Things to Do for Halloween at Museums and Historic Sites in 2022

October 20, 2022

Halloween is just around the corner! And today is my birthday. In honor of both Halloween and my birthday, I have compiled a list of things happening for Halloween this year at museums and historic sites. The list will include some locations in the United States and some locations in Europe. It is a sample of what is going on for the Halloween season. Also, I included links to previous blog posts I wrote about Halloween including the history of Halloween and of past events at museums.

Check out this list below:

  1. The Museum of Fright at the Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington:
    • On the day before Halloween, the Museum of Flight transforms into the Museum of Fright. There are Halloween-themed games and activities that would get visitors into the Halloween spirit. Some activities and events include astronaut ghoul search, freaky face painting, and the Monster Mash dance party. Children aged 17 and under who come wearing costumes will receive free museum admission for the day. For more information and the event schedule, click on the link here: https://www.museumofflight.org/Plan-Your-Visit/Calendar-of-Events/6066/the-museum-of-fright
  2. Halloween at the Whitney, Whitney Museum, New York, New York:
    • The Whitney Museum of Art has a few Halloween events leading up to the holiday. For instance, the New York Haunts Party is an after-hours Halloween celebration in which visitors can wear costumes. It is inspired by the theme based on their exhibit Edward Hopper’s New York, and visitors can see the exhibit after dark with exclusive gallery access and mini-tours. Specialty cocktails are also available. Also, there is a teen Halloween event called HallowTeen Night where they can come in costumes to enjoy live music, dancing, artist-led workshops, a spooky photo booth, snacks, and more. The Magical Masquerade Family Day is a family event that includes a mysterious scavenger hunt through the exhibit Edward Hopper’s New York and there is a chance to win exciting prizes. There are also photo-based mask-making in the Artspace and hands-on family artmaking activities throughout the Museum. For more details, check out the link below. https://whitney.org/halloween-2022
  3. Museum After Dark, New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut
    • The New Britain Museum of American Art has a Halloween event called Museum After Dark and this year they will be hosting the event on two nights on October 28th and October 29th. It is an opportunity to dress in costume and pose in the Alter Ego Photo Booth, and complimentary snacks and pizza as well as free wine and draft beer are included with the ticket. Learn more in the link here: https://nbmaa.org/events/museum-after-dark-halloween-2022
  4. Halloween Nights at Eastern State Penitentiary, Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    • Eastern State Penitentiary, an abandoned 10-acre prison now open for tours, has an event from September 23rd until November 12th called Halloween Nights. It is an immersive experience featuring five haunted houses plus historic tours, themed bars and lounges, live entertainment, and more surprises not listed on the website. Interested in finding out more, check out the link below:
  5. Remington Haunting, Frederick Remington Art Museum, Ogdensburg, New York
  6. Haunted Hallway, Longway Planetarium, Flint, Michigan
    • There are a number of varied events happening for Halloween at the Longway Planetarium. Haunted Hallway, for instance, is an event happening from October 27-30, 2022 at 4:00pm to 7:00pm. The event is a family friendly haunt that will offer spooky fun in the black light hallway that is good for all ages and takes about ten minutes to walk through. If you want to learn more about this event and other events at the Planetarium, click on the link here: https://sloanlongway.org/halloween/
  7. Halloween in Paris Events, Paris, France
    • I found a post about various Halloween events in Paris including the tours in the Paris Catacombs. It is the world’s largest underground burial site. On the tours, visitors can learn the history and legends of the Catacombs from an expert guide as well as learning why the remains of over 6 million people were transported underground in the 18th century. Find out more about the Catacombs tours and other events happening in the link here: https://www.parisdiscoveryguide.com/halloween-in-paris.html
  8. The Best Halloween Destinations in Europe 2022
    • Another post I found described what they described as the best Halloween destinations in Europe. Some of the places they listed include but are not limited to Dublin, Ireland, Romania, Edinburgh, Scotland, Venice, Italy, and Prague, Czech Republic. Check out the full list here: https://glampinghub.com/blog/best-halloween-destinations-europe/

