Halloween is a big deal in the United States, but we aren’t the first or only country to have a day celebrating all things spooky. Most cultures have an event where they pay tribute to the dead by performing traditional rituals, dressing up in costumes or throwing a huge celebration. Other festivals are more of a cleansing event – ridding their town of anything evil in preparation for a new year. Many countries, such as Ireland or Romania, have a history that provides the basis for what we think of Halloween today. Images of skeletons, ghosts, devils, and even jack-o-lanterns appear worldwide. We’ve listed some prominent Halloween customs from around the world featuring scary stories, unique celebrations and rich traditions.
Name of Event: Carnaval de Oruro
Date: During the 10 days before Lent
History: The Oruro Carnival has been celebrated in South America since pre-Columbian times. This festival is observed by the Uru people in Bolivia; the Uru are a pre-Incan tribe. During the festival, there is a parade that features Tio Supay, the god of the mountains, who is portrayed as the devil, and Pachamama, Mother Earth, who is portrayed as the Virgin Mary. There is a legend that a mural of the Virgin Mary appeared in a mineshaft in the city of Oruro and the festival is in honor of this miracle.
Tricks and Treats: A main part of the Carnaval de Oruro is the dance of the devils, also known as La Diablada. There are more than ten other types of indigenous dances that are performed during the parade, which lasts over 20 hours. The parade travels through the city and features more than 28,000 dancers. At the end of the parade, the Uru people put on two plays – one about the Spanish conquest and the other reenacts the Archangel Michael defeating the devil and destroying the seven deadly sins.
Costumes: People who dress as the devil during this event go all out. The masks that they wear are often incredibly ornate and frightening; they feature horns, wide grins with pointed teeth, and deep, scarlet skin. They also wear red and pink tights to simulate red skin. Many of the costumes worn by dancers have bright colors, feathers and fringe as decoration.
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A dancer dressed as the devil during the Carnaval de Oruro.
(via Sounds and Colours)CHINA
Name of Event: Hungry Ghost Festival
Date: August 14th
History: In Buddhist Chinese belief, the dead are said to return to earth during the 7th month of the lunar calendar. These ghosts, who are believed to have never had a proper funeral tribute, are said to be very hungry from their journey back to earth, so it is a ritual for family members to prepare a giant feast on the night of their return. The table is often set with empty chairs in place for the deceased, as if they were still alive for the night. If the ghosts are happy, good fortune and luck is said to come to the living. This legend is celebrated through most parts of Eastern Asia, such as China, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.
Tricks and Treats: There are many superstitions and rituals related to the Hungry Ghost Festival, many of which are in place to please the spirits. It is common for people who celebrate this festival to give many offerings to the dead. “Hell money,” which is a fake bank note made out of paper, is burned, as well as other papier-mâché creations of modern objects, such as cars, houses, clothes, and TVs, in hopes that the deceased can use them and be comfortable in the afterlife. Two weeks after the night of the festival, lanterns are set up at homes and are floated on rivers to help guide the dead back to their afterlife. When the lanterns blow out, it means the deceased have found their way home. The dead are also said to dwell in water during this time, so many people avoid swimming, so that they won’t be kidnapped and taken to the underworld.
Costumes: Traditional Chinese costumes are worn during parades and opera performances. Ornate headgear and military armor are used to distinguish character’s personality, ranking and status. Detailed and elaborate puppets and masks are also used during different events, depicting demons and hungry ghosts from folklore.
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A Malaysian celebration during a Hungry Ghost Festival.
Name of Event: Walpurgisnacht
Date: April 30th
History: In German folklore, the eve of May Day is said to be when witches meet on the Brocken mountaintop and celebrate the coming of spring. The day is named for Saint Walburga, an English missionary in the 700s, who was canonized on May 1st. Walpurgisnacht is also known as “the witches’ sabbath.” Bonfires are often lit at celebrations, and singing and dancing is a common activity at the events. Today, many people in Germany and other parts of Europe still observe Walpurgisnacht, although in a less serious, religious way. Current celebrations are more like Halloween and children dress up and trick-or-treat in their town.
