It’s the season of spooky spirits, ghastly ghouls and things that go bump in the night. A trio of Edinboro University faculty members will share the historic and cultural aspects of Halloween-related icons on Monday, Oct. 30, in Compton Hall Room 107A.
Spookily titled “Witches, Cannibals, Skulls,” the 6 p.m. presentation will feature Dr. Jerra Jenrette and Professor Amanda Frantz-Mamani, from EU’s Department of History, Politics, Languages and Cultures, and Dr. Lenore Barbian, from the Department of Criminal Justice, Anthropology, and Forensic Studies who also serves as a fellow in the Institute for Forensic Sciences. Sponsored by the academic departments, Anthropology Club, Criminal Justice Club and History Club, the panel is free and open to the public.
Each presenter takes her own look at themes such as the “Day of the Dead,” societal attitudes about witches and the world’s fascination with cannibalism.
“This presentation focuses on the history of one of the nation's most popular holidays, Halloween, by looking at its origins, growth and impact,” said Jenrette, who has taken students to visit historic sites in Salem, Mass., every October for nearly 20 years. “We will also consider the ways in which the image of the witch has shaped societal attitudes about Halloween, and how it has changed over time.”
Barbian, who directs EU’s Anthropology Program, has studied ethnographic and historic accounts of cannibalism, which have long fascinated American culture despite evidence for such behavior remaining ambiguous and contradictory. Recent reports about cannibalism among the Anasazi people of the American Southwest appear to offer the first scientific and concrete evidence for widespread consumption of human flesh.
“These reports interpret the treatment of the corpse as an indication that bodies were cooked and bones smashed as the flesh was eaten,” Barbian explained. “Moreover, it is argued that this cannibalism supplied a necessary foodstuff for the society that was suffering from a long-term drought. However, analyzing the evidence through a cross-cultural approach suggests that there are other interpretations for the apparent corpse mutilation.”
When people hear about Day of the Dead, one of the first thoughts that come to mind is the celebration in Mexico. According to Frantz-Mamani, the reality is that the Day of the Dead is also celebrated by Mexicans and Mexican Americans in the U.S.
“Related images such as sugar skulls and Doña Catrina have become part of American popular culture,” said Frantz-Mamani, director of EU’s Spanish minor, who has also researched celebrations in other Latin American countries with names such as Día de todos los Santos and Día de los Finados. “This presentation will also discuss Día de los Difuntos in Peru and the significant influence of Andean culture to illustrate some of the similarities and differences of the holiday.”
For more information about EU’s academic programs and events on campus, visit www.edinboro.edu.