Every year, as the leaves begin to turn and cooler breezes finally beat back the heat of summer, we prepare ourselves for the great ritual. With the turning of the calendar from October to November, pumpkins invade the produce section, waxy harvests of candy corn appear on the store shelves and two great forces make ready for war.
On the one side, we find the various warriors for Christ, an ever expanding team of evangelical busy-bodies who feel the need to expose Halloween for the festering demonic ritual they believe it to be. Bobbing for apples and trick-or-treating are, they believe, clear signs that Satan has his evil hooks in our lives and the end-times are surely upon us. Only by abstaining from these dark pleasures and praying for the forgiveness of Jesus do they believe that we, the benighted degenerate masses, can hope to avoid the fires of perdition.
The other side in this yearly conflict is composed of those who just want to have some holiday fun. The vast majority of people simply enjoy dressing their kids up in cute costumes, decorating their homes in harvest colors and maybe watching some spooky movies along the way. There is no religious component in it for these folks and certainly no diabolical intent. The most they expect from Halloween is that it gives them a chance to indulge in a little harmless fun and fantasy.
Two opposing factions: one composed of determined crusaders, the other indifferent revelers.
And every year the Pagans are stuck right in the middle.
Samhain is, to a great many of us, our most sacred holy day. There are even a few slivers of truth lurking in those Chick Tracts that people still insist on handing out to trick-or-treaters every year.
The transition from October to November DOES mark the dawning of the new year within the Celtic belief system. The veil between the worlds IS thought to be at its thinnest during this time of year and the spirits of the beloved dead ARE invited into our homes. And while all these things are true, the kids in the Tinkerbell and Ninja Turtle costumes don’t care. I doubt that their parents care much either. If the fictional “Lord of Death” didn’t scare them off we are probably doing fine.
No one dresses their kids up and takes them out at night looking for extremist monotheist dogma. Neither do they hold Halloween parties so that the Pagan community can educate them about the holiday and it’s actual historical context.
Yet, every October we clog the internet with educational blog posts and YouTube videos filled with disjointed clipart and stilted narrations of historical fact. It is as if the birth of the new year is seen as open season for Pagan Evangelizing.
Give it up my friends!
If these people are not swayed by all the vitriolic propaganda of the fire and brimstone crowd, they are not likely to flock to our banner either. Mostly, they are concerned with more immediate issues like: if the Catwoman costume she bought is too risqué for the office costume party? (probably, but if you can pull it off, I say go for it), should they carve real pumpkins again this year or buy those pre-carved ceramic ones? (always carve real pumpkins, what are you, barbarians?!), and what is really in Candy Corn? (some things are better not known). And that’s okay.
I understand the impulse to put out material to counteract the rantings of the spiritually oppressed, but you are never going to convince them of anything and most of the other folks are not listening to them (or us) anyway. We are not doing ourselves any great favors and sometimes we do ourselves more harm than good.
Rather than joining happily in with the fun, some of us like to rain on everyones parade.
Frankly speaking, every time some hypersensitive Wiccan gets a bee in her broom about the way witches are portrayed in media I can’t help but cringe.
Firstly, believe me when I tell you that, by and large, no one cares. Society is not objectifying you or attempting to portray you personally through some bigoted stereotype. The classic cackling Halloween witch does not represent a slippery slope to the “Burning Times”. The average Joe is not going to connect that image to your religious practice until you do, so stop it.
Secondly, and I ask that you brace yourselves for this one, you are WRONG! The lore, the actual mythology upon with our beliefs (to a greater or lesser extent) are based, is rife with stories of hideous old hags who held great power. The story of how Niall of the Nine Hostages came to his kingship comes immediately to mind. I would also suggest looking into the mythology surrounding Ceridwen and the Cailleach among a great many others.
Suffice it to say, the concept of the ugly witch didn’t originate with the ‘Wizard of Oz’ or in the text of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It derives from the oral traditions of our ancestors, passed down to us through the ages.
Yet, when we climb up upon our high horses and act as if we have been attacked, we come across every bit as poorly as the religious crusaders who bluster about “putting the Christ back in Christmas”. Let us not sink so low. There are legitimate issues of inequality that we could be discussing instead of trying to ruin what is simply innocent holiday fun. The only saving grace (heh) here is that the bible-thumpers are better at annoying folks than we are.
It’s a skill that comes with some practice, I suppose.