Tricks and Treats: The Brocken mountain, which is the highest point in its range, is known for the atmospheric phenomenon called the Brocken spectre. The spectre appears when sun shines from behind a person onto fog in front of them. Although it is only an optical illusion, the shadow appears to magnify to enormous sizes. The illusion also creates a halo on the shadow, which is often glowing and filled with colored light. This phenomenon is a reason why it is said that the witches gathered on the mountain. During Walpurgisnacht, children often create mischief, such as hiding other people’s items, spray-painting graffiti and tampering in gardens.
Costumes: Many witches are portrayed in German woodcuttings and paintings. They are shown wearing long skirts and capes, holding broomsticks and wearing pointy hats. Today, children who participate in Walpurgisnacht often wear classic Halloween costumes, like witches, ghosts and ghouls.
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A depiction of witches celebrating during Walpurgisnacht.
Name of Event: La Quema del Diablo
Date: December 7th
History: La Quema del Diablo, also known as The Burning of the Devil, started in Guatemala during colonial times. To prepare for the feast of the Immaculate Conception, residents lit lanterns outside of their house. Those who couldn’t afford to buy lanterns lit piles of garbage that they gathered from a massive house cleaning. This house cleaning and trash burning began to symbolize a fresh start into the new year. Eventually, tradition evolved and soon it became a yearly event to burn an effigy of the devil at 6 p.m. in Antigua and other cities. It is believed that the devil lives in unnecessary possessions and represents misfortune and a presence of evil. After all the bad things are burnt away, the country is ready for the feast for the Virgin Mary, who is the patron saint of Antigua, Guatemala.
Tricks and Treats: During La Quema del Diablo, there are often parades, fireworks, feasts, and bonfires through the country. Traditional celebration food is eaten, such as donuts and cotton candy, and many of the events have the feel of a street fair. Young children light off firecrackers throughout the night and marimba bands play at city parties.
Costumes: The effigy of the devil is usually decorated in the most traditional sense of the demonic image. A red man, with horns, a long and pointy tail, and pitchfork, is portrayed. Often, the devil is stuffed with firecrackers for a more dramatic effect when it’s lit on fire. Other times, the figure of the devil is decorated to look more like a human, sometimes with wings, fangs and even a cigar.
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An effigy of the devil burning during La Quema del Diablo.
(via Festival Pig)HAITI
Name of Event: Jour des Morts
Date: November 2nd
History: Voodoo was first brought to Haiti in the 18th century by African slaves. This culture’s Jour des Morts, or Day of the Dead, is based around the group of Ghede spirits, the rulers of the underworld. Altars are set up with offerings to the Ghedes, such as cigarettes, food, rum and clothing. This festival is a chance for Haitians to communicate with the spirits, but also to celebrate life and humanity.
Tricks and Treats: While many people’s ideas of Voodoo are misconceptions, there are some dark practices that still happen today. During Day of the Dead festivities, people often say that they become possessed by the spirit Ghede Nibo, who is the ruler of death in the Voodoo religion. There are intense gatherings where people dance to frantic drumming, drink rum (Ghede’s favorite beverage), and wait until the spirit enters one of the participators. Once they believe Ghede has appeared, the possessed person is flung around the group. The concept of the living dead, or zombies, is also a staple of Voodoo religion. Some believe that zombies are individuals who became ill from a fish’s toxin, putting them into a trancelike state, but others believe it can’t be explained through logic.
Costumes: Many people dress as Ghede Nibo during Day of the Dead celebrations. Ghede was known for his fancy clothing; a long, black riding coat, a top hat and a cane. He was also known for purple, which is a sacred color. Other Haitians wear simple white dresses and blouses, with bright colored scarves and head-wraps. Makeup is also common, which usually consists of white face paint with darkened eyes and often flour coating the face. People also put cotton up their nostrils to simulate burial rituals.
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A Haitian woman dancing in a Jour des Morts festival.
(via Haitian Beatz)INDO-EUROPEAN COUNTRIES
Name of Event: Velja Noc
Date: December through February
History: Velja Noc, or Great Night, is an ancient pagan festival honoring the Slavic god of earth, water, and the underworld, Veles. Pagans believed that the line between the living world and the underworld was weaker during winter and spirits had an easier time travelling among those still alive. Slavic pagans who celebrated this festival lived in Central and Eastern Europe.
