Today is All Hallows. Find out What Happened at Eyre Hall on That Day #HalloweenBooks

Yesterday was All Hallows Eve, which has come to be known as Halloween. I wrote about how the festivity was celebrated in Victorian England, and what happened on that day at Eyre Hall.

Today’s post is about what happened the following day, November 1st, All Hallows or All Souls’ Day. It is no spoiler that Mr. Rochester is on his death-bed, and is destined to pass away during the course of the novel. However, there is a hint of a big spoiler in the extract. You will be glimpsing an unexpected and dramatic turn in Jane’s life.

Here is Chapter XXIV, which narrates the moment Mr. Rochester’s death is discovered and made known to the residents at Eyre Hall.

Deceased

“Mrs. Rochester! The master is dead! We must stop the clocks and drape all the mirrors in the house, or his spirit will be trapped. He will not be able to leave Eyre Hall, so he will haunt us forever! The windows must be opened and the curtains drawn to let the good spirits in to look after him and keep the malignant out. We must bring ice from the kitchen to put under the bed, or malignant life will crawl out of his mouth and ears.”

Simon had reached the bottom of the staircase, as I stepped out of the library into the hall with Michael. The drawing-room door opened and Adele screamed, “Simon! For goodness sake be quiet, you will wake all the dead in the graveyard!”

John was standing behind Adele looking bewildered, “Mother, what has happened?”

His face white and his expression quite horrified. I rushed to his side, “John, he is at peace at last. There is nothing we can do, except pray.”

“Father!” He shouted, as he pushed past me and rushed up the staircase.

“Wait!” I screamed and turned to Michael, “Michael, go with him! He can’t be alone now!” Michael obeyed at once.

Bishop Templar turned to me and spoke gravely, “Mrs. Rochester, may I suggest we follow John and say some prayers by his bedside?”

“Of course, my Lord, let us go upstairs together.” I took his arm and beckoned to Adele, “Adele, darling, will you come up with us?”

“Not yet, Jane. I can’t bear to think of his lifeless body! I can’t go up now.”

She seemed so distressed that I had no choice but to agree, “Well, wait here. Mr. Greenwood, would you be so kind as to accompany Adele in such a painful moment for her and console her as best you can?”

“Of course, Mrs. Rochester. Come, Adele, let us wait in the drawing-room.”

“Mr. Mason, Annette, will you be so kind as to wait a few minutes while I go upstairs with Bishop Templar?”

“Mrs. Rochester, I would like to go up with you, if you don’t mind.” Annette was looking at me earnestly. I told her Edward was her father. She had just met him, and he was dead, quite a dreadful succession of events for an evening. 

“Of course you can. Are you sure you won’t be too distressed?”

“Quite sure.”

“Then come with us. Mr. Mason, would you kindly wait with Adele and Mr. Greenwood?”

“Of course, madam. Accept my most sincere condolences, and if I can be of any use, please let me know.”

“Thank you, Mr. Mason.”

Before heading up the stairs I turned to Simon, “Please see to the clocks. Go down to the kitchen to tell the rest of the household what has happened, and bring some drapery to cover the mirrors, and of course, the ice.”

“Yes, madam.”

“I will tell Michael to fetch the undertakers at Millcote and Dr. Carter.”

“Yes, madam.”

“I understand you worked for an undertaker in London before working at Eyre Hall, is that so?”

He nodded proudly, “Yes, madam.”

“Could you dress Mr. Rochester when…?” Tears came to my eyes, as I said his name. My feet softened and floated, and my hand slipped from the Bishop’s arm. The floor swayed and I lost my balance. I felt rough, sturdy fingers clasp my waist, as I fell backwards and looked into Mr. Mason’s furrowed brow.

“Mrs. Rochester! Are you unwell?”

“Thank you, Mr. Mason. I am feeling a little dizzy.”

“Please, allow me to accompany you upstairs.” I nodded, and he held out his arm for me to cling to. “Thank you, Mr. Mason.”

When we arrived at the top of the stairs, the gallery seemed darker and narrower than usual and the floor was rolling, as if I were walking on waves. Tears were running freely down my cheeks, and I was still having difficulty breathing.

Mr. Mason took my hand in his and squeezed it hard, “Unfortunately, Mrs. Rochester, this is God’s plan for all of us.” I cringed at his touch, which fortunately brought me back to reality.

Inside Edward’s chamber, our son was kneeling down on the floor by his father’s side, holding his hand and kissing it. Annette was kneeling down on the opposite side of the bed, doing exactly the same. Bishop Templar stood behind John with his hands on his shoulders, attempting to comfort him, while Mr. Mason left my side and stood vigilantly behind Annette.

The Bishop was speaking, but my heart was thumping so loudly I could not hear what he was saying. The room was hot and the air was thick and putrid. I looked at my husband and gasped. Edward’s eyes were frighteningly open, as if he had seen a ghost, and his mouth was wide open, too, as if he had gasped for air before dying. His face was as pale as death itself, and his chest crushed and lifeless. He had gone. 

