Halloween in the 21st century is a fun day, associated with youth, dressing up in costumes, and trick-or-treating, evoking images of witches, devils, and goblins that are more entertaining than macabre. Halloween has its origins as a pre-Christian Celtic festival that appropriated elements of and converged with the religious feasts of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, which solemnly commemorate saints, martyrs, and the dead. This Halloween, Dr. James Palmitessa joins us for a talk on the origins of popular Halloween imagery and traditions, analyzing images of witches and devils that arose during the European witch hunts of the 15th-18th centuries C.E., including woodcuts by famous artists such as Albrecht Dürer and Hans Baldung Grien. Dr. Palmitessa also explains Halloween’s place in the traditional annual calendar of popular and religious festivities, highlighting its similarities to, and differences from, various Carnival traditions of Europe and the Americas, as well as All Souls’ Day festivities in Mexico and Latin America.
Dr. Palmitessa is an Associate Professor of History at Western Michigan University, specializing in European history in the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern period, where he teaches a course on the Great European Witch-Hunt.
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