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The noun is from the Old English adjective hālig, nominalised as se hālga "the holy man". The Gothic word for "holy" is either hailags or weihaba, weihs. "To hold as holy" or "to become holy" is weihnan, "to make holy, to sanctify" is weihan. Holiness or sanctification is weihiþa. Old English, like Gothic, had a second term of similar meaning, wēoh "holy", with a substantive wīh or wīg, Old High German wīh or wīhi (Middle High German wîhe, Modern German Weihe). The Nordendorf fibula has wigiþonar, interpreted as wīgi-þonar "holy Donar" or "sacred to Donar". Old Norse vé is a type of shrine. The weihs group is cognate to Latin victima, an animal dedicated to the gods and destined to be sacrificed.
In current usage
In modern English usage, the noun "hallow" appears mostly in compounds in Halloween and Hallowmas. Halloween (or Hallowe'en) is a shortened form of "All Hallow Even," meaning "All Hallows' Eve" or "All Saints' Eve." Hallowmas, the day after Halloween, is shortened from "Hallows' mass," and is also known as "All Hallows' Day" or "All Saints' Day."
Hallows can refer to saints, the relics (including remains) of the saints, the relics of gods, or shrines in which relics are kept. Since the essence of these saints or gods were often considered present at their shrines and in their relics, hallows came to refer to the saints or gods themselves, rather than just their relics or shrines. Because of these various usage possibilities, the hallowed (sacred) hallows (relics) of a hallowed (holy) hallow (saint) might be hallowed (venerated) in a hallowed (consecrated) hallow (shrine).
Some important and powerful objects in legends could be referred to as "hallows" because of their function and symbolism. The Tuatha de Danaan in Ireland possessed the Four Treasures of Ireland which could be interpreted as "hallows": the Spear of Lugh, Stone of Fal, the Sword of Light of Nuada, and The Dagda's Cauldron.
In the modern period, some neo-pagans believe that the four suits in the Rider-Waite Tarot cards deck (swords, wands, pentacles and cups), which are also a representation of the four classical elements of air, fire, earth and water, are also hallows.
Coronation ceremonies for monarchs still invokes four ritual objects, now represented as the sceptre, sword, ampulla of oil, and crown. Similar objects also appear in Arthurian legends, where the Fisher King is the guardian of four "hallows" representing the four elements: a dish (earth), Arthur's sword Excalibur (air), the Holy Lance or spear, baton, or a magic wand (fire), and the Holy Grail (water).
Earlier Welsh tradition, as recorded in Trioedd Ynys Prydain, also refers to Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain. Symbolically, these could also be interpreted as "hallows", although they are not actually described as such in the medieval Welsh texts.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the seventh and final book in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. The Deathly Hallows refer to three legendary magical objects (supposedly obtained from Death himself) mentioned in a fairy tale: the Elder Wand, which possessed the ability to conquer all others in battle, the Resurrection Stone, which could summon the souls of the deceased, and the Cloak of Invisibility, which could conceal the wearer from most forms of detection and shield them from various magic spells. Together the objects were said to make their owner a "Master of Death".[HP7]
- The Thirteen Hallows by Michael Scott deals with the Thirteen Hallows of Britain.
- "Dictionary.com". Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. 15 January 2007. Retrieved 23 January 2007.
- Webster's Collegiate Dictionary entry for hallowed
- Webster's Collegiate Dictionary entry for Halloween
- Webster's Collegiate Dictionary entry for Hallowmas
- "The Fisher King". University of Idaho. April 1999. Retrieved 23 January 2007.
- Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press.
- "Arthurian A-ZZ". Mystical WWW. Retrieved 16 February 2007.
- Alastor Moody's magical eye and the homenum revelio spell could overcome the cloak's stealth.[HP4] Moreover, Dementors used people's emotions to perceive their location, so the cloak was useless against them.[HP3]
- Walter Baetke, Das Heilige im Germanischen, Tübingen 1942.