Sunday, November 1, 2009

What Do You Really Want To Be?

"In my ideal version of Halloween, we wouldn't scare ourselves with images of ghoulish skeletons, eyeballs floating in cauldrons, and hissing, three-headed snakes. Rather, we'd confront more realistic fears, like the possibility that the effects we have on the world are different from our intentions . . . or that we have not yet reached our potential . . . or that people we like might completely misread and misunderstand us. Then Halloween would serve a more spiritually useful purpose. It would bring us face-to-face with actual dangers to our psychic integrity, whereupon we could summon our brilliant courage and exorcize the hell out of them." - Rob Breszny

Dressing up in costumes has always been my favorite part of Halloween. I love figuring out what I am going to be and figuring out how to make the costume. I love watching my friends ramp up their creative juices and enjoy working together on creative projects with the deadline of the party looming over us. None of my friends go for store bought costumes - creativity and home-made are the words of the day. One year a group of friends went as Zoltan followers from the movie Dude Where's My Car by wearing amazing interstellar jumpsuits. They worked for weeks on their bubble wrap suits, complete with interstellar fanny packs to carry wallets and house keys. This year one of my friends dressed as the Morton Salt Girl (yellow dress, big white umbrella) and another as Zoltara, the fortune teller from old penny arcades. I also met a wind up ballerina from a music box, a giant lolly pop, Tank Girl and a chocolate bunny. Too much fun!

The question comes up, though, of why do we dress up for Halloween? A little internet research confirms the idea that dressing up like this is an ancient Celtic custom during particularly holy days. This time halfway between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice is the time of Samhain, the Celtic new year celebration. It is a time of the turning from the light half of the year into the dark and was a time when the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead was thin. It was a time of a transition, a time when beings and spirits could move freely between the two worlds. Our modern tradition of dressing up is a direct descendant of Medieval costume parades during holy days and the upside-down revelry so important in those structured and stratified cultures. Other sources say that dressing up came from a modern fear of the spirits that can be found prowling the earth on these dark nights. As our society moved away from death as a part of daily life in the form of butchering animals and reaping crops we became fearful of the dead and started dressing up to scare off the un-earthly spirits.

One challenge that faces those of us who are rebuilding our own spiritual practices is how to reclaim ancient practices in a modern context. How do these old customs of dressing up, carving pumpkins and trick or treating fit into my life in a spiritual manner? My Personal Astrologer and Hero, Rob Breszny gives me some ideas with the horoscope he wrote above. His syndicated column, Free Will Astrology, has been a source of wisdom and meaning for me for years and I am always particularly thrilled with his writings around Halloween. What are we really afraid of? What do we really want to be? Lets make dressing up for Halloween serve to illustrate these big questions!

This year for Halloween I was a Dead Prom Queen. The costume pieces came to me easily once I decided and in the end I was really happy with it. I've never been a girly girl and never been one for dressing up but the idea of wearing a prom gown was exciting to me this fall. I found a beautiful red dress at Goodwill and it looked fantastic on me. I wore my tiara to work the day before Halloween and noticed something fantastic about costumes. What you wear effects how people treat you, and how people treat you effects how you feel. By the end of the day on Friday I FELT like a Princess. By the end of the night on Saturday I FELT like a Queen in a regal gown. The story I made up for my drowning was that my date was jealous and pushed me into the river after our Prom. In my costume, in my character, I was so awesome and beautiful that someone was jealous enough to kill me. What an inspiring thought to take away from a night of partying.

Luckily, none of my friends really were that jealous and we just had a grand time. What did you dress up as for Halloween this year? What could you dress up as to illustrate your fears or your hopes? What's the best costume you've ever seen on someone?

Happy Halloween!

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