Tonight Is the Close of Winterfelleth


Many moons ago, around this time in October, my research collaborators and I were keeping a night’s watch in the lab; I mean pulling an all-nighter. We were peeking into some cells growing in a petri dish using a confocal microscope, and little did we know that the impermissible realm was waiting to stare back at us. The spirit of Halloween spooked us through these sacs of life!

Here’s how they looked back at us.

To the annoyance of my wife, my Facebook memory of this otherworldly microscopic image prompted an outbreak of random reading. In this reading session, I hit upon the pagan festival of Fontanalia, a celebration of fountains celebrated by Romans in October. On digging further, I learned that a Pagan view of October has a deep connection with the House of Stark in Game of Thrones, which links back to Halloween. To the best of my knowledge, these connections are not made explicit by George R. R. Martin, and if you have already connected the dots yourself, consider me a dim tube light.

Any number of GoT fan pages will tell you that Westeros is based on medieval Anglo-Saxon Britain, and the motto for House of Stark—one of the Great Houses of Westeros—is “Winter Is Coming.” The House of Stark is the only noble House whose family motto is a focal warning for the whole Ice and Fire narrative. Apart from the motto being a sign of vigilance for the Starks against a hard winter, it is also a long-forgotten reminder that the White Walkers will return in the winter and overturn the realm. So the Starks are looking to protect the realm’s order and keep the Night King away. 

Let’s cut to October—a month sacred for the Roman goddess Astrea. She is a star-goddess with wings, a shining halo, and a flaming torch who lived among humans during the Golden Age. When the human realm began to degenerate, she withdrew to the upper world. Astrea’s departure in October signaled the end of the golden age of light as the chills of autumn alerted that the winter was drawing near. Interestingly, October’s Anglo-Saxon name is Winterfelleth, which means winter is coming, and Westeros is a version of medieval Anglo-Saxon Britain.

Like Fire and Ice, the Pagan October is tinted in celebrations of light and darkness. The month begins brightly with Fides, the goddess of faithfulness, followed by a festival of the Grecian Dionysus, the pagan god of wine and revelry. Barring a brief interlude to honor the departed ancestors on Mundus (the 5th of October), we have the celebrations of Victoria—the Roman goddess of triumph; Felicitas—the Roman goddess of luck; Fortuna Redux—the goddess of successful journeys; Fontinalia—the goddess of holy wells, springs, and fountains just before October turns towards the freezing gloom that is to follow. From the 14th of October, named Vinternatsblot, to the festival of Fyribod on the 28th, a marker for lousy weather, we have ceremonies that cogitate the motto that winter is coming. As winter draws near, we have the feast of Samhain Eve (pronounced: Sow-ain Eve) on the 31st of October.

The close of October (aka Winterfelleth) signals a “calendrical rite of passage” for a temporary reversal of powers. It is a seasonal turning point marking the day’s liminal status as an annual and a seasonal day of transition; April fools day is another example of a “calendrical rite of passage” for a temporary reversal of powers. During this disorienting time of Winterfelleth, the Pagans cross the sensory walls of their mundane realm to peek into the impermissible realm. For all of us, the feast of Samhain Eve on the 31st of October is the modern-day festival of Halloween—a time when we playfully welcome the otherwordly. For members of the House of Stark, who embody the month of Pagan October, this time marks the breakdown of the Night’s Watch, the collapse of the physical wall, and the Night King’s arrival.

Remember, tonight, all of us belong to the House of Stark with the duty to keep a Night’s Watch because winter is coming. The point of difference is we welcome the temporary reversal of powers to mildly disorient our sensory walls to have a peek into the impermissible realm.

Happy Halloween! 🎃

Around the Web

  1. When governments go after witches
  2. Borders, Ethnicity and Trade [pdf]
  3. A Lonely Passion. Libertarians in China
  4. Halloween in Germany: read this with globalization and its critics in mind
  5. Should Japan take the lead in mediating US-Iranian talks? Props to Obama, by the way
  6. Another excellent Free Speech blurb from Ken White
  7. Culture in a Cage

Forty years after the launch of feminism

On Halloween afternoon I was downtown Santa Cruz on a candy expedition, escorting my grand-daughter the delightful M., five. M., a brown-skinned child, was Rapunzel. She was wearing a purple sequined dress with a petty-coat showing its pale blue border beneath, white gloves, and a blond wig to her ankles. She would have easily won the contest if there had been one. All afternoon women voiced their appreciation of her look.

My perspicacious observations on that occasion:

All little girls still want to be princesses or fairies. None wants to be a fire man, or a firegirl, or a fireperson. None wants to dress in neutral colors. If it’s not pink, it’s purple.

Nearly all little boys want to be dressed as anything with a gun, or a sword, or anything with a truck. Those I saw who are dressed as anything else were obviously forced by their politically correct or social climbing Moms. The way you know is that they sulk in spite of the large amounts of candy in their loot bags. A small number of little boys do want to dress as fairies but that’s nothing new. And it has nothing to do with feminism.

Fat women take Halloween as just another opportunity to wear a push-up bra and to hang out (or to almost hang out).

Almost no straight man wants to wear a costume. Those few men who do wear one have been blackmailed by their wives. You know it because they are costumed to represent the minor part of a pair or of a trio of which Mrs is the principal, the Tin Man of Wizard of Oz, for example. Costumed straight men are thus merely fashion accessories, as well they should be.

Forty years later: Feminism: 0; Mother Nature: 1.

I am not making this up. Open your eyes for the Goddess’s Sake!

And I know it’s completely different in San Francisco but it has nothing to do with feminism, one way or the other, or the other.