Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Dressing up for Halloween

And so we enter that time of year when the Beaker People agonise over what to do about Halloween. I don't know why they bother. The ritual for Samhain is exactly the same this year as it is every year, ever since the Great Liturgy was defined by Archdruid Arabica in 579BC, before the coming of the Red Haired Invaders. Simply put, we stand around the Wicker Person praying that light will one day come back to the land, while looking forward to the taste of the wicker-roast chicken and baked potatoes that we will fish out of the embers while trying not to get pin-hole burns in our Hi-viz.

But still they worry about whether the now-traditional Halloween rituals in this country are an incitement to children to dabble in the occult. And on the whole, without any serious statistical analysis available, I have to say I doubt it.

Let's consider the traditional Halloween costumes. A witch, for example. Said witch, in pointy black hat with evil ugly face, is pretty well an invention of the early modern era, when in a time of mutual distrust between Protestants and Catholics, everybody decided they needed someone else to blame. So they picked old ladies and other odd people. The genuine old English beliefs in Evil Eye (being "overlooked") and the insertion of pins in "poppets" - not a voodoo spell at all - don't feature that much in Halloween.

Then there's the red-clothed devils. Again, a post-Biblical invention. Middle Ages this time. Why do evangelical Christians insist on scare-mongering on the basis of a Catholic creation? Let's face it, if the Dark One really did appear, looking like Pan in a Man Utd replica strip, nobody would go near him. That's why he doesn't - instead sneaking up, whispering in your ear, making cunning suggestions, coming in the guise of things that are attractive, not repulsive. He's evil but he's not an idiot.

And then the skeletons and ghosts - maybe confused echoes of the association with All Souls' and its Catholic manifestations in particular. But again, nobody expects to be able to summon up dancing skeletons. Nobody confuses these silly outfits with anyone doing serious spirit-summoning. There are programmes on the telly that worry me, and mediums that worry me - but the mediums more than  the ghost-watches, as they  peddle a message of no judgement, no moral responsibility - and an eternity like a front-room in Morecambe on a rainy day.

If we really wanted to send people out to be scary, maybe we'd be looking at costumes representing the things that have really brought some evil into the world, or allowed it to flourish. How about the EU bio-fuel subsidy, which wastes energy and reduces food production so we can put inefficiently-produced diesel in our vans? How about the kind of commodity trading that thrives on food shortages as it pushes prices up? What about the kind of systems that fail those who should be protected - the organisational failures in social services, letting girls be exploited because the organisations are worried about being accused of racism, or because they're star-struck, or they just don't care about the children?

But to be fair, if we sent people out dressed as commodities speculators, bio-fuel technologists and failed social services and police chiefs, we really would terrify the neighbours. Perhaps we'll just stick to the pumpkins.


  1. excellent Archdeacon, thank you

  2. I'm not so sure about the red devil in a Man Utd costume - just look at Rooney - see what I mean? The devil's spawn....

  3. Marvellous - thank you. Especially th bit about the Dark One coming in the guise of the attractive. Ouch! Doesn't he/she/it just? And I suppose that's exactly what he/she/it doesn't want us to cotton on to... Screwtape advises his devil protege something like: "suggest to him a picture of something in red tights and since he can't believe it that (it's an old textbook method of confusing them) he won't believe in you".

    Happy All Hallows' when it comes!

  4. Yes, Happy All Hallows to you all! I've still to post this Halloween, and intend to l point to your wise words, oh Archdruid.


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