List of Previous Posts on Halloween:

The History of Halloween and How Museums Celebrate

Halloween in the Museums 2020

13 Things to Do in Museums for Halloween 2021

The History of Witchcraft: Witchcraft in Africa

September 15, 2022

       This is the second post in the history of witchcraft series I started last year. I included a link to the first post in the list below. Since I was more familiar with the history of witchcraft in Salem, Long Island, and the United Kingdom, I wanted to start my research in an area I am not familiar with on the history of witchcraft. The first places that people in general think of when witchcraft is discussed are Salem, Massachusetts, and Europe where the well-known witch trials took place. I decided to take a closer look at the history of witchcraft in Africa and find out what witchcraft was and is like on the continent. During my research, I decided to write about only a sample of witchcraft beliefs in African cultures for the sake of not making this post too long. I have included a list below of additional resources I have come across in my research.

To understand what witchcraft in Africa is it is important to learn what Africa itself is.  Africa is a continent with numerous countries encompassing the land mass. There are fifty-four countries altogether and four territories. Africa has over 3,000 protected areas, with 198 marine protected areas, 50 biosphere reserves, and 80 wetlands reserves. Since there are many countries and territories on the continent, governance varied per country, and a union was formed to provide the continent a unified representation for all of them. The African Union (AU) is a continental union consisting of 55 member states. The Union was formed on June 26, 2001, and was officially established on July 9, 2002. It was originally located in Addis Ababa until July 2004 when the African Union’s Pan-African Parliament (PAP) was relocated to Midrand, South Africa; the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights remained in Addis Ababa. People in Africa also recognize and practice various religious beliefs and rituals.

While Africans acknowledge a wide variety of religious beliefs, the majority of the people respect African religions or parts of them. However, in formal surveys or censuses, most people will identify with major religions that came from outside the continent, mainly through colonization. There are several reasons for this, the main one being the colonial idea that African religious beliefs and practices are not good enough. Religious beliefs and statistics on religious affiliation are difficult to come by since they are often a sensitive topic for governments with mixed religious populations. According to the World Book Encyclopedia, Islam and Christianity are the two largest religions in Africa. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, 45% of the population are Christians, 40% are Muslims, and 10% follow traditional religions. A small number of Africans are Hindu, Buddhist, Confucianist, Baháʼí, or Jewish. There is also a minority of people in Africa who are non-religious. By learning about Africa, what the lands are like, and what the religious beliefs are, we can start to learn what the many beliefs there were about witchcraft itself.

There are some publications that discuss witchcraft in Africa. For instance, the Transafrican Journal of History released an article back in 1995 called “The Evolution and Essence of Witchcraft in Pre-Colonial African Societies” that mentions the growth of interest in comparing and contrasting witchcraft within Africa itself and in Medieval Europe. This article articulates a number of historical accounts on the origins and distinctive features of witchcraft in pre-colonial Africa, and offers an appraisal of some poignant aspects such as magnitude, ramifications, and controlling witchcraft in traditional settings. It intends to place witchcraft in the proper perspective as a socially constructed system in many pre-scientific societies. Also, the article elaborates on the role of anti-witchcraft specialists (waganga) whose expertise and significance were deliberately misconstrued by over-zealous colonial administrators and pioneering Christian missionaries.  They describe how witches were viewed at least in some African cultures; some cultures believe witches willfully seek and do harm while other cultures believe witches are not aware of what they are doing.

According to the article, witches are believed in some African cultures to assemble in cannibal covens at graveyards or around a fire to feast on the blood they extract from their victims, like vampires. The article also shares that in many African cultures witches are believed to act unconsciously and are unaware of the harm they cause since witches are driven by irrepressible urges to act malevolently. It is thus easy for those accused of witchcraft, but who are not conscious of wishing anyone ill, to assume that they unknowingly did what is attributed to them. This, along with the effects of suggestion and torture, in a world where people take the reality of witchcraft for granted, goes far to explain the striking confessions of guilt that is so widely reported in Africa and elsewhere and that are otherwise hard to comprehend. While those identified as witches may believe they are unconscious agents, it is not the view of those who feel victimized by them.

