Every year, I hear someone accuse my favorite holiday of being “satanic.” And, well. . . Halloween is no more satanic than a piece of candy corn or a glass of milk. To me, the holiday’s history is crucial to the understanding of culture and how these beliefs develop. Our world, cultures, beliefs, and nuances will shift and shift again. One day, Halloween may very well be the night of the proverbial devil — but it is not right now.
Possibly, the reason why Halloween gets its notorious reputation is because some of the activities conducted may not be preferable to those who don’t like the darker elements. Even I don’t like everything the holiday has to offer; I’m not a fan of gore pr0n in the slightest. My darkness tends to be in the shadows, more Victorian, and undoubtedly shrouded in fantastical mystery as opposed to buckets and buckets of blood. This is what fuels my writing moreso than a modern-day horror story. I also cannot bring myself to write stories specifically about violence against groups like women, sexualized or not, children, religious groups, etc. etc. etc. Writing violence for the sake of writing violence is simply writing violence. For me, there’s no story there because it’s not about light overcoming dark, or dark swallowing up more darkness, or dark swallowing light, it’s simply unsettling atmosphere.
Certainly, All Hallow’s Eve gets a bad rap because of gory-and-disturbing images coupled with a misunderstanding of what modern-day Wicca is, but it’s also the red-headed stepchild of holidays because, ironically enough, of its pagan origins. (I say “ironically” because many of the major holidays have pre-Christianity roots dating back to ancient times (Easter/Eostre, Christmas/Mithras Day, etc.) The reason why these feast days are celebrated are often buried beneath the trappings of the holiday — bonfires, brooms, trick-or-treating, potato-pumpkin carving, etc. And, as a storyteller, I’m always about the “why’s” and “what if’s.” So, the wrappings of a particular day obscure the meaning of Halloween, much like some claim the true spirit of Christmas is lost to commercialism.
Halloween marked the end of the harvest and a day to remember the dead. While many know about the Celts, they weren’t the only culture that celebrated a holiday with that purpose in mind. (Almost every culture has some custom, either tied to a specific day or not, that was developed for almost the same purpose at some point during the year. To some extent, that’s what Memorial Day has turned into — a day to honor the dead. And don’t forget about All Saint’s Day!) The day survived in the United States largely due to the mashing of beliefs as Irish immigrants flocked to here, but it also flourished out of commercialism. The image of the witch riding a broom? Popularized by advertising and Hollywood. Black cat? Well, that’s a good example of how advertising tapped into a fear of cats as a witch’s familiar, its “causing” the Black Plague, and the feline’s unique biology that developed to mimic a hungry child. Indeed, businesses often capture and re-purpose older superstitions to fuel new ones. Want to understand a culture? Look not only to its churches or schools or plays or libraries — take a peek at what’s being sold and how.
With so many nuances, ranging from religious beliefs to mundane aspects of our daily lives, you’re probably seeing the reason why I’m drawn to digging for the origins of holidays like this. As an author and reader, I see a lot of stories here that resonate throughout the year. Often, something simple that begins with one intended purpose later means its opposite. Devil masks, for example, were often worn to scare away the devil (and still are, for some holidays like Setsubun), not worship them. Though, some people definitely believe that. That one example fascinates me. How? Why? When?
I’m lucky in that I’m a storyteller so I can explore these questions and more in my sordid tales. That’s what Halloween, in all its myriad forms, has given me. I can’t think of a holiday more mercurial and more hotly contested than this one. Well, maybe Earth Day, but that’s another blog post for a future point in time.
- Mood: Spooky
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Bubbles. Dear stars and stripes. BUBBLES!
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: My muscles are revolting.
In My Ears: The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Origins
Movie Last Viewed: The Raven
Latest Artistic Project: In progress!
Latest Release: “Fangs and Formaldehyde” from the New Hero anthology through Stone Skin Press