In the northern hemisphere October is the second of the autumn months. In the southern hemisphere it is a spring month, the seasonal equivalent of April in the north. The month has 31 days and is the tenth of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendars, although it kept its original name from the Roman calendar in which ‘octo’ means “eight” in Latin.
Among the Anglo Saxons, October was known as Wintirfilleth, Wintirfylleth or Winterfilled meaning winter full or winter fulfilling. According to Bede, the word meant ‘winter full moon’, the first full moon of October, after which winter was supposed to begin. This idea stems from a time when the pagan Anglo Saxons believed the year was divided into two seasons, just summer and winter.
As winter did not actually start at that time, it has also been suggested that the full moon was simply a signal that winter was on its way, and a warning to people to start preparations for harsh weather ahead. Among several other tasks this could involve food preservation, the housing of livestock in byres and barns, and strengthening homes e.g. repairing thatched roofs, doors and window shutters.
The October birth flower is the calendula and the birthstone is the opal. It is said that the opal will crack if it is worn by someone who was not born in October.
The October Zodiac signs are Libra (Sept 23 – Oct 22) and Scorpio (Oct 23 – Nov 21)
There are several historical anniversaries in the month of October in the UK. I imagine few are known, let alone ‘celebrated’ but here are some of them anyway:
- 2nd Oct 1452: Britain’s last Plantagenet king, Richard III was born.
- 6th Oct 1892: Death of the English Poet Laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who immortalised ‘The Six Hundred’ in his poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade.
- 7th Oct 1920: Women became eligible for admission as full members of Oxford University and given the right to take degrees.
- 4th Oct 1066: Harold II, England’s last Anglo-Saxon King was killed at the Battle of Hastings in Sussex – possibly by an arrow in the eye as shown in the Bayeux Tapestry.
- 20th Oct 1632: Birth of English architect Christopher Wren who was responsible for the rebuilding of St. Paul’s Cathedral following the Great Fire of London..
- 24th Oct 1537: Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour, died following the birth of the future king Edward VI.
- 28th Oct 1831: English physicist Michael Faraday demonstrated the dynamo, founding the science of electro-magneticism.
- 29th Oct 1618: English courtier, writer and explorer Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded on the orders of King James I.
There are a number of Special Events celebrated worldwide in October. The most well known one to many of us is probably HALLOWEEN. Here is just a little about the history of the event and its traditions:
Halloween or Hallowe’en is a contraction of All Hallows’ Evening. It is also known as All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve and is a celebration observed in a number of countries on October 31st.
Many Halloween traditions originated from the Celtic harvest festival of Samhain, meaning ‘Summer’s End’, which was celebrated at the end of the harvest season. Samhain was a time to take stock of supplies, prepare for winter and to ask the priests to pray for families as they faced the dark days of winter ahead. They believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the dead would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops.
Masks and costumes were worn in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits, or appease them.
The origins of trick or treating and dressing up were in the 16th century in Ireland, Scotland and Wales where people went door-to-door in costume asking for food in exchange for a poem or song. Many dressed up as souls of the dead and were understood to be protecting themselves from the spirits by impersonating them. This festival was later Christianised as Halloween.
Halloween activities today include trick or treating, attending Halloween costume parties, carving pumpkins into Jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, playing pranks – to name just a few. In many parts of the world the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve include attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead. Some Christians historically abstained from meat on All Hallows’ Eve. This tradition can still be seen today in the eating of certain vegetarian foods, including apples, potato pancakes and soul cakes.
In Munich (Germany) the big October attraction is OKTOBERFEST!
This festival claims to be the world’s biggest folk festival as well as being a great time to enjoy drinking beer. Over the last ten years or so the festival has attracted around six million visitors every year. Between them, visitors get through almost seven million litres of beer and consume thousands of grilled sausages, chickens, giant pretzels, and even wild oxen. The festival lasts just over two weeks (often from mid-September to early October) and takes place in a meadow outside Munich’s city centre. Besides eating, drinking and dancing, visitors can enjoy parades and fairground rides, and admire the many people dressed in traditional Bavarian clothes.
The history of this festival dates from the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen in 1810. Celebrations involved shooting displays and horse-racing – as well as much eating and drinking. Such a fun time was had by one and all it was decided to repeat the event every year.
This post has now become far too long to add photos of our gardens and local lanes, so I’ll finish with just a few of the many photos we took around the grounds of Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire last week. The autumn colours were a delight (although the red oak in the last photo is not a species native to Britain and was ‘imported’ from North America).
Historic UK http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofBritain/Historic-October/
Images are either my own photos or from Shutterstock, Pixabay or Wikipedia. Those from Wikipedia are credited as such.