Karakancoloz and Hallowe’en

Karakancoloz and Hallowe’en

On October 31st, the Celts used to celebrate the end of harvest and the beginning of winter, although all the preparations for winter had already been made.  This tradition comes from Roman times and Roman mythology, referring to Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds.


All Hallows' Eve falls on 31st October each year, and is the day before All Hallows' Day, also known as All Saints' Day in the Christian calendar. The Church traditionally held a vigil on All Hallows' Eve when worshippers would prepare themselves with prayers and fasting prior to the feast day itself.  In pre-Christian times, many people believed that spirits from the underworld and ghosts of dead people could visit the world of the living on this night.  These spirits could harm the living or take them back to the underworld.  To avoid this, people started dressing up as ghosts and spirits if they left their homes on this particular day. They hoped that this would confuse the ghosts and spirits.  The name is derived from the Old English 'hallowed' meaning holy or sanctified and is now usually contracted to the more familiar word Hallowe'en.  Hallowe’en is now celebrated in many countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia. Hallowe’en was also a time when spirits might give messages to people.

A common symbol is the pumpkin.  Pumpkins are carved into ugly creatures such as witches, goblins and ghosts.  Lights and/or candlesare fixed inside.  Witches fly on their broomsticks and travel from house to house asking for candies.

In this article, I want to tell you how Karakancoloz from Anatolia found its way to America and became Hallowe’en.In other words,‘karakancoloz’ is the same as the Hallowe’en witch.  I am going to give you some examples. In Gaziantep, there is a saying, “to become gancoloz,” meaning someone who does not go into a deep sleep or somehow is uncomfortable.  “You have a gancoloz child,” is a phrase that you can hear quite often.  Sometimes, a baby has difficulty falling asleep.  In thiscase, they say that ‘karakancoloz’ got into the child and that is the reason the child cannot get to sleep

Omer Asim Aksoy wrote a three-volume dictionary about the dialects of Gaziiantep, which is located in southeast Tirkey.  In his dictionary,’kancoloz’ means ‘phantom’.

In 2002, writer Mesta Yapici, who was from Izmir in western Turkey, published a book about pumpkin and zucchini dishes.   He included much information about both the pumpkin and zucchini.  He was from a region in western Turkey, an area that had a very large Greek population.  He said a calendar that is used by many farmers and targets January 18, 19, and 20 as days when the weather is extremely cold and called it Corazgecesi, meaning the night of the witches.  In other words, it is called ‘karacancaloz’.

The word coraz means hunchback.  It describes someone who has a wrinkled face, is ugly and very scary.  Supposedly, the ‘coraz’ enters a house through the chimney.  She has a magic comb that is made from horns.  When she combs someone’s hair it is very painful.  She then spits in the water jugs. Young girls make it a point to get home early so the witch cannot touch them.

Also, on this special day, okra is never cooked because cooked okra will allow slugs to come out. If you cook bulgour, your house will be infested with ants.  Therefore, pumpkin and zucchini are used instead.

Özhan Özturk, a Turkish writer and researcher, wrote for the first Turkish Folklore Encyclopedia and the first encyclopedic dictionary of the culture andfolklore of the peoples of the Black Sea region of Turkey.  He describes ‘gancoloz’as a man with dark hair or furlike an animal.  This man lives in the mountains, does not talk and only comes out on New Years.  You should be cautious because he can be very hamful to you. 

On the coldest way of the year, It is believed that the “karakancoloz” or “karakancilo” comes out when there is a strong wind, usually on the banks of small rivers.  He is harmful but there is a way to appease him.  You have to offer him local food: kuymak (made with flour and butter) and huliya.  To keep him away, you leave the food outside in the garden.  People shout, “What do you want? Kara kumakmıbuzakmı?”  “Do youwant a calf?”  If you don’t put anything out, he will eat your youngest son.
In some villages on the coast of the Black Sea, it is believed that the “karakancoloz” would come out during the first 6 days of January. Charcoals was used to mark the top of the barn door so he could not get in and usethe ropes and axes thatwere hidden.  Doors to the cellars and areas where food was kept would beclosed to bar entry.  In some places, it was also believed that the “karakancoloz” would eat the liver of a newborn baby.

A reference book by Pertev Naiii Boratav, aTurkish folklorist and researcher of folk literature, has been characterized as 'the founding father of Turkish folkloristics during the Republic.  He asserts that in April, farmers make fun of the month of March and because the month became ups it took away one day from the month of February, That particular day was very cold and windy and served as punishment for mocking it.

In the Armenian tradition, it is believed that at the end of February, ‘karakancoloz’ will enter your house and you have to be prepared.  To do this, in March, you have to take a stick and hit the walls of the house and the barn.  It should be done at the end of February and the beginning of March.  You have to shout, “Come in March, and go out February!”  Doing this sends,‘karakancoloz’ away.’
In Cappadocia, the Greeks call it ‘karakancoloz’. Dried fruits are put all over the house to keep him away.

On Christmas day, people bring holy water from the church and sprinkle it all over the house;‘Karakancoloz’ hates water and goes underground for the winter.

In Diyarbekır, they would put safety pins on their coats so that‘karakancoloz’ cannot take them away.

Did you ever think that this wandering,‘karakancoloz’ is celebrated each year on October 31st as Hallowe’en?




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