October 31, 2009

Tales from the Dark Side

Halloween, like so many other cultural celebrations, has emerged from ancient rituals associated with several different historical eras. According to History.com, the Celtic festival of Samhain (a celebration that acknowledged the blurring of worlds between the living and the dead) and the later Roman festival of Feralia (a commemoration of the passing of the dead), both took place at the end of October and serve as the origins of what is currently referred to as Halloween. Due to later Christian influences, November 1st was dubbed "All Saints' Day," a time to honour saints and martyrs. In Middle English "Alholowmesse" means All Saints' Day, and over time the Celtic Samhain festival began to be referred to as "All-hallows Eve" and eventually, Halloween.

We are tapping into a rich cultural tapestry each year on October 31st. It is a time when people, young and old, are permitted to transform and become something "other" than what they are. I believe this to be a fascinating and important ritual. As adults, we are given the rare opportunity to become anything from ridiculous, to cute, to bawdy, to grotesque, and for one day, friends and strangers alike laugh and nod and allow us this transgression. It is a day to inhabit our own personal angels and demons; we can be that which we wish we were, or that which we could never imagine being. What a gift it is to experience the "other," both within and without.

Tonight, I am going to be a Pink Lady from Grease fame. Past costumes include a gypsy, a forest nymph (one of my personal favs), a garbage bag (I had confidence issues in elementary school), a gigantic sock, a hippie (another fav), Cleopatra, Barbra Streisand in Hello, Dolly!, and the list goes on.

I have, of course, seen many versions of Michael Jackson wandering around this year. The cultural phenomenon of Thriller and the legacy of his life are acting as a resurrection of sorts. And is this not the heart of this ancient ritual? To blur the lines between the living and the dead and honour their contributions and their sacrifices?

I am eager to see what the inhabitants of Vancouver bring out of their closets, costume stores, and Value Village pillages on this ancient night of the dead. My black cat, Cleo, will sit in silhouette on the window ledge, watching numerous souls haunt the streets, perhaps perceiving more than me.

1 comment:

  1. I think Halloween is the BEST holiday ever! I love love love it. I think we and the entire writing crew need to go to Burning Man this summer so as to experience a week-long Halloween. Radical self-expression, play, and transformation...
    - Sigal