Tricks and Treats: Men known as koledari would dress up and go caroling around their villages during the winter months, particularly on Velja Noc. They would also trick-or-treat; each house they visited would present them with gifts to offer up to Veles, who was also the god of magic and wealth. Giving gifts would bring good luck and wealth to the family for the year, until the next Velja Noc.
Costumes: The koledari would wear long coats made from sheepskin and wool and would also don monstrous masks to represent the spirits of the dead. The masks were made from dried gourds, horsehair, beans, wool and other fibers. Animals like bears, cows, oxen, and wolves were commonly represented in the masks. They would make their costumes wet and muddy to symbolize their journey from the murky underworld.
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A statue of the god Veles in Macedonia.
Name of Event: Samhain
Date: October 31st
History: Samhain is thought to be the earliest manifestation of what we consider Halloween today. The medieval Irish festival, which started in the 10th century, marked the beginning of winter and the start of “the dark half” of the year, with the following day being All Saint’s Day. The fall festival celebrated the final harvest of the year and also paid tribute to the dead. Bonfires were a staple at these events and it was the time when most cattle were slaughtered for food for the winter. Through the Christianization of the people of Ireland, All Saint’s Day became All Hallows’ Day, which in turn transformed Samhain to All Hallows’ Eve and finally, Halloween.
Tricks and Treats: A traditional practice of divination was very common during Samhain. Methods such as reading apple peels, interpreting the movements of roasted nuts and counting crows all were used to find answers to questions about children, fortune and love. Later on, in the 16th century, children also roamed the villages in costumes, while carrying turnip lanterns, performing tricks for treats. Today, many people still celebrate Samhain in all parts of the world through church fall festivals. There are also people who follow the Pagan and Wicca religions who honor the festival by constructing large bonfires, singing traditional Gaelic songs and honoring the dead.
Costumes: There were many children and adults who dressed as the dead for the festival. They blackened their faces and dressed in white, as to appear like a ghost. They also created masks and wore veils to conceal their identity.
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Large bonfires are a staple of the Samhain tradition.
(via Diddlyi Mag)THE ISLE OF MAN
Name of Event: Hop-tu-Naa
Date: October 31st
History: Hop-tu-Naa originated in Celtic regions of Europe as a celebration of their new year and is still celebrated today in the Isle of Man. It is historically a time for divination, weather prediction and preparation for the winter months. The origin of the name is uncertain, but it is commonly believed to translate to “this is the night” in Gaelic.
Tricks and Treats: Trick-or-treating during Hop-tu-Naa was an event that has some similarities, but also some differences, to what we think of the activity today. Children dressed up and went door-to-door, but, in older customs, if the children didn’t get any candy or money, they beat the doors with turnips to show their displeasure. Another customary trick-or-treating activity was singing traditional Celtic songs, which featured imagery of full moons, witches and black cats. “Jinnie the Witch” is a very popular Hop-tu-Naa carol and is supposedly based on a real girl, who was tried for witchcraft in the 1700s.
Costumes: Today, children in these regions wear modern Halloween costumes, like witches, vampires and goblins.
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A carved turnip during the Celtic Hop-tu-Naa celebration.
(via Isle of Man)JAPAN
Name of Event: Obon Festival
Date: August 15th, but can vary around the country.
History: The Japanese Obon festival is a time where lost spirits are believed to return home to meet with their family and friends. This time is usually very family-oriented – great feasts are prepared and families take trips to cemeteries to pay tributes. Incense is lit, food is offered to the deceased and lanterns are lit at homes to help guide the spirits. The dance Bon Odori is a very common event at Obon festival celebrations. This folk dance is performed in parks and shrines and taiko drummers help the dancers keep the beat.
Tricks and Treats: While the Japanese Obon festival is considered a peaceful time to reflect and remember, there are elements in Japanese culture that are less than serene. Japanese ghost stories, or kaidan, have been prevalent in Japanese culture dating back thousands of years and are usually gruesome, violent and horrifying. One of the most popular Japanese kaidan is “The Ghost Story of Yotsuya.” The story has changed over the years, but the plot always deals with a town met with murder, mistaken identity and vengeful ghosts. The ghost of a young woman is disfigured and haunts the main character; she is sometimes shown with burnt skin on her face, huge chunks of her hair missing and even an eye hanging loose on her check. Legend even says that any woman portraying this ghost in a play could possibly become possessed by the character and should visit her shrine to pay respects.