In addition to the article, I also read “The legality of witchcraft allegations in colonial and postcolonial Zimbabwe” written by Fortune Sibanda which is a chapter from the book called Religion, Law and Security in Africa edited by M. Christian Green, T. Jeremy Gunn, and Mark Hill. The chapter tackles questions such as How legal or illegal are the witchcraft accusations in the public and private domains in colonial and postcolonial Zimbabwe? For some context, Zimbabwe is a country located in southern Africa, and was known as Rhodesia before the country gained independence in 1980 following a long period of colonial rule and a 15-year period of white-dominated minority rule. The chapter discusses a study that was conducted to examine witchcraft accusations, and it discusses what witchcraft means to the people in Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole.

     Sibanda pointed out that African Traditional Religion (ATR) accepts the existence of witches in societies where some people practice uroyi (witchcraft) and is not a myth contrary to the stance adopted by Western missionaries and colonial administrators from Europe who questioned the reality and existence of witches. Also, Sibanda’s chapter discussed the two important aspects of witchcraft in the colonial and postcolonial contexts which were socio-religious and legal. She stated in the chapter that witchcraft is largely regarded as a reality in Zimbabwe and Africa at large by traditionalists and traditional courts, a position that was denied through colonial legislation; and the work of traditional healers and their medicines were also considered to be witchcraft at law. The legal flaws have persisted into the postcolonial times, in spite of the later amendments. Witchcraft accusations entail some cultural, social, political, and legal implications. Some cases of witchcraft accusations were highly gendered and manifested as political witch-hunts bent on humiliating and eliminating political rivals through hate speech, framing, and claims-making. The study concluded that the legality of witchcraft accusations in postcolonial times is marred by the legal flaws and selective application of the witchcraft law replicating the colonial legacy that sought to promote Christianity at the expense of African Indigenous Religion in Zimbabwe.

The publications previously discussed in this post are examples of how witchcraft is viewed in parts of Africa. While this post does not cover the entire continent’s views of witchcraft, I included links that refer to the history of witchcraft in Africa, witchcraft in general, and the resources I used to write this post. I also included a link to a previous post I wrote about the history of witchcraft as a start to taking a closer look at this history.

Check out the links below on witchcraft in Africa and more.

List:

What is Witchcraft? Taking a Closer Look at the History of Witchcraft: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-1wg

“The Evolution and Essence of Witchcraft in Pre-Colonial African Societies”, Transafrican Journal of History Vol. 24 (1995), pp. 162-177 (16 pages).

Sibanda, Fortune. “The legality of witchcraft allegations in colonial and postcolonial Zimbabwe”, Religion, Law and Security in Africa, edited by M. Christian Green, T. Jeremy Gunn, Mark Hill, African Sun Media, SUN MeDIA. (2018) pp. 297-313.

https://fivebooks.com/best-books/jean-fontaine-on-african-religion-and-witchcraft/

https://www.routledge.com/Witchcraft-and-Sorcery-in-East-Africa/Middleton-Winter/p/book/9780415852135

https://www.jstor.org/stable/24328661

https://www.bibliovault.org/BV.titles.epl?tquery=Witchcraft

https://www.sunypress.edu/p-5511-encounters-with-witchcraft.aspx

https://www.brookings.edu/research/good-and-inclusive-governance-is-imperative-for-africas-future/

https://www.britannica.com/topic/witchcraft/Witchcraft-in-Africa-and-the-world

https://mellenpress.com/book/Studies-in-Witchcraft-Magic-War-and-Peace-in-Africa/6769/

https://www.britannica.com/place/Africa/Geologic-history

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Malleus-maleficarum?utm_medium=mendel-homepage&utm_source=oyr&utm_campaign=oyr-1&utm_term=20220324

https://www.britannica.com/bioraphy/Matthew-Hopkins?utm_medium=mendel-homepage&utm_source=oyr&utm_campaign=oyr-2&utm_term=20220324

https://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/africa.htm

https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/postcolonialstudies/2014/06/21/zimbabwes-struggle-for-liberation/

https://www.britannica.com/place/Zimbabwe

South African History Online: https://www.sahistory.org.za/place/zimbabwe

Tie Breaker Poll: Fountains Abbey or Harriet Tubman National Historical Park

April 14, 2022

We have a tie! Both of them will be discussed in the next couple of Museum/Historic Sites Impressions blog posts. I would like to know between the two of them which one would you like to learn more about first? Be sure to answer the poll below. Thank you!