Once more I felt my legs bend into the floor. The hexagonal forms on the carpet were sliding into squares as my stomach churned. Michael rushed to my side and I managed to say, “I’m going to be sick,” just before he carried me to the toilet table. When I finished, he took the ewer and poured some water on my hands and I washed my face, then he led me to a chair at the foot of the bed.

I heard the distant voice of the Bishop saying some prayers to bid him farewell and facilitate his transit to his new abode in the Kingdom of Heaven, but I was not sure if that would be his destination. He had not confessed his sins. He had not repented for his misdeeds. He had not made his peace with our creator before dying, and he might not be allowed to leave Eyre Hall yet.

I stood up and turned to Michael beckoning him to follow me. We walked out of the chamber and turned into the shorter gallery and the stairs leading to my chamber, where we could not be seen. His eyes shone in the unlit passage. I reached for his hands, and he pulled me closer whispering, “Are you all right, Mrs. Rochester?”

“Yes, I shall be all right.”

“You look unwell.”

“Michael, please go to Millcote and bring the undertaker as soon as possible. There are many preparations that need to be attended.”

“It shall take more than four hours. Will you not need me here?”

“Simon will attend to matters here, in the meantime. He knows what to do.”

His concerned eyes bore into mine, “But you will be alone.”

“Only for a few hours.”

He moved closer, “Before you go, Mrs. Rochester, promise me something.”

“What is it?”

“Promise me you will not take any of Mr. Rochester’s drops.”

He was right. I had thought of succumbing to the easy comfort of the miraculous drug. I put my arms around him, “Hold me, Michael.”

He spoke into my hair, “I cannot leave, if you do not promise. I saw you looking at Mr. Rochester’s medicine cabinet.”

“You are right, the temptation is great.”

“It is very harmful. Think of John, he needs you, so does Helen… and so do I.”

I pressed my face into his chest, praying I would be strong enough to get through the wake and the funeral without breaking down, or relapsing into the comfort of laudanum once again. It was a pleasant and swift evasion, but I shuddered at the thought of its dire consequences, which I had already experienced. Michael was stroking my hair, waiting for my reply, “Promise me.” He insisted.

I broke away and smiled, “I promise. Now go, and please be careful, Michael. It is very late and there is a full moon. Last month a pack of foxes attacked a farmer.”

He told me he would be back as soon as possible, and I returned to the death chamber. They were all looking at Edward and listening to Bishop Templar’s prayers, except Mr. Mason, whose dark ominous eyes were fastened on me, as I entered the room. We listened in solemn silence to the familiar words of Christian consolation, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…”

Minutes later Simon arrived with drapery for the long mirror. He told me he had covered all the other mirrors in the house and had stopped the clocks. I told him to bring the ice and wash, shave, and dress Edward in his best clothes. We all left when he returned to prepare the corpse.

Downstairs in the drawing-room, Adele was still distraught and being consoled by Mr. Greenwood. I excused myself and went down to the servants’ quarters to discuss arrangements with Mrs. Leah.

****

Mr. Rochester’s death represents the end of an era. He was more linked to the rigid 18th century modes of thinking than to the more progressive 19th century social, scientific, industrial, and intellectual advances, which would change Great Britain forever. New times are awaiting Jane and all the members of her extended family. These changes will start immediately, and although it is a change she is ready to embrace, it will be traumatic. The full extent will be felt in books two, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall and book three, Midsummer at Eyre Hall.

I hope you enjoyed the extract 🙂

The Truth about Halloween: Origin, Symbolism, and Evolution of a Timeless Festival

Although many people think Halloween is a modern, commercial invention, it is in fact one of the most ancient, mysterious, and persistent traditions in the British Isles, which has naturally undergone many changes through the ages, and spread to other parts of the world.

 

Jack-o'-Lantern_2003-10-31

 

Originally called Samhain, later All Hallows Eve, and finally Halloween, the festivity originated in pre-Christian, Celtic Britain.

The Celts, who are believed to have originated in central Europe, probably around present-day Austria, eventually inhabited most of central and Western Europe, including the British Isles.

 

Orirgin (yellow) and distribution of Celtic peoples. Areas where Celtic languages remain spoken today (darker green).

 

The Celts observed only two seasons of the year: summer and winter. Samhain was an important day, because the 31st of October was the last day of summer, and 1st of November marked the first day of winter. Therefore midnight of 31st the Celts celebrated the transition between these seasons.

According to Alexander MacBain’s Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language (1982), ‘samhuinn‘ (the Scots Gaelic spelling) means ‘summer’s end’.

The Celtic people gathered on the 31st of October to sacrifice animals, fruits, and vegetables to their gods, in return for a prosperous winter.

Samhein was considered the most magical night of the year, for the purposes of divination, concerning marriage, health, and luck. The souls of the dead were also allowed to revisit their homes. Some of these deceased visitors could have more sinister objectives, so tales of ghosts, witches, and evil spirits roaming the streets, were common. Consequently, they lit bonfires in honor of the dead, to aid them on their journey, and wore disguises and masks to fool the spirits into passing them by, and keep them away from the living.

