Happy Halloween. Halloween as it exists in America is a time for celebrating the scarier parts of our unconscious and also other parts of the imagination with children. This election season is for many Americans time of frightening realities and a scary walk and wait for adults. America is well populated with people who are afraid of Hillary as President and people who are afraid of Trump as President. There are some who are not happy with either and this long post will discuss both Halloween and the elections as scary ritualistic events.
I have posted about Halloween here. I also dealt with this day in the context of other days around this time just here. I have remembered that for me it was near my maternal grandfather’s birthday. I have also remembered the occasions of All Saints Day and All Souls Day which follow hard upon us. The New Orleans Saints Football team was also founded on November first, the Feast of All Saints and of course the two things are related although how they are related is not so clear. Family Missions Company and many of my family members usually have a Holy Ween Party with many traditional aspect of Halloween where the kids however costume as Saints while they bob for apples, get candy and play games . It is a rather beautiful and fun custom. All these events other costuming and the national celebration of Halloween make up the meaning of these days for me. The memories of those days are largely good ones as are the memories of many of the earlier days I spent Trick or Treating. There have been plenty of bad memories as well. But nothing really terrible is closely associated in my mind with these days.
This particular Halloween 2016 is one of those days which is not all together one thing for me and not all together another. It is a day when the weight of many problems ways down upon me but the weights, worries and regrets are offset by other aspects of my life. Nonetheless what is most notable about it is that it is Halloween. It is also the day after my deceased maternal grandfather’s birthday and the day before all Saints Day. But today, while trying to find out if the party is happening and perhaps drop in on it I will also be helping my aunt with whom I share my grandparents house where she has been living for a long time recently and I have lived many times in the past. She will be giving out candy during Abbeville’s official Trick or Treating hours between 6 and 8. The town also has a public access Scare on the Square in the late afternoon. That is my contact with the mainstream Halloween. The first picture posted below is not one of those pictures but I may add some pictures of the Square to the mix over time. There are quite a few decorated houses which have gotten elaborate. I might get a picture of one or two but probably not as to do them justice on really needs to go out at Trick or Treat time and I am not doing that.
Among Cajuns in the past the customs of these days varied from place to place. But generally some of the adolescent boys, in some cases united into societies that passed on their customs across generations and in other cases not in such an organized way raised a little hell on day we call Halloween. They went to houses and put skinnier and lighter cows on roofs and in barn lofts, made ghostly shapes and figures on window panes, howled like wolves and brought their dogs around to scare the farm animals but not enough to do serious harm. Inside around the fire and stove there would be a few traditional treats and some scary stories. The loup garou or Cajun werewolf tradition is not deeply tied to Halloween but it is tied to all things scary in this culture. I have posted about that tradition a little bit here and here in the glossary. The connection is available in music today, there are many things to be written or said about the Halloween, All Saints and All Souls Day customs in the region without mentioning the werewolf tradition but one song of some significance by a musician named Daigle is viewable here. . On the morning of Toute Saints or All Saints people would walk ride or drive through the village, town or region to see the mischief done. Then people would go to church for the feast of All Saints. After Mass in some communities there would be a feast and music in the cemetery so that people could wake up early and clean, repair and decorate their ancestors tombs on the feast of All Souls on November first. In most communities however people ate at home and got ready to go to the cemeteries on All Souls. Caring for the tombs and visiting with others doing so was the main focus of Acadian and Cajun practices around this time of year. In some places it was customary for widows to remove their black shawl on the first All Souls Day after they finished one year of mourning. In other places the calendar year alone was the key for the end of all mourning dress. Courtships sometimes began between widows and those men repairing other tombs who would pay respect to the dead husband’s tomb before courting the widow. Only taces of all of those custms remain today. But all of these things are in my mind on these days.
I also grew up a good bit of my life in Mexico and remember the various customs of the Dia de Los Muertos — the Day of the Dead. I have spent significant time in cemeteries and changing out flowers and such around the tombs of family members but that has not been as associated with this time of year as I would ideally have liked it to be. So that is a summary of what these four days in a row bring to mind most for me.
In Celtic tradition this was a time when the year passed from the light half to the dark half of the year and the dead were free to move between realms through a sort of portal opened up by these occasions. the very early Christians (such as the Galatians to whom St. Paul wrote) included many Celts. There were people of living flesh and blood who took advantage of the time of spiritual and demonic activity to do some bad things. Jack O’ Lanterns and scary costumes have some connection to scaring off bad spirits and bad people in ancient Celtic society. The Christians gave some Christian meaning to those cultural acts but the darkest and worst parts of paganism such as human sacrifice were woven together in the same symbolic language and the controversies have been ongoing from the earliest days.
