Dead Man’s Party

Dead Man's Party, Skeleton Toy, Halloween

I am exhausted.

My girlfriend and I have been working on our yearly costumes almost non-stop, for the last several days.  We enjoy attending an annual costume party that takes place on the Saturday before Halloween.  Many, if not most, of the attendees put a great deal of work into their costumes, and in response we have really pushed ourselves to be more creative in our endeavors.

The theme of this years party was “recycling an old costume” and we decided to take that theme to heart by revamping a couple of old store-bought numbers from a few years back.  We had made the perfect Halloween cliché, me in my black crushed-velvet wizards cloak, replete with golden stars and moons and her in a natty witches outfit sporting a black-dyed cheesecloth hat.  Never had more dreadful apparel slid from the confines of a cheap vinyl bag.

Horrors!

So, seeking redemption for costuming sins past, Donna began revamping her witch ensemble, and I began the work of transforming yesterday’s off-brand wizard into a somewhat more compelling Necromancer.

Mostly, I thought, this would prove an excellent opportunity to try my hand at building my own costume props by casting foam in silicone molds.

Yeah, I’ve been watching far too much Face Off.
(I WANT that studio!)

Making costume props from silicone molds.

A quick series of photos showing the progress of one of my costume props
from initial clay sculpture, to silicone mold, to final painted foam.

And what have I learned?

Well, for one thing, silicone is damned expensive.

Also, good mold making and being in a rush are two things that DO NOT go well together;  subtle detail in modeling clay will disappear by the time you get to the finished foam piece;  cast the foam in the shape you want, and do not assume you’ll be able to bend it much after the fact;  budget twice as much time as you think you really need;  budget three times as much money as you think you will need – did I mention that silicone is expensive?

The most important thing of all is having everything well planned out in advance.

These lessons were all learned the hard way.

We didn’t make the party.

All that work and expense — for nothing.

Except, of course, for the experience — lessons learned, knowledge gained.
(and we have emergency backup costumes for next year, in case this happens again)

There are those who might wonder why I put so much effort into something so frivolous.

Among my fellow Pagans, there are many who prefer to embrace the serious, spiritual aspects of Samhain while ignoring, or even pooh-poohing, Halloween in all it’s kitschy, secular glory.

What a bunch of freaking spoilsports.

Samhain, my friends, was not meant to be a purely sombre occasion!

It’s a party.  Specifically, it’s a dead man’s party.  It’s something we do for them, to draw them back, to celebrate them and to earn their protection and guidance.

It’s a dead man’s party.
Who could ask for more?
Everybody’s comin’, leave your body at the door,
Leave your body and soul at the door…,

I believe that the dead, having found their way once more among the living, are drawn by boisterous energy and lively activity.  The fire light and cheerful voices draw them in from the cold far better than any dreary, silent ‘dumb-supper’ ever could.

So yeah, we may have missed the costume party, but the main event is still a few days off and there are still decorations to put up and trick-or-treaters to prepare for.

Heck, maybe I’ll wear the costume while handing out candy.  That will give the little ones something to remember.

And then, on the next day, while millions of children are still coming down from their sugar induced high, the real celebration begins.  We will awaken the night with bonfire, and feast, and stories, and offerings to ancestors and gods alike.

Don’t be afraid of what you can’t see
Don’t run away it’s only me…,

—All lyrics by Danny Elfman

1 Comment

Filed under Celtic Polytheism, Holidays, Modern Life, Traditions

One response to “Dead Man’s Party

  1. I recommend wearing your costume to hand out treats. One warm Halloween a few years ago had me wearing a black and white painted face under the hood of a black cloak. Of course, this required wearing black clothing to complete the effect. My poor effort at face make-up was balanced by mood-lighting: I set a fire pit up in the front yard and built a fire… and sat very still (with a staff in hand) until children arrived, and they had to come to me because the bucket of treats were beside me.

    Although this was a few years ago, I recently discovered that neighborhood children loved it and remember it. So, go ahead and make their night memorable.

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