Poll closes May 4th at 11:59 PM EST.

The History of St. Patrick’s Day and How Museums Are Celebrating

March 10, 2022

While we celebrate women during the month of March, we also celebrate Irish heritage on the St. Patrick’s Day holiday. It was once known as a religious holiday, the feast day of the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick. The origins of St. Patrick are varied according to Thomas O’Loughlin’s article “St. Patrick: The Legend and the Bishop” in History Ireland. O’Loughlin investigated the accounts of St. Patrick, and while some details are varied it is agreed that St. Patrick was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave, then escaped and returned sometime later to convert Ireland to Christianity. There were many legends that emerged about St. Patrick including he drove the snakes out of Ireland and used the shamrock to explain the Trinity (in Christianity, Trinity refers to the Father-God, Son-Jesus, and the Holy Spirit/Ghost). Emigrants, specifically to the United States, transformed St. Patrick’s Day into a secular holiday to celebrate all things Irish which led to the holiday we know today. To learn more about St. Patrick’s Day, I included a link below the list.

The following list is a random selection of events and places to visit especially during the holiday. St. Patrick’s Day takes place on a Thursday this year, and while we are still going through a pandemic some of the events that are occurring to honor and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day are virtual.

  1. Tenement Museum’s Virtual Tour: The Moore Family

The Tenement Museum is located in New York City. They are having a virtual tour that is honoring both Women’s History and Irish American History Month by exploring the story of an Irish immigrant family, Joseph and Bridget Moore and their children, who lived at 97 Orchard Street in the 1860s. Visitors will learn how Irish immigrants navigated the diverse city, maintained pride, and built a community in Lower Manhattan. To sign up, click on the link here: https://www.tenement.org/events/special-virtual-tour-the-moore-family/

2. Visit the Irish Hunger Memorial https://www.nyc-arts.org/organizations/2436/irish-hunger-memorial

   Another place to visit in New York City especially during St. Patrick’s Day is the Irish Hunger Memorial that was commissioned by the Battery Park City Authority to raise public awareness of the events that led to the Irish famine of 1845 to 1852, and to encourage efforts to address both current and future hunger worldwide. The memorial represents a rural Irish landscape with an abandoned stone cottage, stone walls, fallow potato fields, and the flora on the north Connacht wetlands. It contains stones from each of Ireland’s 32 counties, and is elevated on a limestone plinth.

3. Boston Irish Tourism Association https://irishboston.org/march.php

     If you are in the Boston area, check out the Boston Irish Tourism Association’s website for events throughout the month of March and St. Patrick’s Day Parade dates and times in New England and Dublin, Ireland.

4. Long Island Children’s Museum

At the Long Island Children’s Museum, there is a program known as stART (Story + Art) that combines reading both children’s classics and new stories and creating book-inspired crafts. On St. Patrick’s Day, they will be reading Joan Holub’s “Hooray for St. Patrick’s Day”, learning about the ways to celebrate the holiday, and creating leprechaun hats to wear home. To learn more and sign up for the class (space is limited), check out the link here: https://www.licm.org/calendar/event/start-story-art-3-17-22/

5. Children’s Museum of Manhattan

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan has a couple of events on St. Patrick’s Day. The first one is the opportunity to contribute to a mural in the CMOM Mural Wall: Colors of the Emerald Isle. Then there is a crafts activity where kids can create shamrock wreaths using recycled paper. More information can be found here: https://cmom.org/cmom-programs/

6. Garde Arts Center, New London, CT https://gardearts.org/events/the-high-kings-2/

On March 20th, there is a performance by the group The High Kings hosted by Garde Arts Center and co-presented with the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center. The High Kings return to the Garde to celebrate over a decade of sell-out shows and topping the Irish Album and World Music Charts. To find out more, visit the Garde Arts Center event page.

