The History of Halloween

“The History of Halloween”
Running around October 31st in a witch costume and acting crazy is human. We practice what our forefathers did in past centuries, laughing at and respecting Death at the same time. Halloween predates Christianity. The 15th Century was a dark and cruel, uninviting place with a struggle for simple things like food and warmth. With the harvest in, they’d celebrate life and respect the dead. The fire and light of the Halloween pumpkin scares the ghost away. And that same mystical light paves the way home. Some say religion liberated Halloween from its former “Pagan” traditions. Probably true if we are talking about the insane practice of human sacrifice. The lovely thing about my fellow player on life’s stage is his imagination and courage to laugh at even life’s most final part.Blue Moon

Like Pavlov’s dog awaiting now my bell,
I hold a bowl of goodies in my hands;
Like Frankenstein, I shuffle to the door
and, zombie; deadpan, answer their demands.

Why should this be? That I’m bewitched is lame!
Why does tradition force me to the door?
What is All Hallows’ Eve but some blind rhyme
and why, within my nature, strive for more?

The world is cold and dark; a demon walks
throughout our village Fourteen, Forty-Eight.
The Fifteenth Century takes courage, more
than most of us might harness here-to-date.

The Plowman works but death tugs at his sleeve
“Come dance with me”, says Death, “you may as well
for in that final day, I’ll set you free.”
New Orleans’ mourners nod, “Amen; that’s swell.”

My DNA’s a part of that dark way;
the bones of all my ancestors connect.
Our Celtic danse macabre takes that fine day.
That Dark Prince known as *Samhain, we respect.

We run through streets, our Jack O’ Lanterns play
with light held high, dispel the darkness cast.
Our mask will keep us safe and keep at bay
that looming beast of death at our request!

So Halloween’s an everlasting call;
life’s laughter mixed with pain and innocence.
Respect for Death would harvest lovers all.
The knocking at my door means no offense.

“Dark Memories”

Halloween 1942-1It is the end of an idyllic summer on Tanglewood Street in Daytona Beach, Florida. My sister, age 6, is excited and practices her Frankenstein walk all afternoon and I, age 8, can’t stop looking at myself in the mirror. A magical transformation has taken place. I am a black and terrifying spider. It does excite me to pretend to be what I am not. It is fun to feel strong and confident behind that mask against a scary world.

It is 1942. The Second World War is on everyone’s mind; a different sort of scary.
There are newspaper collection drives. We gather old rubber bicycle tires as a basis for raw material that eventually become a part of the Armed Services equipment sent to England. Some people hoe Victory Gardens behind their homes as a way to help the war effort. Some grow lettuce patches for a salad or two, but I only remember failing as a farmer who mulched a strawberry patch but nothing came of it before the bugs took over. Air Raid Wardens in hardhats knock on your door if you forget and leave a porch light on during a practice for an Air Raid “blackout”. As a child of eight, I am aware of war and what it means to be “male” and how lucky I am to be a girl; never forced to go to a place from which I may never return. I feel this is unfair. How is it that courage is demanded of some and not of others? It leaves me confused. I try to make sense of my world, but fail.

Halloween has been, traditionally, a time when people ‘celebrate’ and laugh at the fearful, the future or the scary. It becomes an outlet for facing superstition, magic and things that go bump in the night that cannot be explained and so the farce continues. Each generation tries by wearing a mask of their own and challenging the fearful.

My sister and I walk the darkened streets of downtown Daytona Beach that night with our mother between us, holding our hands. It is a grand, candlelit fantasy; the singing, the dancing, the costumes, the candy…before the truth of war descends and I feel small again.

(re: photo is pic of my sister (she’s Red Riding Hood) and myself (far right) dressed as some kind of Spanish male dancer for Halloween in the 1940’s. Observe my face. I was a very serious little girl, even then.)

Speakeasy Entry “My First Halloween”

 

“My First Halloween”

The light from all the houses along Tanglewood Street seem dim and scary  tonight.

In my first-grader’s mind, all the doors squeak eerily as they answer our “Trick-or-Treat” call.  But, ah, the open crunch and tumble of all that candy  as it makes its way into my lovely red, metal bucket.  That is the magic of it all!  And I forget about being nervous or frightened.

“So, little, girl…what are you supposed to be?” said the wizened old gent who answered the door at #8 Tanglewood.

“Huh, ‘be?’….I dunno…”

“Well, I never heard of such a thing! A girl with a bag on her head and two holes for eyes!   You must be called something in order to be scary on Halloween!”

“But… but mom never told us we had to BE anything!”

It was true. Mom had put bags over our heads and sent us on our way.  Never “Trick-or-Treating” before,  this was my first “grown-up” Halloween.

“Just ring the doorbell and call out ‘Trick-or -Treat’, child, and show them your bucket.”

Hastily rigged, my Mom was home from work minutes before we were out the front door in our costumes: Two barefoot kids; walking bags with holes for eyes.  You could see my legs from the knees, down.  I  suppose we were a comical sight but too young to know we looked stupid.

Before us on the sidewalk, I hear snickers from a pirate with a fantastic scarf around his brow.  He wears an impressive black patch over one eye and  a long blade at his side.  His sister skips behind him, dressed in a pink, filmy fairy princess  dress with a magic wand and waving her arms at everything.  My little sister and I gaze in astonishment at the costumes as we walk farther away from home.   We saw magical creatures careen up and down the streets.  Downtown is dark and threatening if it were not for the revelers who carry old kerosene lanterns and flashlights.  Many ghosts, their white sheets flying,  scream down the sidewalks.   I could feel my little sister cling more closely as a clown opens his gaping mouth at us !  Main Street was like a ghost town, except for one lit storefront.  I pulled  little sister into the shop  and heard triple clanging sleigh bells ring over the door.

“Well, look at this! If you aren’t the scariest two, bewitching bags I have ever seen! Martha, come quick, and see what just walked through our door!”

Mr. Wilkerson, the shopkeeper, loves Halloween and goes all out each year to dress and decorate for the occasion.  He wears a heavy, ape costume with a head so real it takes my breath away! My little sister, Jean, will have nightmares tonight! But there was something familiar about the voice of this gorilla that reminded me of my grandfather.

“Martha, these are the little Whitford girls from Tanglewood Street and they look weary from all their walking.  Call their mom and tell her I’m driving them home in a few minutes.

(My story based on fact. Such times did exist in the 1940’s in Daytona Beach, Florida)

Scary Trifecta

swamp_illustration“The Engagement”

From Goodwill Store
bought books galore.
Blood-gore contained
within them flamed.
Illogical,  insane
his wicked cry
as one alive!
I slammed the book
did not engage.
Then, out he crept
off damn`ed page!