BY Jos Uvalles II
With Halloween around the corner, it is hard not to miss the green-skinned, warted witch who has been immortalized in popular culture by the Wicked Witch of the West from ‘The Wizard of Oz.” For those Broadway musical buffs our society has created an even more modern version, Elphaba from ‘Wicked.” Though sometimes we might not want to take the time to realize it, underneath all of the corporate packaging that goes into advertising Halloween, there lie remnants of ancient practices that honor and celebrate life’s less spoken of aspects.
Death, ghosts and the creepy things that go bump in the night are abjected the other 364 days of the year. On Halloween, we see then the one night of the year in which the scary and spooky are commemorated.
In modern Wicca and Neo-Paganism, Samhain is the time when we honor our ancestors as well as acknowledge the dark, silent and cold winter that is to come. Samhain is the witches’ New Year, so Wiccans and Neo-Pagans, recognize the veil between our physical world and the spirit world to be extremely thin. We reach out to our ancestors and we remember their active presence in our lives. Such practices are reflected in Mexico’s Dia de Los Muertos (celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2), when families leave offerings for their loved ones who have passed on at cemeteries or through the construction of an elaborate communal altar. These observances are a psychological and even spiritual reminder of the constant impact our dead relatives have upon us, even from beyond the grave.
Zsuzsanna Budapest, a well-known feminist witch, in laying out the manifesto of her female only Susan B. Anthony Coven Number 1, includes the statement, ‘We believe that female control of the death principle yields human evolution.” Let us put aside for a moment, then the feminist reading of this statement in order to best contextualize it: Our society is afraid of witches because they signify one’s suppressed ability to have control over the unknown. Any association humans have with death that is not clearly marked by conventional social standards is seen as unnatural and something to either fear or to be concerned with. How many times have we made fun of the emo or goth kid whose ideals might not be deathly, but who certainly looks creepy? Fear of the unknown is not only self-indulgent, but also disadvantageous to our own self-empowerment and to those concerned with spiritual growth of any kind.
Despite the attempts of celebrating not only death but also the horrific and scary is to acknowledge the reality of its existence. This in turn gives way as to why it is OK to indulge in and enjoy Halloween festivities. So watch a marathon of horror films, if only to just spook yourself into feeling something. That fear is an emotional response, an effect to a cause, the scary film. Go ahead and go out, have fun and enjoy yourself. That’s what Halloween is for anyway. It is a modern interpretation of ancient pagan practices. You are living and subconsciously honoring the macabre, spooky and dark aspects of life.
Uvalles II is a member of
the class of 2011.