We view the cute little ghoulies in costumes who ring our doorbells on Halloween with a benign fondness, and are calmed by an instant nostalgia for our own more innocent days.
We thrill to the creeping sweat on the backs of our necks caused by tense scenes in murder mysteries, and laugh uneasily when the malevolent maniac is thwarted by the intrepid cop in all of us.
But as with religion, we never make the connection between what we pretend to believe and how we act as a result of those beliefs, and so the allure of the vampire continues to stalk us in broad daylight.
Maybe it’s the shadowy threat of winter in the air and an ancient habit of worrying about dark and cold, but something about the last week in October makes us think dark thoughts, which Halloween — or Samhain, in the old Celtic tradition — celebrates.
This season was the beginning of the New Year in many rural areas of Europe. The actual time of transition, from sundown on Samhain to sundown the following day, was a “thin place” in the Celtic world, a place between the worlds where deep insights could pass more easily to those who were open to them.
Christianity would declare that these creatures of “otherness” were evil, but that only reveals how clumsy is the relationship between the West’s monotheism and much older, archetypal realms of the “imaginal.” The creative impulse is inherent in life. In humans, only when it is repressed by too many narrow minds full of rigid “do’s and don’ts” does it rebel and re-direct its power into malice and violence. At its worst, monotheism impoverishes the creative juices within us, demonizing them, closing us off from multidimensional realms all around us. Then we wonder why children use guns in schools which have been starved of the imaginal by the forced withdrawal of the arts, theatre, and music.
In this season of Samhain, we are reminded of other wondrous worlds existing side by side with our own, and we are invited to play, laugh, don disguises, delight in small miracles of human friendship, use common sense, and free our hearts to explore who and what we truly are.
From the UK comes Sig Lonegren’s fine essay on Samhain:
…While all of these Cross Quarter Days are all Fire Festivals, I feel each of the Celtic Cross Quarter Days is also associated with one of the four elements for the purposes of scrying. At Imbolc one looks at a bowl of Water to scry the future. Beltane is the time to look in to the Fire and burning embers to ruminate about the past. Lughnasad/Lammas uses a bowl of Earth to look at the now. The element of Samhain is Air. The veil to the other side is so thin at this time that you can see the spirits in the Air. You don’t need any scrying tools! Use the intuitive skills you already have inside. Be sure to use protection if you plan to scry at this time. You can do this by surrounding yourself with Love. Only Love may enter. All else will be turned away….
…So as this Samhain approaches, what is ending in you? What do you have inside that it is time to let go of? No healing is complete until you get beyond recovery. Use Samhain to take the thirteenth step: Transformation. In the Tarot, the thirteenth card of the Major Arcana is Death, and it is ruled by Scorpio. Samhain occurs in Scorpio. The card of Death doesn’t necessarily mean physical death (though it can mean that), but more productively, it can be seen as an inevitable heavy change or transformation. Something old must be gotten rid of to make room for something new to be able to come in. Use the magic of this time to say good-bye to an old habit or addiction, an old relationship, or anything else it is time to leave behind.
Hmm, how about getting rid of the white Western wraith known as the American/British/Israeli war machine that is currently in the process of enslaving the entire planet?
What is the message of our archetypal Halloween characters? What is it makes us thrill to horror? And most of all, why is this fun holiday all too accurately reflected in the behavior of our governments in their everyday affairs? Do we really hear what these characters — these ghosts — are telling us?
The characters we choose to portray on Halloween — Dracula, the Hunchback, and Dubya (I remember when Reagan was the No. 1 mask on Halloween, for more or less the same conscienceless behavior) — generally contain a message we want to send. Too few of us heed the messages of the characters we choose to emulate or represent.
Isn’t it time for some new Halloween characters? Ones that actually have some meaning in the real world, instead of mythical mirages from the pages of literature. I mean, in this day and age, there are plenty of eligible ghost personages deserving of public representation. And in fact, the reality of the world is much more gruesome than any fantasist could conjure.
Got a Halloween party to go to? Here are some character suggestions. Forget about the stereotypes. We’re talking real horror here. You want ghosts? Try these.
• Hunter S. Thompson. Dress as a disheveled hippie intellectual, paint the bullet holes on your forehead, and talk about snuff films and big name politicians debauching little boys somewhere in Nebraska.
Imagine how many unsettled ghosts there are who were killed in Africa from poisonous drug tests by American pharmaceutical giants. What would THEY look like?
• Rachel Corrie. Smear the fake blood on a white blouse, dye your hair red, and talk about how it’s wrong to bulldoze a person’s house with a family inside simply because you believe they’re an inferior species of animal. Then contemplate what it feels like to have an Israeli bulldozer crush your chest.
Have you, as an American, ever contemplated what it must have been like for a little Iraqi boy to keep asking his mother why it was they were being bombed and all their relatives were dead? There is a sad surfeit of Iraqi ghosts this Halloween, all singing the same song to every American: “Why did you kill us?”
• Don Wiley, the dead microbiologist found on the Mississippi River bridge in Memphis. Dress any way you like (he was a Harvard professor) and tell us about the bird flu, Don, and the thimerosal in the vaccines, the barium in the chemtrails, the fluoride in the water, the MSG in the food supply, nonreproducing biotech seeds, the prions in the deer, the depleted uranium particles in uteruses ….
I personally may dress up this year as a high school student who was bored to death by school.
• Margie Schrodinger, the black Texas housewife who claimed to be gangraped by Dubya and his cohorts, a story that no one would even investigate. Authorities ruled her death a suicide, and of course, that opens up a whole new category of potential Halloween costumes, those who apparently were suicided, from James Hatfield to Vince Foster to Danny Casolaro, all of whom have great stories to tell us from beyond the grave.
I’m told by fiends, I mean friends, that the Iraqi prisoner who was draped in electrical wires and a black cape is the top new Halloween costume for this season.
If you think these are in bad taste, let me respectfully point out that there is no worse taste than a people who accept obvious lies as an excuse to kill people and rob them, who ignore the mass murder of 3,000 of their own countrymen without even a decent investigation, and who are too afraid to even say to their own leaders, “Just tell the truth.”
Still stuck for a decent Halloween costume? Don’t worry. We’re making ghosts a lot faster now.
And if all else fails, you can always go as the scariest, most menacing character of all this Halloween, the one surest to invoke pure and unadulterated horror at the evil injustice and wanton cruelty that forged his reputation across many decades of blood, false statements and broken promises. You can go as an American.