7. Museum of Early Trades & Crafts, Madison, NJ https://metc.org/event/st-patricks-day-celebration/

This museum has a St. Patrick’s Day Celebration on March 12th that includes live music, dancing, and singing. Also, there is an interactive game for kids to “find the pot of gold” using QR codes in the museum’s exhibits.

8. Festival Quater at the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks https://www.irishcentral.com/events/st-patricks-festival-launch-schedule

     In Dublin, there is a day-to-night festival called Festival Quarter at the National Museum of Ireland for all ages. There are family-friendly adventures including but not limited to performance, theatre, film screenings, interactive games, and science shows. At night, adults can enjoy a food village, bars, and hangout areas with some events including but not limited to Irish contemporary and traditional music, performance, comedy, literature, and dance.

9. Medici Museum of Art, Ohio

The Medici Museum of Art has an adult St. Patrick’s Day Sip & Paint on March 15th in which adults can paint a St. Patrick’s Day inspired artwork as well as sip drinks and eat snacks. If you are interested in this program, take a look at the link here: https://www.medicimuseum.art/upcomingevents/adult-st-patricks-day

There is a kids version and tickets can be found here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/kids-st-patricks-day-sip-paint-tickets-256298554877?aff=efbeventtix

10. The Heritage Museum & Cultural Center, St. Joseph, MI https://www.eventbrite.com/e/celebrate-st-patricks-day-at-the-heritage-with-kennedys-kitchen-tickets-271148832457

      At the Heritage Museum & Cultural Center, they collaborated with the Lake Michigan Music Concert Series to welcome the group Kennedy’s Kitchen. There is a cash bar that features Guiness, Bell’s Two-Hearted, Jameson, Bailey’s, wine, and snacks.

       Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Resources for St. Patrick’s Day history:

O’Loughlin, Thomas, “St. Patrick: The Legend and the Bishop”, History Ireland, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Jan. – Feb., 2006), pp. 16-19.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Saint-Patricks-Day

       

Public Historian Takes a Closer Look at the History of Valentine’s Day

February 10, 2022

Valentine’s Day is on a Monday this year and it is important to understand that while it seems like a more commercial-founded holiday this holiday actually has historical roots.  I decided to take a closer look into the history of Valentine’s Day. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the true origins of the holiday are vague at best; for instance, it has been suggested that the holiday has origins in the Roman festival of Lupercalia which was a celebration of the coming of spring held in mid-February. Lupercalia was also known as a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

          It became St. Valentine’s Day towards the end of the 5th century when Pope Gelasius I forbid the celebration of Lupercalia and was often attributed to replacing it with St. Valentine’s Day; there were a number of Saint Valentines in the church, who all became martyrs, who the holiday was possibly named for. One example is that it is believed it was named for a priest who was martyred about 270 CE by the emperor Claudius II Gothicus. According to legend the priest signed a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter, whom he had befriended and, by some accounts, healed from blindness. Another legend stated that he defied the emperor’s orders and secretly married couples to prevent husbands from war. The holiday was not celebrated as a day of romance until about the 14th century.

            Formal valentines appeared in the 1500s, and by the 1700s individuals were using commercially printed cards. The first commercial valentines in the United States were printed in the mid-1800s. On the Valentines, they commonly depict Cupid, the Roman god of love, along with hearts. Birds also became a symbol of the day since it was thought that the avian mating season begins in mid-February. The holiday is popular in the United States as well as in Britain, Canada, and Australia, and it is also celebrated in other countries, including Argentina, France, Mexico, and South Korea. In the Philippines it is the most common wedding anniversary, and mass weddings of hundreds of couples are not uncommon on that date. The holiday has expanded to expressions of affection among relatives and friends.

