Post-Halloween musings, because I was alternately too busy and too lazy to write during the damned weekend.
Skewed skyscrapers of newly-whitewashed concrete coffin niches, sweaty children browned by the blistering November sun clambering over them, nimble fingers collecting the warm pooled wax of spent candle offerings. White-haired granddames in lacy toile veils intoning olden prayers for the dead, seeking to bring solace to those mournfully trapped in purgatory. Their pious whispering drowned out by the chatter of gossip, the cries of vendors hawking flowers, food, and icy drinks, and the ubiquitous Pinoy penchant for blasting videoke hits. The circus of the public cemetery on All Saints’ Day, where the dead and the living jostle for breathing space, and the Filipino’s curious mix of grimy life, occult-flavored religiosity, and fiesta celebrations come together in one delightfully incongruous holiday.
Never one for huge crowds, I stayed home during Halloween, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day; pleading new baby, babysitter on vacation, and husband away at work. I chose to privately commemorate the meaningful lives of the departed with light and words. All very karmic and PC.
To stay true to the spirit of ghoulish fun, however, I undertake (pun alert) a couple of dark activities here and there. Below are some of the exciting armchair adventures I had.
Nowadays, Halloween has degenerated into a bland, commercial, forced spectacle; good only for overdosing on sugar, the brisk selling of cookie-cutter costumes, and the ritual mutilation of spherical orange vegetables. Ages ago, however, the celebrations had a primal, dark side, fascinating with all the lore and history. In the Western world, with its transition of four seasons, the coming of cruel winter was heralded by stocking up on fading summer’s rich harvests. People hedged their bets further by offerings to appease the dark, cold gods of the bitter season.
Halloween traces its origins from an intermingling of different traditions: primarily the Gaelic harvest festival of Samhain, coinciding with other Celtic festivals. In the 8th century the festival’s rituals began to have that morbid Catholic flavor, with focus on the souls of the dead, Purgatory, the afterlife. Wiccans of the present consider it as one of the eight primary sabbats in the Wheel of the Year, a festival of darkness and remembrance of those who passed on to darkness.
Diving into a Grim Grimoire
A yearly reading of Gothic horror, particularly HP Lovecraft, always puts me in the mood.
This year, I upped the ante by picking up pleasant reading material like Simon’s Necronomicon, and trying to spot the inconsistencies between actual Sumerian (Mesopotamian) history and culture, and the cherry-picked details included in the book. Pleased to note that a prayer from the book was made into a song by Vader, and heaved a sigh of relief when I realized that the dead chose to stay put in their resting places in spite of repetitive playback.
Meditations on Childhood Classics
Involving the children in the celebrations is always a good, albeit sadistic idea. My seven-year-old girl is drawn to fairies and angels, and the gory trick-or-treaters terrify her. Perhaps it wasn’t very nice to let her read an online book about Snow White, derived from the Brothers Grimm originals. For one, Evil Queen consuming salted lungs and liver of wild boar, thinking they were ripped from Snow White’s prepubescent torso… grisly to the extreme. Radical, sexually-charged retelling of Disney-fied children’s stories (see Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples and Angela Carter’s The Company of Wolves) are all the rage in this post-modern hipster world, but nothing beats reading the twisted originals for a heady dose of all that’s bent and gnarly with the id of man.
It is interesting to note the occult origins of various elements in the Snow White story. “White as snow, black as coal, red as blood”, a phrase describing the young girl’s pale skin, dark hair and red lips, are thought to represent the three aspects of the “Mother Goddess”: maiden, mother, crone.
Cannibalizing of the lungs and liver imply a desire of the Evil Queen to vanquish and possess Snow White’s attributes by partaking of her essence. In medieval times, the lungs represent the breath or spirit, and the liver was thought to be the origin of erotic desire. Thus the queen comes into possession of the beautiful girl’s soul and sex appeal. Tangentially, the lungs and the liver were two of the four organs to be drawn out during ritual embalming of the Pharaoh. They were placed into four Canopic jars each representing a god (the Four Sons of Horus).
Other versions depict the cutting out of the heart (no actual, lip-smacking cooking and consumption). Then there’s the implied necrophilia of the wayfarer prince falling in love with a motionless “corpse”.
Seven dwarfs? Seven represents wholeness, the sum of equally mystical numbers three (the Trinity) and four (compass points, seasons).
Further analysis of this fairy tale (NOT!) leads one to conclude that these medieval scribes of fanciful stories for young’uns were fucking weird. Throw in a couple of nursery rhymes about the Black Death and the stage is set for a generation of nubile minds cruelly warped and deprived of their innocence. Plus I regret possessing the knowledge that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was remade into a German hard-core porn movie.
With actual dwarfs. Small adult men. Naked. Seven of them.
Quite disappointed that I wasn’t able to attend any Halloween parties this year. I had my mind set on a gathering of the local goth cabal because I missed it last year whilst nursing a sick SUN server. Looking forward to dressing in customary black, no extra frightful apparatus needed, but it was not to be. I was stuck in the bedroom reading Jezebel articles.
Unlike glum me, thousands of hot-blooded women took advantage of the only holiday in town when you can let your licentious desires loose without being looked down upon as loose. A bacchanal of unrestrained lust and voyeurism, where the liquor-dosed onlooker is regaled by nubile bodies in barely-there variations of nurse, teacher, librarian, policewoman, maid.
Feminists seeking to combat this trend of reducing women to overtly sexualized stereotypes are promoting alternative ideas about Halloween dress: the historical figure, the goddess, the activist. Sadly, the long, black robes of the first female Supreme Court judge do not invite appreciative glances from the majority. Despite the setback of unpopularity, we are reminded by the more mellower of these activists that your tits-baring, asscrack-revealing cosplay-inspired getup may be tasteless and prosaic, but it doesn’t mean you’re asking to be sexually assaulted on purpose.
The real monsters here is the slavering Cerberus of slut-shaming and victim-blaming aimed against women. Nobody raises a disapproving shit of a ruckus if a guy dresses up as a Speedo-clad Spartan, and nobody blames him if he gets nailed in the ass by drunken frat boys against his will.
FLAME! THROWING! PUMPKINS!
Lastly, I feel very sad that pumpkin-carving never really caught on around here. Browsing for amazingly carved pumpkins make me happy, especially when they happen to spout. Out. Flames.
They’re my Halloween version of googling LOLCats to feel better.
Have a bone-chilling post-Halloween hangover!