28 October 2013

Halloween! (A Warning to the Unserious!)

'Tis the end of Octember and the spooks are about, so it seems the thing to do is to wax poetic on the Halloween and Samhain themes.

For the quick studies among us, I offer these "cheat sheets":

Some Halloween history   and    Some Samhain history

On the personal side, I haven't cared much for the day. Love the season, but not the rituals. I've never been a ritual kind of guy. But I have history on my side...my backside, thankfully.

First Halloween I remember (didn't know about Samhain then) was in a distant realm where costumes were crafted by hand. I perfected the robot by combining several boxes, a larger one for the body, a smaller one for the head, still others for feet. Arms and legs remained sheathed in cloth. In the second grade I won a prize for having the best costume. What was special about the robot costume was that the non-steam-powered device was also an early form of the personal computer. If someone were to write out a question and introduce the slip of paper through the designated slot in the body of the robot, the robot would [eventually] produce a verbal answer to the question. The robot proved to be 90% accurate, which pre-Windows, was a remarkable feat.


Then came other costumes full of commercial interests: characters from TV shows, classical monsters, space aliens (the fierce and loathsome kind, not ET), and finally the minimalist kind of costume. Minimalist? You know the type: you put on a clean shirt and glasses and say you are dressed as a "nerd". Later, as an adult, I graced one-maybe-two adult Halloween parties where others went full out as sexy witches and vampire studs. I was still dressed as a nerd--still long before nerds were cool.

I often went trick or treating with my cousin, but our chief goal was less about collecting candy than harassing his sisters. Gradually, we forgot the costumes and ran wild through the night, sending rolls of toilet paper up into the trees of houses where girls who did not like him lived. We could, by then, buy our own candy--and we did. Then the reverse happened.  We became candy givers! Definitely less fun. Ah, I have not given out candy for many years now. You see, congruent with my emerging adulthood came the cultural shift away from children ringing doorbells and begging for treats. Too dangerous now--pins in candy, creepy pedophiles, whatever.

Well, it was never really about the candy or the costumes, anyway, I soon learned while hanging out with people who called themselves witches.  Real witches. Though they dressed like "ordinary" people, they had many of the same beliefs I held at that time. None of us threatened people nor begged for snacks. A few preferred to dress in black year-round, and all wore the pentacle around their necks or emblazoned on their black t-shirts. All in all a friendly, charming bunch of social rebels whose chief activity was "raising awareness" of their existence, then complaining that everyone disrespected them.

Other cultures celebrate death and welcome back the dead at this time of the year. That's fine with me. I've had it both ways--err, well, perhaps not both ways in the way you might be thinking. Someday I will, of course. No, what I meant was the fun side and the serious side of the day. Now, however, it seems like just another commercial venture: Halloween "memorabilia" is presented in stores hours after Labor Day has ended. I can deal with fake cobwebs and spiders and bats, even a few talking skulls or laughing zombie heads, but let's be real.

Death ain't so great. That's what I was told by a rather decayed ancestor of mine who happened to pop up in the middle of the night beside my bed--a day early, no less--just to warn me that one of these Halloween nights I might not be around to celebrate much of anything. I said, in my sleepy voice, "Fair enough."

The laughter that followed my ancestor out through the cracks in the walls was unnerving enough to get me up out of bed. I had to splash cold water on my face and awaken fully, just to be sure I was still alive. Shaking my head in front of the mirror with all the lights on, I knew it had not been a dream.

So, carefully, I made my way back to bed yet lay awake for hours, unable to close my eyes, afraid of the next snap, crack, squeak, creak, breath, or sigh--most of them, thankfully, coming from my neighbors arriving home late when the bars finally closed.

And the dawn sprite told me to go to sleep; my time has not come.

3 comments:

  1. I dress up to hand out candy. The small town I live in comes alive with the walking dead after dark on halloween, and you must dole out chocolate to keep them friendly.

    I dress up in my working uniform, (Black pointy hat, black cape, black dress) and do my witchly duty.

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  2. Connie, you're a credit to your costume!

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  3. Stephen, I loved this post--still trying to picture you TP-ing someone's house though.

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