Costumes: In Japanese theater, ghosts are portrayed with ragged and messy hair, all-white burial kimonos and white face make-up. Another prominent feature is the lack of legs and feet – in live plays, this effect is achieved by hoisting the actor into the air with pulleys and an extra long kimono as costume. The ghost of the young girl in the movie “The Ring” is very typical of a Japanese depiction of spirits. She is shown with a covered face, lifeless hands hanging from outstretched arms, and messy black hair.
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An actress playing the ghost of Oiwa in “The Ghost Story of Yotsuya.”
Name of Event: Dia de los Muertos
Date: October 31st through November 2nd
History: Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a holiday that celebrates and honors friend and family members who have passed away. The Day of the Dead is said to be the time that heaven’s gates are opened and the spirits of loved ones are able to reunite with their friends and families, with children and infants honored first and spirits of adults are celebrated on the next day. One of the main differences between the American celebration of Halloween and Dia de los Muertos is that the Mexican holiday is still deeply based in religious belief and culture. This holiday has been celebrated for over hundreds of years and is still as important to Mexican culture today.
Tricks and Treats: One of the most recognizable features of the Day of the Dead celebration is the sugar skull. The sugar skull is colorful and brightly decorated candy or sculpture used to adorn altars set up for the holiday. Altars, known as ofrendas, also are adorned with religious statues, candles and pictures of lost loved ones. Epitaphs are also written to remember those who have passed and include funny stories and habits. In many areas of the country, children visit houses in their neighborhood asking for small gifts of candy or money.
Costumes: The skeleton is used very often as a costuming theme. Extravagant make-up is used to decorate faces to completely resemble a sugar skull. More recently, Day of the Dead parades have included children dressed in less traditional costuming, such as vampires, devils, and even scarecrows.
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An example of Mexican sugar skulls to be sold at a Day of the Dead festival.
(via Mexican Sugar Skull)NIGERIA
Name of Event: Odo Festival
Date: September through April, every two years.
History: The Odo Festival is a holiday among the Igbo people of Nigeria. Odo is the name for the spirits of the dead in the Chukwu religion. There are three stages of this event: the arrival of spirits of family members, the time when these spirits live and communicate with the living, and, finally, the departure of the spirits. At the end of the festival, the final ritual Afia Una is performed. During Afia Una, men who are dressed as the Odo reenact the departure of the spirits by walking through the village, purifying the community of its sins and any other negative spirit.
Tricks and Treats: During the last stage of the Odo Festival, the Igbo people put on a large theatre performance that reenacts the story of the holiday. There are also musicians who accompany the presentation; they play xylophones, drums, and rattles. All the preparations for the festival are done in secrecy, because women and outsiders are not allowed to be a part of setting up for the festival. The women are responsible for making sure there is enough food for the people who are celebrating, as well as for the Odo spirits.
Costumes: The spirits who return to their living families are portrayed by village men, wearing ornate masks. The costumes are decorated with leaves, beads, feathers, and other materials from plants. Men who are representing evil spirits wear black costumes, covered with thorns. Women who attend the festival wear their most expensive and elaborate jewelry and adornments.
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Decorations at the Odo Festival.
(via Panoramio)TRANSYLVANIA, ROMANIA
Name of Event: Halloween
Date: October 31st
History: What says Halloween more than Dracula? Romania is home to the birth place and castle of Vlad Tepes, the inspiration of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” This castle is open for visitors to explore and the town also gives tours around the town to other Dracula-related locations. Vlad was born in 1431 and ruled as Prince of Wallachia, Romania, from 1456 until 1462. His evil reign and methods of execution were fodder for multitudes of folklore in the area, which is what motivated Stoker to write his novel. Halloween parties are held today in the area, where guests can attend a witch trial, get their fortunes told and watch as a witch tries to make Vlad’s ghost appear.
Tricks and Treats: Vlad Tepes was also known as Vlad the Impaler and is regarded as one of the most evil rulers in history. There are many legends of his actions that have been told through the years. He was known to impale bodies of his enemies and display them in front of his castle to scare off intruders. There are also stories that tell of Vlad dining outside, among the people he tortured. Vampire myths also were in circulation and stories were told of Vlad eating human flesh, as well as feeding it to his enemies.
