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“Shadowheart” (a Halloween Poem) and Some Halloween History

John loves to read, especially crime, fantasy, psychological thrillers, and sci-fi novels. He also writes poetry and short fiction.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

"Shadowheart" by John Hansen

When darkness falls on All Hallows' Eve
The demons lurk in wait.
You must stay wary; do not sleep,
For the morning comes too late.

Most monsters are in costume
And really not a threat,
Unless you fail to give them treats,
Then you’ll gain their ire, I bet.

Jack o’ Lanterns with each eerie face
Lit by candle glow
Adorn the windows and the porch
To let the spirits know.

But in the shadows lurks a fiend
Like none you’ve seen before.
He’ll strike when least expected;
You won’t know what’s in store.

Beware when black cats cross your path,
Or bats give you a start,
And lock your doors and windows
To escape the Shadowheart.

In fact, the dark keeps him at bay;
It’s the light that gives him life.
For he exists in your own shadow
And will slice you with his knife.

So keep watch on your shadow,
Don’t ever turn your back,
Or you’ll be little pieces
In the Shadowheart’s deep sack.

Of course, you can avoid him—
Do everything at night
Under the cloak of darkness—
Just keep out of the light.

A Short History of Halloween

Halloween or Hallowe'en, also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows' Eve or All Saints' Eve, is a celebration observed in many countries on 31st October, the eve of the Christian feast of All Hallows' Day. It begins the three-day observance of Allhallowtide, the time of year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints, martyrs and all the faithful departed.

Trick-or-treating partly comes from the medieval English practice of “souling,” which involved poor people going from door to door offering prayers for All Souls Day in exchange for food. This practice is referred to by Shakespeare in the play The Two Gentlemen of Verona with the line, “like a beggar at Hallowmas.”

Another occasion that often merges with Halloween and the related festivals is Guy Fawkes Day in the UK, which celebrates the failure of Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament in Westminster on 5th November 1605. Traditionally, bonfires are lit and dummies of Guy Fawkes are burned.

In the US, Halloween is closely tied to Thanksgiving, the changing of the seasons, the harvest and pagan traditions. It also used to be believed that 1st November was the beginning of the year, and Halloween was celebrated to chase away all the bad spirits from the previous year to ensure a successful new one.

Is Halloween celebrated in Australia?

Is Halloween celebrated in Australia?

Halloween in Australia

Until recently, Halloween activities and events were held only on only a small scale in Australia, but recently, the holiday has become more popular across the country due to the many popular movies and TV shows depicting the event. As a youngster, I always envied children in the USA and other countries who had so much fun dressing up as monsters and trick-or-treating when we could only watch longingly on TV.

Even though Halloween is not a nationwide public holiday in Australia, its observance is becoming a growing trend. Stores are stocking up on costumes and accessories, and some businesses coordinate Halloween-themed gatherings for staff and clients. Charity organizations may have fundraising activities that centre on the Halloween theme.

Sometimes, Halloween parties are held at venues that are supposedly haunted. Ghost tours, hunts and walks are popular during this time of the year. More Australians are also taking part in trick-or-treat adventures that involve organized groups of parents and children visiting neighbours.

How do you celebrate Halloween?

How do you celebrate Halloween?

Off The Shelf: Shadowheart by James Barclay

For those of you who are unaware, Off the Shelf is the name I gave my series of, mainly, poetry that uses the titles of novels on my bookshelf at home as inspiration. The poem that is written rarely echoes the story or even the theme of the book. In this case, I chose the book "Shadowheart' and it is no exception.

James Barclay is one of the leading authors in the Pulp Fantasy genre. He has written two linked trilogies introducing a popular hero, The Raven. The first trilogy was the Chronicles of The Raven and introduced the main characters and the world of Balaia.

'Elfsorrow' is the first book in the second trilogy, The Legends of The Raven. This was written as an introduction for new readers, and made it unnecessary to have read the first trilogy.

Shadowheart is the second book in The Legend of the Raven trilogy, and in it a savage war is raging as the magical colleges of Balaia tear the world apart in their struggle for supremacy. Can The Raven even survive, let alone triumph, as he threatens to destroy their existence and everything they have known?

I don't recommend reading this without at least having read 'Elfsorrow' first. This is a fantasy and the strange names and goings-on would be very hard to digest if you don't already know some background.

James Barclay, unlike most successful authors, has never been frightened to kill off his favourite characters, and this has given his books their unique edge. The reader never knows whether the hero will succeed in his quest or die trying.

Shadowheart by James Barclay

Shadowheart by James Barclay

© 2020 John Hansen


John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 31, 2020:

It is great that you were still able to comment on this Li-Jen, as it has been moved to a niche site. Lucky it appeared on your feed so you could. I am glad you enjoyed it and felt it was a must-read this Halloween. Hope all is good with you.

