Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hallowe'en Rant 2006


A Much Maligned Holiday
from a Mostly Pagan
and Respectfully Irreverent Perspective...

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, --
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
-- Paul Laurence Dunbar --

Probably the most recognizable of the iconic practices that pertain to Hallowe'en is the donning of the mask.

Hallowe'en is The Grand Masquerade. The concept suggests that this is the chance to be something or someone who is not our true self -- maybe someone we admire or even abhor. Contrary to that notion, it may also be construed as an opportunity to inflict our truly scary self upon the masses -- sort of try it on for size and see if the world finds the real person agreeable, see if the worlds likes us, the real you -- the real me. Arguably, depending on how comfortable one is with their true self this exercise in truth or consequences could be really scary. For you… for me… and for others. Ha!

Masks are not just for Hallowe'en. We wear a mask every day in the trappings of the persona we present to the world at large. Masks are how we shield our inner self, the vulnerable self from what can be harsh reality. It is a built in defense mechanism that can be pulled out of our threatened psyche as quick as the drop of a witch's hat.

It is not a single persona, alternate ego, or mask we carry with us either as we go about the business of life in the mundane realm. Most of us have a myriad of disguises. The mask we don at any given time is not a pose. It is not our intent to misrepresent ourselves to others. A persona is the SELF as self-construed, and is likely to change according to circumstance.

A mask is simply the way we deal with misconception and negativity in a world that is all too ready to criticize who we are and what we do based mainly on our appearance and demeanor.

The face or self we show to a stranger on the street is different from the self we reveal to a close friend and that self, differs from the one we present to family and that self, differs from the one we show the neighbors and that self, differs from the person we are at work and the self who chats with the preacher man on Sunday.

If you think about it, we are a people of many faces. No one is entirely without guile. We become the person it is most convenient for us to be at any given time. Or, we become that person who magically appears when mother's phantom voice in your head says: mind your manners.

When expressed in such simplistic terms, it begins to sound like a collective consciousness suffering from mass multiple personality disorder. But it is hardly a disease, this wearing of masks -- I prefer to think of personality as having facets. No person is one dimensional. Perhaps duplicitous behavior has to do with one's willingness and ability to conform to another person's preconceived notion of who we are. I mean, there are things about myself I would share with my closest friends but not necessarily with my 95 year old grandmother, things my husband knows about me that my parents and children do not, things about myself that I share with no one. That's the Scorpio in me talking. It is a fact that people make assumptions about other people based on outward trappings, our speech and our behavior in public -- aka appearance and demeanor. We should not judge (at least not without compunction) but -- Alas! Such is our nature!

So! We don our masks and muddle our way through.

It is always interesting to see which persona a person will adopt at Hallowe'en. I for one, wonder what prompts the choice. Are we a witch, a vampire, or the IRS man because we admire or loathe that stereotype or are we projecting an image that we think others will admire or loathe? Nine times out of ten - I would have to say loathe is the answer. Are we making a statement about ourselves or do we consciously consider the impact our disguise may have on others at all?

I have met people who go to great lengths and expense to construct the perfect Hallowe'en costume. This type of person is very conscious of their personal image, even if it be farce. What this person projects on the world is carefully contrived and controlled. It is not likely you will see this person as they really are -- ever.

But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
-- Paul Laurence Dunbar --

I have observed young adults in a resale clothing shop methodically go through racks of odd clothing - garments, coats, hats, skirts and even pajamas that hang there all year long with apparently no other purpose than to become a one-of-a-kind Hallowe'en costume. What emerges from the racks of discards is often remarkable. The end product or ensemble is the result of pure spontaneity and creativity and perhaps a decided lack of inhibition. They become whatever the offerings dictate, they embrace the offerings and wholeheartedly go with it! How refreshing! When I was a child, indeed, when many people of my generation were of trick-or-treat age, a sheet, a wig or grandpa's old pants as costume held the same charm. It was not so much about how we were perceived as how we perceived ourselves.

I have observed children who are very certain about what they want to be for trick-or-treat and why. I am a super hero because he saves people. I am a fireman because they do good work and drive a big truck. I am a princess because they live happily ever after. I am a wizard because they can do magic. I am a vampire because I vant to bite you! Grrrrr! I have observed other children who have not a clue about why they need a costume except as a means to get free candy and still others who are intimidated or frightened of the process. Then, there are those few who choose or are chosen for according to their parent's desires. You grownups -- Stop It! Stop demand-dressing your new millennium children like ladybugs and angels and woe begotten clowns or worse Disney characters from past generations (and centuries) with whom they cannot possibly identify. Everyone knows who Mickey Mouse is -- but not all of us get him. And what is really annoying to me are parents who use their children's costume as a political platform. Ugh! So sad -- is the trampling of individualism, imagination, and creativity. Remember: children are our best hope for the survival of the arts and without their unrestrained creative input -- everything becomes repetitive and conformist. Same ol'. Same ol'. Yikes!