          At the time I wrote this post, I did not find many academic studies written in books and journals about Valentine’s Day. What I did come across were articles and a list of children’s Valentine’s Day books. I included links to books on Valentine’s Day in the list below. There was an article from American Quarterly written by Vivian R. Pollak about Emily Dickinson’s Valentines. Emily Dickinson was an American poet born in Amherst, Massachusetts who wrote almost 1,800 poems and of those poems fewer than a dozen were published during her life; scholars identified her writing period was between 1858 and 1865. Pollak’s article, published in 1974, discussed her early works including two humorous Valentines as well as the history of noncommercial Valentines during the 19th century, and argued that Dickinson was writing poetry before 1858. According to the Emily Dickinson Museum website, these early writings were published anonymously in the early 1850s. The first Valentine was referred to as “Magnum bonum, harem scarum” which was a valentine letter published in Amherst College’s Indicator in February 1850, and the second Valentine was published in Springfield Daily Republican titled “A Valentine” called “‘Sic transit gloria mundi’” on February 20, 1852.

      A periodical about St. Valentine and English poet Geoffery Chaucer in Jack B. Oruch’s “St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Spring in February (appeared in Speculum in The Medieval Academy) came from The Wilson Quarterly was called “The First Valentine”. It discusses how Oruch pointed out the first time St. Valentine was connected with romance occurs in Chaucer’s poem “Parlement of Foules” when Nature summons the birds on “seynt Valentynes day” and commands them to choose mates. Chaucer and other writers’ work in the 14th century and after led to associating St. Valentine and Valentine’s day with romance and love.

      In the end, Valentine’s Day is about celebrating the people you love in your lives including family, friends, pets, and romantic partners.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!!

Thank you for reading! If you would like to support my book project, check out my Buy Lindsey a Coffee page to learn more.

Links and Sources:

Vivian R. Pollak, “Emily Dickenson’s Valentines”, American Quarterly, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Mar., 1974), pp. 60-78.

Emily Dickinson Museum:

https://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/

The First Valentine The Wilson Quarterly (1976-), Vol. 6, No. 2 (Spring, 1982), pp. 37-38.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Valentines-Day

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Valentine#ref1290121

https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2

https://www.byrdsbooks.com/book/9781638786337

https://www.thechildrensbookreview.com/valentines-day-books-for-kids

Happy New Year! Plans for 2022

January 13, 2021

Happy New Year everyone! Since we are in our second week of the new year, I thought I would share a few plans I have so far for this website. I am going to share my thoughts on the museum field and how it is continuing to handle the coronavirus pandemic as we are going into the second year since the initial lockdown in the United States.

Also, last month I released a poll to decide the second historic site you want to read about. If you would like to respond to the poll, be sure to answer the poll before it closes on January 31st. Click on the link here: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-1xi

I will continue my history of witchcraft series that I started in the last months of 2021. I am planning the second post to be about witchcraft history outside of Europe and the United States.

I am also continuing the book project that I started last year. To learn more, be sure to check out what I am offering as a thank you for your support by visiting my Buy Me A Coffee page here.

Stay tuned for more posts this year!

Taking A Closer Look at the History of Christmas: A Public Historian’s Perspective

December 23, 2021

      As many people are preparing for celebrating Christmas, I decided to revisit and share the history of Christmas. I remember the first time I learned about the history of Christmas when I was still studying for my bachelor’s degree in history. My history professor assigned my class to read Stephen Nissenbaum’s The Battle for Christmas towards the end of my first semester of college and we had a class discussion about the origins and history of Christmas. I continued to observe Christmas from a historical perspective since that time many years ago. While I have previously discussed what museums are doing to observe the winter holidays including Christmas, I realized that I have not yet discussed where it came from, how we started celebrating the holiday, and how it became the holiday we know it now. Here I will share a brief introduction to Yule and what Christmas was like before the nineteenth century when things like Christmas trees, the concept of gift giving, and the idea of the family-centric holiday were becoming associated with Christmas.

