light sandy blonde in her publicity photos, so probably not. Her hair used to be ultra-short, so I guess Trixie Belden was as far as her hair managed to grow.) But the hairstyle is truly an exact copy of Trixie Belden’s, and it looks weird on a Nancy Drew. Makes a good Trixie Belden bookcover, though.

Secondly, it’s co-produced by Ellen DeGeneres. So yeah… there’s that. Nothing obviously weird has been added, though.

Thirdly, I’ve seen reviews claiming that the movie’s pretty harmless-to-good, but it also seems pretty dumb.

I mean, on the one hand, they’ve resurrected Nancy Drew’s older, gossipy party girl friend from the early books, Helen Corning. (And since Helen ends up happily married to a nice worthy hunk, it’s an interesting part for a modern actress to play.) But what is her personality now? No clue from the review. I thought she would turn out to be Nancy’s black friend on the poster, but apparently she’s the blonde chick standing in front, bossing the other two around. Helen is not even Nancy’s friend; she’s a Mean Girl who’s also the steady of the movie’s Mean Boy. And yet, they team up, because somehow this will provide an Important Lesson.

The lesson is that older series heroines didn’t bother trying to make friends with Mean Girls. It was for them to learn Important Lessons, and for the heroine to keep trucking.

Nancy’s closer friends, the cousins Georgina “George” Fayne and Bess Marvin, are also in the flick. Nancy and the other two are pretty much a classic trio, like Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, where each of the secondary characters expresses facets of the primary character in a more pronounced way. Nancy likes clothes and makeup and feminine stuff and boys, but Bess is boy-crazy, ultra-feminine, a little shy with strangers but happy to socialize, pudgy and not very athletic, and very good at housework and gourmet cooking. Nancy is a little bit of a sports and action girl, but George is crazy about sports, skinny and strong, needs a total jock boyfriend to keep up with her, drives like a maniac, and has no patience with most feminine graces. She’s a blonde, and George is a brunette.

So now George is an African-American girl with a big hair hairstyle that definitely would take a lot of time and styling. I’m not saying that she couldn’t be Bess’ cousin, and I’d actually praise the movie if she were. But, yeah, instead she is big into social media, which is somehow easily confused with being “tech savvy.” Apparently she has all of Bess’ personality traits, and yet she is named George; whereas Bess is sort of a non-action girl George.

Except Bess is braided and mousy, even though she also wears athletic clothes all the time. Yeah. Also, Bess has been transformed into a science geek. Okay, a chemistry geek, but come on. And her friends give her a sexy makeover with super-tight clothing. Not Bess making over Nancy or George, mind you. Nooo. And Bess, one of the most popular girls in school, is a social outcast now. Uh huh. But she still worries about loving food too much! Yes, let’s cut every other piece of legit Bess characterization, and leave a skinny actress being worried about turning pudgy or getting acne!

None of the reviewers comment much on these major changes. (The female reviewers mostly don’t seem to be familiar with Nancy Drew at all, although one of them does notice the callback about Bess and food.)

Nancy’s mom just died, which isn’t the worst decision in the world. If you have to have soapy drama, then at least that has something to do with the characters. But really, her mom died when she was either 10 (older books) or 3 (newer books).

Nancy is not from River Heights, which is dumb. She and her dad have just moved there from Chicago, and River Heights (a good-sized city) is all booooring, unlike living in the murder capital of America. (Except she wouldn’t have lived there; she would have lived in a suburb somewhere.) Needless to say, Nancy does not have a recognizable Chicago accent.

Nancy’s dad (who somehow is magically already a district attorney in this new town) is about five years older than the actress playing Nancy. And he’s not a crimefighter. Nooo, he’s got bigger game — there’s an evil train company trying to expand their rails into River Heights! How dare they! Yup, he’s been hired to fight industry on the taxpayer dollar, and he’s going to do it.

But liberals love light rail, right?

And his new boss is Nancy’s godfather, but that’s totally not the same as nepotism. (And they’re not Catholic or anything icky like that.)

The Drew’s motherly, high side of middle age housekeeper, Hannah Gruen, is maybe five years older than Nancy’s dad. And gorgeous. Because that’s who you cast as a motherly housekeeper. Yeah. But don’t worry! She’s no longer a highly paid household professional — she’s a paternal aunt, and she’s doing the housework for free, and then running off to work another job! Because that’s feminist!

Also, one of the main friendly adult characters in this movie is an ex-stripper who claims to have multiple current lovers. Because that’s all feminist and family-friendly and stuff. Yeah. Amusingly, she is the Mean Girl’s great-aunt, so at least there is some tiny little connection going on.

Also, Nancy and her pals’ first caper amounts to stalking. Revenge stalking. Okay, justified revenge stalking of a cyber-bully, culminating in a funny but harmless prank, but seriously? In our time and place? Even if you have the kids reprimanded, how is that right?

And then, they actually go through the juvenile justice system and are sentenced to community service? Seriously? How is that right, either?

Also, Nancy doesn’t just restrict herself to the odd picking of locks with a bobbypin. Nope, she straight-up steals a car. Not a villain car, to escape kidnapping. Nope, she apparently steals a car and goes driving without a license, because that’s what you do if you need to get somewhere. And the movie tells kids all about getting high off nutmeg.

But other than all of that, the movie is reasonably family-friendly and wholesome. Or so the reviews say. I don’t really trust the reviewers at this point.

The good news is that the actress playing Nancy seems to be very winning. So maybe the next movie will be better, although they rarely are.

So yeah… not really feeling the need to connect with my old friend Nancy. Sounds like she’s still hanging out in her books. The movie’s also only being released in big city markets right now, so there’s no point taking an interest.

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Sorry for the Long Blog Silence….

I could have sworn I was posting regularly, but obviously not!

I have unearthed some old posts, as well as making a new one below.

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St. Pascoe?

Pascoe, Pask, Paskey, Pascha, Pascal, and Pash were once popular English names. They all denoted a child born at Easter, aka the Pasch or Passover.

It was also common to name girls “Easter.”

Of course there was Tiffany (Theophany), Epiphania, and Epiphany, as well as Ephin and Effam.

Pentecost was also a name for both boys and girls, and Noel and Nowell lasted a good long time.

Yes, I am really enjoying Curiosities of Protestant Nomenclature. An excellent namebook that covers late medieval and early modern naming practices of all sorts of groups in England, as well as some notes on American names.

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