Costumes: As you can imagine, a popular costume at many Transylvanian Halloween parties is vampire. Many qualities of Vlad the Impaler’s image have inspired what we view as a classic vampire today. Vlad wore a cape, is said to have allergies to blood which gave him pale skin, and he had a violent nature. People attending the party as a vampire often paint their faces white, wear fangs and don formal clothes. These are all attributes of the title character in Bram Stoker’s, “Dracula.”
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Germanic woodcutting of Vlad dining among those he impaled.
(via Dracula Info)SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS, USA
Name of Event: Salem Witch Trials
Date: 1692 to 1693
History: The story of the Salem Witch Trials in Salem is one of the most popular supernatural-related tales in American history. In the late-1600s, the residents of colonial Massachusetts were caught up in a mass hysteria of witch hunts, false accusations and mass executions. The religious extremism present in the people of that time caused them to fear damnation so much that they would accuse others of being guilty of crimes that may not have been true. In the end, 19 people were put to death after being convicted guilty of witchcraft.
Tricks and Treats: The trials in Salem had a few different ways to determine if the accused were witches or not. Much of the testimony was from sick and afflicted townspeople who believed they were made ill by local witches. They claimed they knew who the guilty ones were based on spectral evidence, which meant that they had seen an apparition of the one who made them sick. Another method used in the trails of determining guilt was through the use of a touch test. When the afflicted victims were having a fit of illness, if a witch laid hands on them, the fit would supposedly stop.
Costumes: One of the scariest elements of this hysterical witch hunt was that there was no outward way to determine a witch from an innocent person. In this time period, Puritan Americans wore very conservative clothes – bonnets, capes, long dresses and coats, heavy waistcoats and wigs. They were always covered up and did not wear bright colors.
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“Examination of a Witch” by Thompkins H. Matteson, 1853.
(via UMKC School of Law)
Once the Buddha was staying in a town in northern India called Kesaputta where the Kalama clan lived. The Kalamas visited the Buddha and asked him:
“There are some holy men and priests, Venerable Sir, who come and claim that only their teaching is right and condemn the teachings of others. Then some other holy men and priests came to Kesaputta; and they, in turn, claim that their teaching is right and others wrong. As a result, doubt has come to us. Which of these holy men and priests spoke the truth?”
The Buddha replied: “It is proper to doubt in things that are doubtful. Come, O Kalamas:”
1) Do not believe anything based on revelation
2) Do not believe anything through tradition handed down from the past
3) Do not believe anything through hearsay (gossip, rumour, etc.)
4) Do not believe anything because it accords with the holy scriptures
5) Do not believe anything through logic
6) Do not believe anything because it is a point of view.
7) Do not believe anything through having considered the reasons
8) Do not believe anything because one is convinced of some theory
9) Do not believe anything through the testimony of some reliable person
10) Do not believe in anything thinking, “This person is a great preacher”.
“Kalamas, when you yourselves know what is evil, blameworthy and censured by the enlightened wise, abandon those things. When you yourselves know that these things are good, not blameworthy, but praised by the wise, accept and practise them”
These famous words of the Buddha, often been called the Charter of Free Inquiry (Kesaputtiya Sutta, A1:188 f, 2:91 f.), were given by the Buddha over 2,500 years ago and their openness and uniqueness are still unrivalled even today. It reflects the Buddhist spirit of free thought and investigation leading to proper practice and self-realization of the true nature of our existence and so winning true self-liberation.
Meaning of the Kalama Sutta
The Kalama Sutta has often been quoted but more often misiquoted. Some erroneously regard the discourse as a carte blanche for transcendental licence and religious anarchy. It must be remembered here that spiritual doubt is a mental hindrance to spiritual development (A 3:62; Vbh 378).
Most people seem to know only about the first portion of the discourse, that is, the ten points of criteria for the acceptance of a teaching or idea. This interesting discourse has three other important sections of which we should be aware.
After speaking on the tenfold criteria for accepting a teaching or idea„ the Buddha goes on to point out that when you have no greed, no hate and no delusion. You would enjoy benefit and happiness for a long time.