     We understand today that Christmas is a winter celebration within Christianity to honor the birth of Jesus Christ. When we take a closer look, we would be able to see that the origins of the holiday were not as straightforward as the religion may teach. Christmas has its roots in Paganism which honors the changes in seasons. Yule is connected to a number of religious celebrations and spiritual traditions that coincide with the Winter Solstice which occurs on December 21st in the Northern Hemisphere. Last year I briefly shared information about Yule or the Winter Solstice. In that post, I described what the celebration of Yule is:

 Yule is a celebration, practiced by pagans, neo-pagans, and other individuals who incorporate witchcraft practice in their lives, which involves gathering together to enjoy meals and gift-giving, and activities like feasting and wassailing (where the tradition of singing carols comes from) are sometimes regarded as sacred.

 This celebration corresponds with the astrological change of the Earth tilting away from the sun, known as the Winter Solstice. The amount of sunlight on Earth during this time varies, short day and long night to long darkness, depending on which part of the globe one lives on. In the Northern Hemisphere, it also marks the first day of winter.

To learn more about the Yule, Christmas, and other Winter Holidays, I included the link to the blog post “Winter Holidays in 2020 and Happy New Year” in the list below.

         Christmas was a different holiday than what we would recognize today. During the colonial period in New England, the Puritans suppressed the holiday, and it was illegal to celebrate Christmas in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681. Their reasoning for suppressing the holiday, according to Stephen Nissenbaum, was because there was no biblical or historical reason to place the birth of Jesus on December 25th; it was in the fourth century that the Church decided to observe Christmas on December 25th which happened to be around the arrival of the winter solstice. Another reason they suppressed Christmas was that at that time the holiday involved behavior that most today would consider as offensive and shocking such as rowdy public displays of excessive eating and drinking and aggressive begging with threats of doing harm. In northern agricultural societies, harvesting was finished in winter, and since they had plenty of beer or wine and meat that needed to be consumed before it spoiled.  It was not until the nineteenth century that Christmas started to resemble the holiday we recognize.

           Wage labor and capitalist production were spreading in England and the United States by the early nineteenth century.  Employers were insisting on keeping Christmas as business as usual while some urban workers saw the meaning of the season as one that no longer involved a lull in demand for labor and for other urban workers winter meant the prospect of being laid off since the water-powered factories were put on seasonal halt. The Christmas season could be easily seen as a form of social protest by the managers and the upper class since the traditions included wassailing (singing) and mischief. Stories like Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and poems like Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas” started to introduce things including but not limited to the concept of generosity and the figure of Santa Claus that would become the traditions we know today. If you would like to read more about the history of Christmas, I recommend taking a look at Nissenbaum’s The Battle for Christmas and other resources provided. I will be taking a break from posting new blog posts; in the meantime, be sure to stay tuned for new blog posts in 2022.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!!

Links:

Winter Holidays in 2020 and Happy New Year

The Battle for Christmas: A Social and Cultural History of Our Most Cherished Holiday by Stephen Nissenbaum

Encyclopedia Britannica: Christmas

English Heritage History of Christmas

National Geographic How Christmas has evolved over centuries

Website Examination: Museum Learning Hub

December 2, 2021

Museum Learning Hub homepage

I chose to take a closer look at a website that focuses on professional development for museum professionals. Museum Learning Hub is a website I follow to help me develop skills as a museum professional. According to their website, it is a nationwide initiative organized by the six U.S. regional museum associations and is dedicated to providing free, self-paced training resources for small museums made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grant for Museums Award. I appreciate that they are able to provide these resources for free since most small museums do not have a professional development budget for their employees; therefore, providing more accessible resources can help museum professionals especially those who work in small museums develop their skills to perform their tasks in their museums. The Hub is created as part of the Digital Empowerment for Small Museums Project, which focuses on providing capacity-building programs and resources in the areas of digital media and technology for small museums.

I like how it is easy to navigate through the website to access webinars and additional resources. The toolkits, that are included in each module, provide more details from individual sessions and resources to help museum professionals learn more about a specific topic covered in the session. The website also includes forums and Ask an Expert forum in which users can click on the forum name to see the discussions, get advice, share ideas and resources, and get technical support from student technology fellows. Some of the topics that are covered in their webinars include but are not limited to digital accessibility and inclusion, live streaming, managing digitization projects, virtual exhibitions, podcasts, video production, and audiences and analytics for museums. They release webinars each week live on their website and have past recordings and transcripts available to catch up on topics discussed in previous weeks.