To lump all of this together in a single post when more clever writers are discussing the elections is probably only another means of whittling away the tiny readership that I still have. Perhaps the scaries Halloween reality for me is embodied in that reality related to this post and to the fact that I used to write a great deal for many thousands of folks and get paid. Now I am trying to embrace the career path I am on which will end with paying one person a great deal to read my work. It never hurts to know where you are heading. Like many writers over history I might do well to dress as an unpaid bill or perhaps a a literary agent. those are scary realities for sure.
But is there anything that can be said coherently about all of these varied faces of this time of the mysterious, the mortal and the unusual. For me the unusual and the little known ar not unique cetainlu to Halloween. I have had an unusual life thus far. In it I have sailed small vessels, ridden horses, hiked, climbed, spent time and energy in pretty exotic and secret places. Form Boucheries, to Hula dances, to cava and Haka ceremonies in Polynesia to teahouses in China — I have sought the insights of the treasured common ceremony. My own life as a Christian every day has been wrapped about with a number of secrets. Now I am in the process of revealing a few of them. Of course the Catholic Sacraments are described by the Latin word “Sacramentum” but also by the Greek word “Mysterion”, the same word translates as mistery. Catholics pass into the sacred mysteries at different phases of Christian life and the human lifecycle. They gain spiritual insight, renewal and energy.
I never pledged a college Greek Fraternity. I got a bid from the TKE chapter at Steubenville but declined it, I was honored but unable to take on the commitment and I was committed to a household that had few secret aspects to its initiation. But there have been rituals that have been part of my life beyond church. I have posted a good bit about Mardi Gras, here and here for example. Besides the Carnival and the Official Christian Catholic mysteries, I remember being bloodied after a significant kill and bloodying young boys after a first kill — this is an important hunting ritual that I have seen in many forms. I remember fathering my hunting cap for the first kill of significant desirable duck or geese species like mallards, pintails, specks and snows. Then somehow I remember my first time at a bar after a rugby game, my first byline in print, my first time in a deep pool cave where sun never shines, my first time in a bat filled cave and a weta cave. Drinking and caves also remind me of other drinking rituals and not all involving alcohol or drinking cava in ceremonies on the Pacific isles. I remember getting a driver’s license and learning how to use computers — in both processes there were real initiation rituals and the car is extremely dangerous in many ways. Like a lot of people there were many milestones on the way. Somehow I got involved with some rarer and more exotic ones. When I was a teacher at St. Thomas More High School one of the classes that I taught was the Junior year “Sacraments and Morality” year. Both the editors of the textbook and I chose to show how rituals like birthday parties and Friday night football games were formative for young people learning the language and practice of rituals that they would use in Confirmation, the celebration of their weddings and the celebration of Mass.
For some people the politics of this election cycle are a bit of a mystery. The cycle does not fit with their view of the way things should be and their ideas of what is normal in America. For some people much of life is a mystery, but many still hope for candidates from both parties that feel transparent and normal. Spies, detectives, lawyers and clerics keep lots of their life’s work hidden form many people who know them. I have known prophets, witches, mystics, shamaans, monks of various faiths, nuns, vampires and members of secret orders of knights. Some people would argue that virtually none of these people can exist. But nobody can argue that Anthony Weiner’s laptop full of Hillary’s email and his own problems exists. Nobody doubts Trump has said and done tings on record which many Americans consider abnormal or scary. these are our major choices this year. Neither Hillary nor trump were my choice this year. I believe in the duty of citizens and I did my duty.
I voted. I voted yes on all but one of the Constitutional Ammendments — although I had less conviction than is ideal. I voted for Marilyn Castle for Supreme Court. Both seem qualified but she is very well qualified and I found her husband a decent boss back in 1989. I voted for Charles Boustany in the packed Senate Race. I selected Scott Angelle for Congress. Mike Francis for Public Service Commissioner and for the big finale….
I have voted for a third party or independent candidate once in a while but never for the Presidency. I voted for Keniston. I do not apologize for it and give him a limited endorsement:
I believe in the basic claims of Christianity and in differences between good and evil outside of the question of whether something is Christian or not Christian. By no means would I put contemplative Carmelites and human sacrificing demon worshippers on the same moral plane. However, both groups like their privacy, both like to use symbolic language and both can be communities with long traditions that are well known to insiders and little known to outsiders. Discussion of what Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day mean are tied to the problems that exist across any tradition f rituals and secrets tied also to public celebrations. I would urge that, if you have never thought about it, you realize that metaphors can be made real on film and effects are used to sell tickets. Halloween does not answer all our questions about the scary beings portrayed in some costumes just as Real nuns don’t fly or seem like characters in “Sister Act” but you would recognize real nuns from either “The Flying Nun” series with Sally Fields or from Sister Act. I have had the time, desire and guts to get into a whole lot of varied mysteries. Sex and love are of course among the greatest mysteries and none of us exhaust them.