The Buddha then speaks on the Four Divine Abodes (Brahma vihara) or Positive Emotions, that is, the cultivation of Lovingkindness, ofCompassion, of Altruistic Joy and of Spiritual Equanimity. For the beginner, it is sufficient to keep to the first practice – the Cultivation of Livingkindness (metta bhavana), which, among other blessings, helps you to overcome fear, have courage to face people and generally keep a positive mind.
The Four Solaces
The closing section of the Kalama Sutta, which deals with the Four Solaces is, to me, is most interesting and important section. As such, I shall quote it in full:
The disciple of the Noble Ones, Kalamas, who has such a mind that is hate-free, malice-free, undefliled and purified, is one by whom four solaces are found here and now:
1) “Suppose there is an afterlife and there is the result of deeds, good or evil; then it is possible that after I die, I shall be born in heaven, endowed with bliss” This is the first solace found in him.
2) “Suppose there is no afterlife and there is no result of deeds, good or evil; yet in this world, here and now, free of hate, free of malice, safe and happy am I”. This is the second solace found in him.
3) “Suppose evil begets evil; then, how can evil come to me who has done no evil deed?” This is the third solace found in him.
4) “Suppose evil-doer does not beget evil; then I see myself purified both ways (i.e. Whether unintentionally or intentionally)”. This is thefourth solace found in him.
At the end of the Buddha’s discourse, the Kalamas were delighted and became buddhists for the rest of their lives. This four solaces, incidentally, is the Buddha’s answer to Pascal’s Wager* even before it was formulated!
*Piscal’s Wager:The Evangelists claim that if God does not actually exist, then it is all right for the Buddhists and nothing would happen to those who believe in him, too. However, they claim suppose that God does exist after all – then believers would stand to benefit but what would happen to the Buddhists?
Budhism is a religion for you to “come and see” for oneself. One has only to give yourself a chance to have a taste of the Buddha’s Teachings: that would be an unforgettable experience and a most worthwhile one. Once the Buddha said in the Udumbarika Lion-roar Discourse:
“Let any intelligent man who is honest, not a deceiver, but an upright man come to me. I will teach him the Truth. And if he practises according to my instructions, he shall realise that supreme goal for the sake of which people renounce the world to lead the homeless religious life. He shall realise that supreme goal in seven years… even one month..nay, if he so practises for even seven days, such a man coming to me shall so realise that supreme state” (D 3:56)
Whether Buddhas arise or not, the Buddha declares, the Dharma is always there; but it is the Buddha who clearly shows us what this Truth is and from whose knowledge we benefit. However, we must exert ourselves: Buddhas are showers of the way. We must walk the Path!!
By ourselves is evil done,
By ourselves we pain endure,
By ourselves evil not done
By ourselves become we pure
One is pure or impure within:
No one can purify another
By you is the task to be done
The Perfect Buddhas are showers of the Way
Those who are practised in meditation
Are released from the bonds of the Evil One
An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life…
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
“One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.
“The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
“This same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,
“Which wolf will win?”
The old chief simply replied,
“The one you feed.”
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana
Though we would all like to believe that we are not destined to repeat mistakes over and over again, chances are, without a knowledge of what it is that compels us to behave in certain ways in the first place, we will likely repeat patterns of behavior that bring about negative or undesirable consequences, despite the fact that we may strongly desire to behave differently.
All decisions and subsequent behavior are born from an individual’s deeply held belief system. Without an understanding of how much this belief system truly guides and directs our life, we are often rendered powerless to stop the cycles of self-defeating behavior.
Confused and bewildered by what appears to be our complete inability to change our own behavior, we can often be left with thefeeling that we are no more than a mere spectator on the sidelines of our life, hapless victims of circumstance.
Modern psychology and psychiatry has identified different levels of consciousness within our brains. The part of consciousness that we call our awareness is the part of the mind that carries out the normal, day-to-day type activities. Thoughts flow freely through our minds and are usually nothing more than shallow chatter about things we need to do today, or tomorrow, or basically focusing on a task at hand. This type of thinking is not deep or reflective, but rather simply functional.