To learn more about the website and to participate in webinars, check out the link below.

Link:

Museum Learning Hub

What is Witchcraft? Taking a Closer Look at the History of Witchcraft

November 11, 2021

          Since we recently celebrated Halloween, I thought I would share a short introduction to the history of witchcraft. When we talk about witchcraft, the first things that come to mind are movies and T.V. shows that depict witchcraft, Halloween decorations and costumes, the Salem Witch Trials, et. cetera. It is important to acknowledge that witchcraft history can be found around the world not just in Europe and Colonial New England. Witchcraft looks different for each culture, and therefore not one definition describes what is witchcraft. There are many definitions of witchcraft and witches used by historians in the past and now. Ronald Hutton in his book The Witch: A History of Fear from Ancient Times to the Present shared a number of definitions past historians have shared. For instance, Hutton stated that a witch is “…any person who uses magic (although those who employ it for beneficial purposes are often popularly distinguished as ‘good’ or ‘white’ witches); or as the practitioner of a particular kind of nature-based Pagan religion…”. He wrote this book as a contribution towards the understanding of the beliefs concerning witchcraft, and the resulting notorious trials of alleged witches, in early modern Europe. Hutton’s The Witch also described witchcraft history found outside of the United States and Europe. I will go into more depth about witchcraft history in future blog posts, and if there is something you would like to know more about, please let me know. In the meantime, I will introduce the history of witchcraft on Long Island.

While one of the most well-known witchcraft cases took place in Salem, Massachusetts, there have been witch trials in New York and even one that was decades before the Salem Witch Trials. In 1658, a woman named Elizabeth “Goody” Garlick in East Hampton, New York was accused of witchcraft but was spared the same fate accused people faced in Salem. After the East Hampton magistrates collected the evidence, they decided to refer the case to the higher courts in Hartford, Connecticut (Long Island was four years shy from becoming a part of the Connecticut colony at the time; it was not until 1664 when it became a part of New York colony). While witchcraft was a capital offense at the time, John Winthrop, Jr.’s court rendered a non-guilty verdict for Goody Garlick. John Winthrop, Jr., the son of the co-founder of the Massachusetts Bay colony, was made the Governor of the Hartford colony and was one of the few people that were skeptical of magic particularly common people having the capabilities to practice magic; part of his skepticism was inspired by his background as a scholar whose research pursued finding explanations for magical forces influencing the world around them. In addition to learning about witchcraft in New York, I also previously did some research on modern witchcraft history and the pagan origins of Halloween.

Some witches and pagans (or Neo-Pagans) celebrate Samhain (“saah-win”), an ancient Gaelic festival that marks the time of year when seasons change, and many believe the boundary between the world and the world of the dead is at its thinnest. Samhain is known to be Halloween’s earliest root.  Early celebrations of Samhain involved a lot of ritualistic ceremonies to connect to spirits including celebrating in costumes (using animal skins) as a disguise themselves against ghosts, special feasts, built bonfires and made lanterns by hollowing out gourds. To learn more about the history of Halloween, I wrote about Halloween’s origins in the post “The History of Halloween and How Museums Celebrate” and I have included it in the links section below.

I included more links about witchcraft on Long Island if you would like to read more about this part of history. If you want to read more blog posts about witchcraft history, please let me know.

Links:

The History of Halloween and How Museums Celebrate

Hutton, Ronald. The Witch: A History of Fear, From Ancient Times to the Present, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2017.

https://history.hanover.edu/texts/nyhah.html

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/before-salem-there-was-the-not-so-wicked-witch-of-the-hamptons-95603019/

http://bklyn-genealogy-info.stevemorse.org/LI/WitchesofLongIsland.html

https://bronx.news12.com/beyond-the-broomstick-witches-on-long-island-36714763