How Halloween embodies violence against “nature”
I love Halloween. I love it in a way that hurts that I cannot describe aside from sublime. However, an experience recently with a women who also loves Halloween differently than I do, as well as a T.V. show called “Terror in the Woods” made me recognize that Halloween is the embodiment of fear, violence, hatred and control that people have for “nature”.
My feelings for Halloween are intrinsically different than what I encounter most often in others (not that I think I’m special or anything, I’m just a social recluse and don’t know anybody in real life) and so I want to take the time to reconcile why this is.
Why Halloween embodies violence against “nature”:
In every form of the tradition of Halloween, in every generation or understanding of Samhain, it was believed that the Aos Sí, supernatural beings, needed to be propitiated to ensure that people and their livestock survived the winter. This appeasement insists an innate mortal fear that the external world is controlling you by dictating the conditions in which you live, and in turn attempting to sway the will of unseeable forces. A kind of scary magic because those forces cannot be understood at face value. This might breed a sort of backwards contempt which perhaps is a projection of our own innate need to control . This initial fear wasn’t unjustified but as we humans have sought and executed out revenge on these conditions, our residual feelings of resentment persist and like most forms of formalized hate, such as misogyny or racism, exhibit themselves as violence, and disregard for fear of entities we do not understand. It occurred to me that agricultural and herding societies owed more to the Aos Sí or any nature based deity for taking land that could arguably be considered the deity’s domain.
Do you ever wonder why Crows, cats, bats, rats, goats and more particularly single women living in the woods are the icons of fear during Halloween? All are wondrously intelligent and beautiful beings so whats the deal. The goat I’m mildly aware of has to do with iconography of Islam and something to do with separating them from the sheep, where sheep are the followers and goats can only be “the other”. But I’d like to largely assume they are all relatively misunderstood because they are magic! Easily labeled, easily persecuted. Crows however were important figures in Norse mythology being the messengers to Odin, but in Irish mythology The Morrígan was a tried of women that symbolized imminent death influencers to the outcome of wars I.E. War & Fate. It can easily be said there are exceptions in every culture but what I want to get at is our current generalized beliefs enacted or not.
The woman I met recently who made me rethink my love of Halloween enjoyed the terror and the kitch of it all. Her costumes were often themed after dead women, such as the dead bride… which struck me as problematic and that I misunderstood the holiday from the beginning. The things I ignore about the holiday are more align to the sentiments of hate and distrust that have always permeated our psyche in relation to “nature”. The show “Terror in the woods” reminded me how much we hate trees. We make stories up about them because we don’t understand them or their lives. We cut them down with out any regard for who they are or what they do, just so long as we can dominate our own fear in the process.
Why I love Halloween:
Over many summers growing up my mom took me to Plymouth, Massachusetts to camp at Myles Standish State Park, a 12,000 acre recreation campground and forest land mostly inhabited by Pitch Pine whom are a part of the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecoregion (the smell of pine is ALWAYS an instantaneous portal back to that place). Plymouth the town itself is the site of the pilgrims first entrance into New England, so it’s super old and it’s heavily touristed for this purpose …and with tourism there is ALWAYS a ghost tour of some form. A very formative moment for me was attending a ghost story telling. A group of perhaps 15 of us entered a small parlor room of a very old and very small home. We were told not to look at a photo that hung on the back of the entrance door that was only too easily visible after shutting us in. Then walked in a women wearing old fashioned clothes perhaps Edwardian in retrospect. What I can remember was a tightly cinched waist of a long sleeved and skirted pale pink dress. She wore a large brimmed hat and her face was completely concealed. I don’t remember any of the stories but they were irksome and uncomfortable.
My mother also helped me to throw elaborate parties as a preteen which skipped past highschool but made a comeback afterward. In 2012 when Sandy hit it was 2 days after my most elaborately decorated party yet and everything I had built and created was burned after a down wire shot through my house and started an electrical fire. When I rebuilt my house everything I did to it was to recreate the feeling that a witch lived here. All the doors have iron latches and not door knobs, I tried to emulate this idea of a New England aesthetic to capture this childhood attachment. The color scheme of the house is meant to exude autumn. All the doors in my house and the siding are oregano colored and my front door is bright orange, one bathroom being painted entirely black. The ceiling of my room is wallpapered in a silly agricultural toile that I only chose because in the sky is quite visibly (to me) a bat and we couldn’t afford the paper I really wanted (which to my dismay is in a handful of bars around the city).
So I haven’t told you why I love it have I? There is an inexplicable feeling of oneness to “nature” and the universe that is made more apparent to me during this time of year. I want to participate in events that remind me that I am no one and that I am a part of a greater network of living, a desire to worship those invisible forces around me that inhabit the nonhuman living. I pretend to be humanoid personifications of “nature” for my Halloween costumes because my most basic wish is to commune with other organisms, to be aware of it and to disappear in its fabric.