On a deeper, subconscious level, however, an entirely different type of thinking occurs. These thoughts are the thoughts that we may be vaguely aware of, but generally do not pay close attention to. These thoughts, which compose our deeply rooted belief system, are the very thoughts that truly direct and guide our behavior. They act as the rudders of our life, if you will, steering and directing us toward a predictable behavior, guided by a deeply held belief.
It is these thoughts and beliefs which shape and define who we really are. They are also the foundation upon which the reality of our life is built by the decisions we make and the subsequent actions that we take.
Efforts to simply change behavior without understanding the belief system that is compelling the behavior may be successful in the short-term. However, any long- term changes in behavior can only occur when one identifies and changes the belief the behavior is rooted in. Without that change, any efforts to establish a new behavior pattern will simply be met with defeat. The core belief will override even the most earnest efforts to change.
If someone subconsciously believes he/she is not worthy of a healthy, loving relationship with someone, he/she will likely find themselves in relationships that are toxic and self destructive with the pattern repeating itself over and over again.
Though outwardly they confess they are not deliberately seeking out those types of relationships„ the deeply held belief that one does not deserve to be loved, will continue to draw, much like a magnet to an opposite pole, the opposite desired outcome; namely, another failed attempt at love.
Eventually, after perhaps years of self defeat, you may begin to ask, “Why does this keep happening to me?” Or, in despondency and despair, you may conclude, “No matter how hard I try, nothing ever changes” Indeed, without recognizing the self-defeating belief that is driving the behavior and the negative outcome, nothing will ever change.
We often speak of the power of the human will as a driving force that can overcome and accomplish anything. Though the will to achieve, succeed and overcome is indeed powerful, sheer will alone is not enough to transcend self defeating habit patterns rooted in the subconscious mind. If you truly desire to change, to transcend and to overcome behavior that repeats mistakes in your life, then the real work needs to be in identifying those beliefs and willfully and deliberately changing them. Only then will you be free of repeating the same mistakes.
Partially via Psychology.com
One of the major themes of The Red Shoes is, of course, its great ballet dancing. But equally as strong is another related theme which the shoes symbolize and which many dancers and others are unfortunately familiar with - sacrificing your family, friends, your life for your work, art, or dream. The red shoes are a reminder that you can’t have it all and that if you are a dancer and are serious about your art, there is little room for anything else other than your chosen pursuit.
In the film, young ingénue Victoria Page (played by prima ballerina Moira Shearer) is forced to choose between the chance to be a “great dancer” under the wing of impresario Boris Lermentov (played with breathtaking intensity by Anton Walbrook) and her life with her beloved husband, former musical director of the Lermentov company, Julian Craster (played by Marius Goring) in a parallel to Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Red Shoes, in which the magical shoes of the title take over a young girl and force to dance endlessly until she dies.
Achieving the pinnacle of success in many fields of human endeavor requires an almost superhuman devotion that would seem to rule out any other pursuits, including love. Think of training for an Olympic gold medal; achieving fame in film, theater, or music; or becoming an world-renowned writer, artist, or intellectual, all of which require exceptional dedication and focus.
While there are many artists who do have both family and career….how much energy can one devote to both and how long is this sustainable? Ultimately, the message of the film is that you will be forced to choose.
And certainly there is a certain romantic appeal to this self-sacrifice, the driven individual giving up everything for his or her dream. But I think this impression is based on focusing on the dream and not the sacrifice, as well as failing to appreciate everything that sacrifice entails. The Red Shoes shows us that sacrifice in the starkest of terms, but it need not be that extreme to be just as tragic. Think of the athlete who spends almost every waking moment training, the composer hunched over the keyboard throughout the night, the academic ignoring his or her family to get one more article out. All of them are wearing the red shoes of Andersen’s story, and if they don’t take them off, they’ll pay the price. The character Boris Lermontov says it perfectly in the film,
“At the end of the evening she is tired, and wants to go home, but the Red Shoes are not tired. In fact, the Red Shoes are never tired.”
One’s passion, desire and love for dance never tires.
The dancer in the ballet who wears the shoes and inevitably dies from exhaustion is symbolic of flesh and bone. She is symbolic of the human body, time and mortality. It’s something that every dancer no matter whether they are professionals or not have to face and it is something that no body on this planet can defy and that is the laws of time and how one day, despite all the drive in the world and the will and want to do it - the body will not keep up. The ballet of The Red Shoes symbolizes a dancers spirit - forever yearning to keep dancing, but the body will not go on forever.
