Praying for the Dead – All Souls Day

Hamilton Cemetery, Hamilton (Ont). Photo by @erskinec
Hamilton Cemetery, Hamilton (Ont). Photo by @erskinec

Praying for the dead – All Souls Day

Nov 2nd – Today is All Souls Day. The practice dates back to the early Middle Ages when people wanted to know what happen to their love ones between time they died and arriving in heaven.

While there were several different versions of how one reaches heaven, it was clear by the early Middle Ages that there would be a gap between dying and arriving at the pearly gates.

This is where the notion of purgatory enters the picture. Purgatory was the place where you cleanse your sins earned during your lifetime. Everyone spent some time here, but those who had lived a good life would move onto heaven more quickly.

Again, people wanted to know if there was anything they could do to shorten their departed love ones time in purgatory and the answer was you could pray for their souls.

Of course, the more prays you offered, the shorter their time in purgatory.

This created an incentive for the rich to have people pray full-time for their love ones. Within a few years, a whole industry developed around this practice and would eventually lead to the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.

In the meantime, poor people began to ask how could they save departed love ones from the torture of purgatory. They spent all their time working in the fields and didn’t have the money to hire people to pray for their departed love ones.

As a result, the Church set aside one day in the year when everyone prayed for all the departed souls. Thus, helping to shorten everyone’s time purgatory.

While the practice of praying for all souls developed in several different regions of Europe, the practice really became popular after 1100.

There is also a connection between ghosts, Halloween, and purgatory.

In the Middle Ages, there two type of ghosts: demons and souls of the departed.

Ghosts Souls might appear to the living to ask for prayer to end their suffering in purgatory. Other dead souls might appear to urge the living to confess their sins before it was too late.

Medieval ghosts were paler and sadder versions of their former living selves. They often appeared in tattered grey rags.

In some traditions, All Souls Day, was the time when the dead souls might return home. This tradition builds on the Celtic belief of the in-between times that All Hallows marked.

Finally, some people avoid getting married in November because of the associations with death and it being considered an unlucky month.

So, that is a lay person’s version of the history of All Souls Day.

The Ghost Story of Lover’s Lane

Odds and Ends – an artist’s notebook

Oct 26th – In the spirit of Halloween, I have re-posted an edited version of last year’s short film: the Legend of Lover’s Lane. Based on the long standing legend from Ancaster (Ont) of what happen at the Hermitage Mansion in the early years of the 19th century.

The Ghost of Lover’s Lane – Hermitage Ruins in Ancaster, Ontario

Odds and Ends – Monday June 8, 2015

Chris Erskine, Urban Landscape Artist, outside the campus art gallery
Chris Erskine, Urban Landscape Artist; outside the campus art gallery.

In the next week or so, the re-building of the Hermitage Ruins will begin.  My understanding is that the process will start with the numbering of all the stone in the main structure.  I have not heard yet whether they are going to save the remains of the outer buildings or not.

Last year, I had the good fortune to have the founder of Ghost Walks to show me the ruins. He told me the tale of Lover’s Lane and the Hermitage Ruins.  A few weeks later, I went on the actual tour – at night.  It was an amazing experience, and I strongly recommend the experience to everyone.

For those of you who missed the original posting, here is a repeat of the Legend of Lover’s Lane.

Chris Erskine



The Legend of Lover’s Lane (The Hermitage Ruins)

A short film by Chris Erskine about the legend of ghosts and hauntings at the Hermitage Ruins; located in Ancaster, Ontario.  A small community located on the edge of the City of Hamilton, Ontario.

Chris Erskine


#SavetheHermitage Update

A quick update on the latest developments for the Hermitage Ruins, located in Ancaster, Ontario.

Please don’t forget to email 159 words of support to Hamilton City Council prior to Wed’s vote on saving the Hermitage.

Chris Erskine

#SavetheHermitage – Call to Action

Call to Action – Email 159 words of support to Hamilton City Council by 5 pm, Sept 24, 2014 to save the Hermitage Ruins that are located in Ancaster, Ontario. One word for every year that the Hermitage has existed. Council needs to know that the community will support their decision to save the Hermitage.

Here is the link to the Councillors emails

Thank you in advance for your support

Chris Erskine