The Celts retained their festivities throughout the expansion of the Roman Empire in the first century. In fact, the Romans also had a similar festivity called ‘Feralia’, in late October, when they also commemorated the passing of the dead.

 

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Bronze Statue of Constantine the Great in York

 

When Christianity reached Britain, by the third century of the Christian era, the Roman Emperor Constantine, who had embraced Christianity, albeit probably for political purposes, in order to consolidate his rule, incorporated the Pagan holidays and festivals into the church rituals thus attracting the Pagans, but he gave the holidays and festivals new Christian names and identities, thereby appeasing the Christians.

This is how Samhain, the most important pagan festival, became the day of the most sacred: the hallowed. This word is found in the second line of the Christian Lord’s Prayer or Our Father: ‘Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be they name’.

All Hallows, which came to be known as All Saints’ Day, was celebrated on 1st of November, and was preceded by All Hallows Eve, on 31st of October.

Eves, or the nights before important religious celebrations, were important for the Christian church, because they were the day of preparation for the great Holy day which was to come. The preparation was sometimes fasting, or praying, or making other preparations for the day of worship.

 

Jakub_Schikaneder_-_All_Souls'_Day

All Souls’ Day, J Schikaneder 1888. This oil painting shows an elderly woman after placing a wreath upon the tombstone of her loved one.

 

By the 10th century, November 2nd had officially become All Souls Day, in commemoration for the rest of the dead. So, Samhain became a three-day festival in Christian renderings called Allhallowtide, or the Hallowmas season, which refers to the three days of the Western Christian observances of All Hallows’ Eve (Hallowe’en), All Saints’ Day (All Hallows’) and All Souls’ Day, between October 31 and November 2nd. As from 1605, the 4th of November was added to the festivities, as Bonfire Night, prolonging the festivities over a five-day period, but that will be the subject of another post.

 

All-Saints

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs (about 1423-24) Tempera on wood, 31,9 x 63,5 cm National Gallery, London Author: en:Fra Angelico Created: en:15th Century

 

The Christian Church replaced sacrifices by honoring the dead with prayers and religious rituals. Food and wine offerings were replaced with soul cakes, little square buns decorated with currants. The cakes were given away to the village poor, who in turn would pray for the dead. These ‘Soulers’, generally poor people, would walk about begging for cakes. Those who feared dead spirits were encouraged to give generously.

The Christian Church also allowed masquerading but emphasized that it was to honor dead saints and not to frighten off spirits. Over time, young men and boys, who went from home to home singing “souling songs” in exchange for ale and food, which evolved into contemporary trick-or-treating by youngsters. Hearth fires replaced the Celtic bonfires, and parlor divination games replaced oracular rites. The customs of wearing masked costumes and begging for food also continued.

 

Bonfire

 

All Hallows was a time of contradictions. On the one hand, it marked the end of the farmer’s year, and the imminent arrival of cold, gloomy, winter days, but on the other hand, larders were full, flocks sheltered, so there was enough food to share, and there was less work to be done in the fields, so there was time for more pleasure. The long, dark, winter days, associated with death and sadness, would last until the spring, so this holiday was considered the last days of merrymaking and plenty.

 

Wittenberg_Thesentuer_Schlosskirche

Wittenberg All Saints’ Church

Although Martin Luther nailed his reformation proclamation to the door of the church of All Saints at Wittenberg on October 31st, because he knew that the townspeople would be attending services that night, and despite the fact that the Protestant movement dropped the observances of All Saints’ Day, All Hallow’s Eve practices continued.

In the United States, it was not until the Irish arrived, as a result of the potato famines of the 1820s and 1840s, that Halloween became more established in American folklore.

 

800px-Halloween_Witch_2011

 

In the 19th century, on both sides of the Atlantic, Halloween was an enjoyable festivity for the whole family, with parties in celebration of the annual harvest rites, including games, dancing, and telling of ghost stories. It was also an important day for matchmaking, and many of the divinations were aimed at discovering ‘true love’. The Halloween custom of carrying lanterns made out of hollowed-out turnips or beets, called Jack o’ Lanterns, which were used to scare away spirits in the night, were substituted in America by pumpkins. In the 20th century, after World War II, it became a big social event for children and young people.

 

Snap-Apple Night, painted by Daniel Maclise in 1833, shows people feasting and playing divination games on Halloween in Ireland.

All Hallows is not mentioned in Jane Eyre, although there are allusions to Guy Fawkes, and Bonfire Night, which I will be discussing shortly, in another post.

However, the sequel to Jane Eyre which I have written, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, takes place between 29th October and the second week of November, 1865. Halloween celebrations take place at Eyre Hall itself, and at the nearby inn and ale house, The Rochester Arms. I purposefully chose this misty, damp, and chilly time of year for the novel, because the supernatural and mysterious atmosphere of Halloween enhances the magical, gothic atmosphere of Eyre Hall. 

Tomorrow’s post will discuss the Halloween celebrations and customs portrayed in All Hallows at Eyre Hall, and it will also include a short extract from the novel.