Please don’t misunderstand, I do not mean to speak against pursuing dreams or goals, which can be an important source of meaning and joy in life. And it can seem at times that that particular meaning or joy can be achieved with nothing less than ultimate devotion. But few of us will be satisfied with just that one type of meaning or joy. For instance, successes are often the sweetest when shared, but there will be no one to share them with if you shun all human relationships in pursuit of your dream.
Maybe the key is to not to abandon your dreams but to broaden them. The Olympic hopeful may be dreaming of that gold medal, the dancer in the corps de ballet becoming a principal dancer, but is he/she also dreaming of having no friends or lovers to experience that joy and pride with? What does that success mean to him/her? Will it make him/her happy, even given the extreme costs? I think the lesson is that we can pursue our dreams wholeheartedly only if our dreams themselves incorporate balance, balance between all good things life has to offer, rather than just success in our chosen fields. We can dream of success and people to share it with, which for most of us would be immensely more joyful and meaningful, and then we can pursue that “composite” dream with focus and dedication.
Victoria Page couldn’t find that balance, and she suffered the consequences. From her and the movie, we should lean to take control of our own “red shoes” before they take control of us.
I came across this article from BrainBlogger.com and wanted to share because it’s so true. “The American historian and educator Daniel Boorstin once wrote, “Time makes heroes but dissolves celebrities.”
“We have just experienced an historic presidential campaign of unprecedented proportions, our economy is in peril, our military struggles to fight two wars, and our health care system is facing impending collapse. With all of these pressing issues weighing on the hearts and minds of America’s families, what seems to be on the covers of every magazine and tabloid these days? Celebrity nonsense. Does anyone really care which teen-aged pop star will give birth next? Do we need to know every happening inside the birthday party of a power-couple’s toddler? Is the diet that worked for the soap opera star really going to work for anyone else?
As long as there have been people who pulled away from the proverbial pack, there have been people to follow them and idolize them. However, scientists have only recently defined the psychological phenomenon of “celebrity worship” as a type of parasocial relationship that can have unhealthy and addictive elements.
Much research has been conducted about who engages in celebrity worship and what drives the compulsion. Celebrity worship for purely entertainment purposes likely reflects an extraverted personality and is most likely a healthy past time for most people. This type of celebrity worship involves harmless behaviors such as reading and learning about a celebrity. Intense personal attitudes towards celebrities, however, reflect traits of neuroticism. The most extreme descriptions of celebrity worship exhibit borderline pathological behavior and traits of psychoticism. This type of celebrity worship may involve empathy with a celebrity’s failures and successes, obsessions with the details of a celebrity’s life, and over-identification with the celebrity.
One study of 372 participants examined celebrity worship, personality, coping style, general health, stress, positive and negative affect, and life satisfaction. The researchers concluded that celebrity worship is associated with poorer mental health, illustrated by characteristics of neuroticism and disengagement. Some studies have pointed out that people with poor mental health are more prone to extreme celebrity worship, while others conclude that depression, anxiety, and decreased self-esteem develop from unhealthy celebrity worship. Several studies have also demonstrated a connection between celebrity worship and drug and alcohol use, smoking, and eating disorders. Yet another study concluded that celebrity worship involves a psychological model based on absorption, which leads to delusions of actual relationships with celebrities, and addiction, which leads to a progressively stronger need to feel connected with the celebrity.
Celebrity worship is not all bad. Idolizing or admiring someone for their accomplishments, and then pushing yourself to excel in the same way are positive elements. But, are we worshipping celebrities for the sake of being famous, or are we worshipping true heroes? Interestingly, participants in one study had similar measures for both heroes and celebrities. True heroes are people like our military men and women, our police officers and firefighters, our teachers and paramedics, and our mothers and fathers. These are the men and women who will stand the test of time and truly leave their mark on the world, unlike the athletes, movie stars, and singers who will fade into obscurity. If we confuse heroes and celebrities, we deprive ourselves of real role models. We should admire those who are well known because they are great, not those who seem great because they are well known.”