Li-Jen Hew on October 31, 2020:

Happy Halloween Jodah! Your poem is a must-read on Halloween as it gives a festive feeling or shows the spirit of Halloween. I like how it's movie-like with the story that's told, especially when a black cat crosses our path. It's ironic how light gives life to the Shadowheart as some of us may be scared of the dark. Appreciate your intro about Halloween. It shows your gratitude towards celebrations and patience!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 23, 2020:

Thank you For reading Mary, yes it seems Halloween is being gradually adopted globally.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 23, 2020:

Halloween has gone global as almost all cultures have great respect for their dead and want to celebrate them. You have written a beautiful poem to remind us of the shadows in our own lives.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 23, 2020:

Well, this was part of the Off the Shelf series but not any more. It was edited and moved to Holidappy, and the entire Off the Shelf section removed. So, I guess that puts further articles in that series at jeopardy. I won’t complain because it is my first article moved to that particular niche site. I may do something in future however to try to keep the series going.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 21, 2020:

I am glad you found the trivia interesting and that you really enjoyed the poem, Audrey. Thank you for sharing it with your family, neighbors, and friends.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on October 21, 2020:

Such interesting trivia about Halloween, John. I read your poem to my family, neighbors, and friends. It's that good!

Celebrating this event will be a little different this year...but then, so is everything.

Thank you.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 21, 2020:

I am glad I manage to surprise you every time, Shauna. I enjoy that and it is why I don’t put “Off the Shelf” in the title or at the top of the article. Thanks for reading and enjoying.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 21, 2020:

John, you never fail to catch me by surprise with your Off The Shelf entries. I think it's genius of you to pull that off every time!

I appreciate you offering the history of Halloween, especially in your country. I was wondering if you have Halloween in Australia.

Love your poem. I'll be wary of my shadow from now on!

Have a great rest of your week, John!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 21, 2020:

Lynne, I am glad this article was timely and it helped with your research. We actually have a black cat, so if they are unlucky we’ll we have permanent bad luck. Thanks for reading.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 21, 2020:

Devika, I think celebrations will be very toned down in most places with social distancing in place....people may still be able to dress up, And decorate their homes but I don’t think there will be trick or treating. Thanks for reading.

Lynne Samuel from Malaysia on October 21, 2020:

All these years Halloween has been observed, I never really bothered to research its origin. But your article is timely, just when I have been diligently reading up on its history. Thank you, John.

Also funny thing about black cats, my ancestors really believe that bit in the poems

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 21, 2020:

Hi Jodah Halloween is a celebration in many parts of the world. In Croatia over the years, it has become a popular event in the capital city Zagreb. This year I don't believe it would be something of an event since the COVID-19 has a lot to do with no mingling, social distancing and wearing of masks, how irocnic? Thank you for another brilliant write

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 20, 2020:

Thank you, Anya. Much appreciated.

Rosina, I am glad you got to experience Halloween while in the USA. thank you for reading and I'm glad you liked the poem.

Rosina S Khan on October 20, 2020:

I liked the poem based on Halloween, John. I have been in the US during 2007-2009 and so I know something about Halloween when my nephew and niece who were little then celebrated the event along with my sister. Nice work!

Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on October 20, 2020:

Well-written, as always!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 20, 2020:

Brenda, it is a shame that Covi-19 is putting a dampener on Halloween celebrations there. It is a time when people enjoy the scary things, but the virus I guess uptdoes them all. I hope the kids, at least, still get to have fun in some way. Stay safe.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 20, 2020:

Thank you Pamela. It is always interesting to see how events are celebrated in other countries. I appreciate you liking my Halloween poem.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on October 20, 2020:


Halloween here is always a big deal. Usually the kids go door to door to go trick or treating.

This year...who knows.

It is still in the works but with Covid-19 numbers now high in my little town it may be canceled.

Hopefully they will still have a party fir the kids at our local fairgrounds in the Mahan Building where they give out candy & other surprises.

For us adults there are usually plenty of gatherings where we also dress up & have some spooky fun.

I enjoyed reading your poem.

Beware of the black cats...they truly are just cuddly sweethearts though.

Take care & enjoy Halloween.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 20, 2020:

It is interesting to hear about Halloween in Australia, but I really liked your poem. It is perfect for Halloween! This is another very interesting article, John.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 20, 2020:

Hi MizB. I have a black cat too, and he is the friendliest cat ever. Fantasy, and Sci Fi are among my favourite genres to read as well though I haven’t written a lot in either one. A bit of horror at times.

Thanks for reading.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 20, 2020:

Hey Greg, thanks for reading. I was writing this series regularly before I started Poems From the Porch. I have written a could since, the most recent before this ”Everville.”

It started when I had a case of writer’s block and was looking for inspiration. I chose a book off my shelf and the title struck a chord to write a poem about.

You’d be surprised by some of the titles and what they inspire. I have a rather eclectic collection of books myself. Some of those you mention would be great.

Anyway, have a great week, and hope you get more time to read soon.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 20, 2020:

Yes, Rinita, I admit to having devoted most of my time on Poems From the Porch, though I have written two or three of these Off the Shelf articles since. I think the last was ”Everville.”

Yes, it is funny how different cultures seem to have their own celebrations for similar things.

