Like a lot of other Pagan witches in the U.S., I wholeheartedly celebrate both Halloween and Samhain, the former being a secular, cultural (and certainly, commercial) interpretation of the greater themes of mortality, ancestor reverence, and the celebration of the Witches’ New Year/the Third Harvest that find expression in ritual celebrations of Samhain (“Summer’s End” in Gaelic). October 31 has always been my favorite day of the year ever since early childhood.
And I’ve got to say, as a 43-year-old woman who excels at “adulting” in daily life, that childhood nostalgia combined with an ongoing celebration of my wonder-filled, joyous, and playful “inner child” are largely what fuel my absolute delight surrounding this day.
That delight comes from so many sources: the chance to harness your imaginative capacity for redefining your identity via new personae created through fanciful costumes and accoutrements; the sight of bulbous pumpkins everywhere–like so many cheerful orange balloons–whether they’re decorating the front porches of houses or office interiors au naturale or whether they’re carved into fantastic Jack-o-lanterns; greeting trick-or-treating children (sometimes, entire families!) when they ring the doorbell; inhaling the invigorating scents of candles; experiencing the thrill of receiving–and sending–Halloween cards in the mail; cooking specific meals and treats (baked apples, mmmm!) at this time of year; telling/listening to a goosebump-inducing ghost story…I could go on and on, as there are many pleasures and treasures associated with Halloween, but these are just a few of my favorites.
The Chicago neighborhood I grew up in, despite being a zone contested between rival street gangs (my Catholic elementary/middle school taught us early on which colors of shoelaces were to be steadfastly avoided with our white gym shoes!), was a wonderful place to celebrate the fullness of the seasons, and Halloween made the streets take on a special aura all their own. I loved trick-or-treating with my brother Mark and my father, plus my best friend Julie and her younger brother, Matt. Invariably, I wound up sojourning onto the stoops of various apartment buildings and the front porches of houses arrayed in my black gymnast’s clothes and a black headband sporting cat ears plus a belted plush black tail as my costume for the evening on more than one Halloween. I took great pride in how I would apply my face paint, carefully seeking to capture my own cats’ faces in the process (a skill of mine that was enhanced after my first spellbinding viewing of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, “CATS”). In particular I remember with heart-melting fondness the Halloween of 1982, when Mark, then 12 years old, proudly debuted his firecracker costume, a clever cardboard contraption that he assembled and painted all by himself, rope wick and all. We hauled in happy plastic, grinning Jack-o’-lantern buckets of candy and even rolls of quarters from the very generous Oscar of Oscar’s Videos on Lincoln Ave. I remember how I loved shoving the entire roll of Smarties candy in my mouth at once, giggling as the tart flavors assaulted the back of my jaw.
My father loved to listen to country music–back then it was good stuff, not the pop shyte that dominates the airwaves today–and I would repeatedly ask him to play one song in particular from the 1980 album Full Moon by The Charlie Daniels Band. It was the song called “The Legend of Wooley Swamp.” Everything about this ballad set in an actual North Carolina swamp captured my imagination, starting from the time that I was in second grade, with a force that would only be rivaled by classical music when it came to the aural pleasure of spooky melodies I wanted to listen to during the Halloween season. Mr. Daniels’ evocative storytelling had me feeling as if I too could see the ghost of Lucius Clay taking his revenge on his trio of young murderers and would-be thieves. I could practically feel the Spanish moss dangling from the eldritch trees… I loved that song fiercely as a young child, and I love it still. What songs do you love to listen to that you associate with Halloween?
I’m too new at my current job to have taken today off as a religious holiday, but it makes me very happy to know that my little advertising agency is about to invite us all into the kitchen for an hour-long Halloween lunch/pizza party featuring a costume contest. The winner and runner-up will receive prizes. I’m dressed as rocker Tom Petty today, so let’s see how I’ll fare against some of my more traditionally dressed, and thereby spooky, coworkers. I’m looking forward to going home, of course, and placing candles inside the carved Jack-o’-lanterns Dan and I placed on our east-facing balcony: this past weekend, as soon as the Dark Moon entered Scorpio on Saturday night, they were consecrated as wards for the house, protecting us against all manner of mischief. As I place lighted candles inside them, I will chant:
With this candle,
And by its light,
I welcome ye spirits this Halloween night!
Happy Halloween! Boo-ti-ful blessings to you and your ancestors!