For years I felt freakish and aberrant. A grown man, well into maturity, who never lost his passion for Halloween, or Samhain as the ancient Celtic people called it. But with each year I learn how many adults, many well into the Golden Years, have also retained their love and excitement for Halloween. Some thoughts:
The psychologist Carl Jung believed there is a collective unconscious; that we all share ancient memories and beliefs that are inherent in the human psyche. We are drawn to Halloween and yearn for its arrival before the times of cold and darkness are upon us. We may never have harvested, but we remember the harvest. We may not be hunters, but we know the excitement of the hunt when The Hunter’s Moon glows from above. But Halloween presents a contradiction.
Halloween is in stark contradiction to most of our major holidays. There are Pagan elements and symbols in Christian based holidays like Christmas and Easter (mistletoe, eggs and rabbits, all of which relate to fertility and procreation, but have been neutered of their true meanings). But Halloween has successfully resisted being co-opted and remains essentially Pagan. Attempts to Christianize this Pagan holiday in the guise of All Saints Day or All Hallows Eve have failed.
Halloween is that time, that day and especially that night, when we are allowed to reconnect with our ancient roots; when fear and guilt are overwhelmed by excitement, and we revel in things seen and not seen. We feel it in the air, sense it underfoot and see it in the sky. Is that odd shaped cloud really a cloud? Doesn’t it look, at least somewhat, like a witch on a broomstick? Are those shadows really shadows, or shades from the spirit world?
This is not a day and night of contrition, shame or guilt. This sacred time is not for flagellants and brow beaters, when we must cower beneath the oppression of The One God, the God of floods and plagues. Was it not the poet Ezra Pound who said we should never have turned our backs on the Pagan gods? The spirits of Halloween smile like gleeful jack-o-lanterns and expect, for at least one night, that we feel joy and exhilaration as we dance before the bonfires of Samhain, bold, ecstatic, fearless and without shame.
Admit it- we’re all at least a little bit Pagan.
Treat- Or Trick?
Old house- old woman. A witch? We were afraid to knock on her door.
The most coveted treats were homemade- the candied colored apples; the sugary buttery pop corn balls. So trusting then. Razor blades? Poison? Allowing such treats now would be child endangerment.
The dichotomy then- the joy of running from house to house, amassing candy wealth in billowing pillow cases, balanced with a nocturnal dread. Things can happen, those unspeakable things that go bump in the night.
Innocence dies a slow death, like a Jack-O-Lantern, turning soft and black, rotting in the November sun. A Halloween will come, perhaps next year.
Bolder now, we approach the old house where the old woman lives, and knock.
She opens the door. “Trick or treat!” Why, she does not look like an evil witch, a cackling hag with a long crooked nose capped with a gnarled wart. She looks like grandma. A doting loving grandma. She smiles with delight at our varied costumes, and doles out homemade treats: candied covered apples; sweet buttery popcorn balls.
She is generous- and wise in the ways of tricks and treats – and of razor blades and poison.