I agree fantasy seems to be almost over saturated these days. I guess it is a genre where anything goes and you can create new worlds. In other genres you are always at risk of repeating stories already told.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on October 20, 2020:

John, I didn't realize that Australians didn't celebrate Halloween. I guess we Americans are fortunate to be such a "melting pot" and have so many ethnic traditions. I guess you could say that Halloween had an ethnic origin. The poem was great -- a black cat crosses my path many times a day because we have one. I will check into the James Barclay fantasies. Fantasy and science fiction are my favorite genres to read, but for some reason my muse doesn't go in that direction.

greg cain from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 20, 2020:

John - this is fantastic! There's so much to enjoy here, and I learned also about your series that I did not know about before. Sorry, I have not read as much as created these past months, though I believe I'll be able to do more of both as the snow begins to fly here very shortly.

I never knew that 1 November was considered or believed to be the first of the year, but I really like the notion of chasing away the bad spirits...let's do that for 2020, should we? Because if we can do that, we are not too many days away from ending this nightmare...

I really love the idea of writing a poem based on the title of a book, though I'm looking and wondering where some of these might end up with my eclectic tastes: Andromeda Strain, Harry Potter, Thinking in Time, Orange Revolution, A Gentleman in Moscow are in view on the shelf now, as are Edison, Where the Crawdads Sing, and All Quiet on the Western Front. November might be a good time for that last one, considering Armistice was on 11 November 1918.

Anyway, I digress. Great piece of writing here, John. Thanks, and have a good week.

Rinita Sen on October 20, 2020:

It's been a while since you wrote something in this series. I think this series was forgotten when poems from the porch came in. Haha. This was a fun and interesting read. Although I'm aware of Halloween, we don't celebrate it here. But we have a similar day dedicated to the dead, and there are all kinds of horror stories associated with it, some humorous too. It's funny how similar things are seen in different cultures. Never read the book. There's just so much fantasy stuff out there these days, but your poem was as usual outstanding.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 20, 2020:

Hi Peggy,

Yes, I imagine Halloween celebrations will be really downplayed this year in the States. The virus is the monster in the midst. Glad you enjoyed the poem. Take care.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 20, 2020:

Halloween is a big deal here in the U.S., as you noted, and your poem did it justice. I'm not sure how it will be celebrated this year in the midst of a pandemic. Health experts are warning us to avoid gatherings or the usual trick and treating.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 20, 2020:

Hi Jason, glad you enjoyed this. It is a pity the virus will be spoiling Halloween celebrations for many. Yes, keep those lights off.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 20, 2020:

Thank you for reading this Linda. I am glad you are a fan of this series, and hope you can find this book series when the library reopens. If ever we have to drive evil spirits away it is at the end of this year. All the best for Reformation Day.

Jason Nicolosi from AZ on October 20, 2020:

Oops i mean "ghouls" not gools. Lol sorry

Jason Nicolosi from AZ on October 20, 2020:

Excellent John. Super interesting. The poem was obviously great, as usual. I learned somethings and had fun doing it. Happy Halloween. Keep up the great writing!

Halloween has always been enjoyed by my family. But this year we are more afraid of the Virus than the gools. So we are just staying in with the light out. Sorry kidos.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on October 20, 2020:

John, I've missed your Off the Shelf series and am glad you brought it back. You've given me another series of books to look for (if the library ever reopens). Your poem really captures the mood.

I'm a Lutheran so we didn't do the Halloween thing. For us Oct 31 is Reformation Day.

I can tell you from experience that Halloween is a big deal in Italy.

I like the concept of chasing away all the evil spirits of the past year. We need to do that with 2020.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 20, 2020:

I am glad you enjoyed the poem, Bobbi. There seems to be more happening each year now,,the stores are full of Halloween stuff, so let's see what happens. You have an enjoyable one too,

Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on October 20, 2020:


I enjoyed your poem very much. Yes, my friends and I loved Halloween and made our own costumes.

I hope you enjoy Halloween this year. I remember when we saw a black cat we would put an X in the air to keep us safe. Such sweet memories.

Bobbi Purvis

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 20, 2020:

Thanks, Bill. I know, Halloween never was celebrated here until the last few years. We just didn't like missing out on all the fun you guys were having.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 20, 2020:

Haha Eric, walking backwards to keep your eye on those shadows will give you and Gabe a whole lot of new Halloween fun, won't it?

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 20, 2020:

Hi Charlie. Thanks for reading. It is very likely where that saying "scared of your own shadow" came from.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2020:

Great fun, John! I don't know why, but it didn't really dawn on me that Halloween would be observed in Australia. Shows you how little I know about different cultures, eh?

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 20, 2020:

Well just in time. Now I will be an expert for my son. I never thought of walking backwards to see my shadow. By your account maybe a good idea.

Charlie Halliday from Scotland on October 20, 2020:

Agree with Lorna. A perfect poem for Halloween. Is this where the saying came from "scared of your own shadow" haha

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 20, 2020:

Thank you Lorna. I have never really had a chance to participate in Halloween, but the subject is of great interest and fun to write about. I am happy you found the poem displayed a sense of dread.

Lorna Lamon on October 20, 2020:

I've always loved Halloween which still appeals to the child in me. You have created a sense of dread and suspense in this wonderful poem John - perfect for Halloween. Great images.

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