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First Halloween Costumes: Skins, Skulls, and Skirts

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Lydia King
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« on: October 31, 2009, 04:10:56 am »

Cross-Dressing and Horse-Heading During Halloween's Precursor

According to the University of Wisconsin's Arnold, on Samhain the boundary between the living and the dead was obliterated—as was the boundary between the sexes. Male youths would dress up as girls and vice versa, she wrote.

In Wales, for example, groups of mischievous young men in Halloween drag were referred to as hags.

In parts of Ireland, a man in a white horse costume known as Lair Bhan—an ancient Celtic fertility symbol—led noisy processions at Samhain.

Author Katharine Clark wrote in An Irish Book of Shadows that Lair Bhan was represented using white sheets and a wooden head.

"Some heads could be quite elaborate, complete with snapping jaws controlled by the man upon whose shoulders the entire structure rested," Clark wrote.
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