So what is the difference between a Hallowe'en mask and those we don every day?

Costuming for Hallowe'en is to wrap one's self in a temporary facade. It is about self-expression. It is a masquerade. It is basically about pretense, imagination and frivolity. It can be a healthy approach to facing one's minor fears. A person who dresses as a monster may be irrationally afraid of monsters or the idea of monsters. Dressing as a monster is a way to own that fear, or at the very least understand it better.

But, how about the person who converses with the bank teller about the weather and really has not looked up to see if there are clouds in the sky? What about the person who discusses politics and religion in open company? Are we really prone to speak our minds or do we merely project what is expected of a good Democrat, Republican or Christian? Is the person on the job for eight hours the same person who comes home with us? Are any of the above the same person you saw reflected in the mirror this morning? Not likely.

Hmmmm... This daily masquerade, is it healthy? I think so. The art of self-preservation in my mind is healthy if it harms none. If one doesn't mistake what is temporary and perhaps superfluous as truth and if one can let go of that part of the ego which is served by illusion.

One need only fear a persona, if one cannot stop wearing the mask.

Ballad: The Pantomime Super to His Mask

Vast empty shell!
Impertinent, preposterous abortion!
With vacant stare,
And ragged hair,
And every feature out of all proportion!
Embodiment of echoing inanity!
Excellent type of simpering insanity!
Unwieldy, clumsy nightmare of humanity!
I ring thy knell!

To-night thou diest,
Beast that destroy'st my heaven-born identity!
Nine weeks of nights,
Before the lights,
Swamped in thine own preposterous nonentity,
I've been ill-treated, cursed, and thrashed diurnally,
Credited for the smile you wear externally -
I feel disposed to smash thy face, infernally,
As there thou liest!

I've been thy brain:
I've been the brain that lit thy dull concavity!
The human race
Invest MY face
With thine expression of unchecked depravity,
Invested with a ghastly reciprocity,
I'VE been responsible for thy monstrosity,
I, for thy wanton, blundering ferocity -
But not again!

'T is time to toll
Thy knell, and that of follies pantomimical:
A nine weeks' run,
And thou hast done
All thou canst do to make thyself inimical.
Adieu, embodiment of all inanity!
Excellent type of simpering insanity!
Unwieldy, clumsy nightmare of humanity!
Freed is thy soul!

Oh! master mine,
Look thou within thee, ere again ill-using me.
Art thou aware
Of nothing there
Which might abuse thee, as thou art abusing me?
A brain that mourns THINE unredeemed rascality?
A soul that weeps at THY threadbare morality?
Both grieving that THEIR individuality
Is merged in thine?
-- W.S. Gilbert --
So? What or who are you gonna be for Hallowe'en? And, is that persona a reflection of your true self? And, can I answer those questions?

In years past I have been a princess (Mom's choice), a ghost (several times), a hobo, a gypsy, grandma in her squaw dress, little sexy red riding hood, a scarecrow, the bad persona in the good, the bad and the ugly and others but most often I choose to be a witch. A witch who dons a purple crushed velvet cape, red and black stockings and a pointy hat is a perfect fit for me. Yep -- that's right, the stereotype witch, albeit of the benevolent sort. I am a good witch who loves the night and the masquerade. I am a kindly witch who delights in the parade of children (young and old) marching up to the door as much in awe of the witch who treats them as the witch is in awe of the wondrous variety of characters they pretend to be. I am a witch who will watch until the last jack-o-lantern winks out at the Witching Hour and be sad (temporarily) that it is a whole long year until next Hallowe'en. That is who I will be this year, too. That Ol' Witch. I am comfortable with that persona. It suits me.

Is that person -- that raggedy ol' witch -- representative of my true self? Well, yes -- sort of. But I do not have to tell you how or why or in what way -- do I?

That is part of the fun of donning a mask... is it not? It is absolutely magickal!

With that said:
May you enjoy the masquerade, my friends.
May you embrace the persona you adopt this year.
May you dance in wild abandon down Jack-o’-Lantern Avenue.
May your spirit feel as free as a rook winging through the twilight sky.
Be who you are or who you want to be!
Own the Magick!
The Magick of Hallowe'en!

Respectfully yours in caliginous chaos
An it harm none – do as you will…
© 2006 (text revised 2018) All rights reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment