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Author Topic: Irreverence Towards Halloween, Even Among Pagans  (Read 6994 times)

Demophon

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Irreverence Towards Halloween, Even Among Pagans
« on: October 25, 2016, 08:21:26 pm »
This is something I notice every year, and while I don't necessarily celebrate Samhain/November Eve as a pagan sabbat anymore, I do have a sentimental attachment to it remaining from when I followed neo-paganism more closely.

It just seems like even the self-identified witches I know in real life have an attitude that is like, "OMG I love October because I'm so morbid and I love the Nightmare Before Christmas. Halloween is so awesome, I'm gonna wear a goofy costume and get drunk." It's annoying in the mainstream culture, but among witches it's even worse. Maybe I'm stuck-up and overly pious, whatever religion I follow, but I remember being in my late teens and early twenties being a practicing pagan, and having a vastly different understanding of this holiday than the people around me. Being well over the age of 12, I feel silly dressing in some tacky costume. For me, November Eve was a solemn Feast of the Dead, a time for honouring one's ancestors, and ritually celebrating the Wiccan legend of the goddess's descent into the Realm of Death, where she learns his mysteries and teaches him those of rebirth in return. I realize that people in our culture like any excuse to get drunk and make fools of themselves, but when pagans and witches even just see Halloween in this shallow way, it's a bit worrying for the tradition.

It's probably just another case of solitary eclectic Wicca being accessible to the mainstream, and anyone who likes Practical Magic can buy some silly book in the New Age section of a major bookstore and pretend to be Sally Owens without a full grasp of the tradition whose label they are claiming. It's really nothing new, but I guess I'm just an old grump.

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Re: Irreverence Towards Halloween, Even Among Pagans
« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2016, 08:42:53 pm »
Quote from: Demophon;198053
For me, November Eve was a solemn Feast of the Dead, a time for honouring one's ancestors, and ritually celebrating the Wiccan legend of the goddess's descent into the Realm of Death, where she learns his mysteries and teaches him those of rebirth in return.


I see no reason why the day can't be both somber and a little fun at the same time.  There's nothing saying it has to be all dour.
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Re: Irreverence Towards Halloween, Even Among Pagans
« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2016, 09:53:00 pm »
Quote from: Demophon;198053
I realize that people in our culture like any excuse to get drunk and make fools of themselves, but when pagans and witches even just see Halloween in this shallow way, it's a bit worrying for the tradition.

 
Obligatory "the tradition?!" grumpy comment goes here.

(Can't say I've seen what you see, honestly.  I have, however, seen a whole bunch of people assume that because someone is pagan they celebrate Samhain religiously.)
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Re: Irreverence Towards Halloween, Even Among Pagans
« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2016, 09:54:14 pm »
Quote from: Demophon;198053
It just seems like even the self-identified witches I know in real life have an attitude that is like, "OMG I love October because I'm so morbid and I love the Nightmare Before Christmas. Halloween is so awesome, I'm gonna wear a goofy costume and get drunk." It's annoying in the mainstream culture, but among witches it's even worse. Maybe I'm stuck-up and overly pious, whatever religion I follow, but I remember being in my late teens and early twenties being a practicing pagan, and having a vastly different understanding of this holiday than the people around me. Being well over the age of 12, I feel silly dressing in some tacky costume. For me, November Eve was a solemn Feast of the Dead, a time for honouring one's ancestors, and ritually celebrating the Wiccan legend of the goddess's descent into the Realm of Death, where she learns his mysteries and teaches him those of rebirth in return. I realize that people in our culture like any excuse to get drunk and make fools of themselves, but when pagans and witches even just see Halloween in this shallow way, it's a bit worrying for the tradition.

It's probably just another case of solitary eclectic Wicca being accessible to the mainstream, and anyone who likes Practical Magic can buy some silly book in the New Age section of a major bookstore and pretend to be Sally Owens without a full grasp of the tradition whose label they are claiming. It's really nothing new, but I guess I'm just an old grump.

 
The thing is, first of all, there isn't really any other holiday like Halloween where people can dress up in fun costumes and decorate their house in cobwebs and drink cocktails that look like blood. Many people happen to like that sort of thing, myself included. It's fun. It's been my favorite holiday since I was a kid. Maybe wearing a costume is silly for you, but for me designing a costume is a fantastic creative outlet and it gives me a low-pressure situation to try wearing things I can't normally. I'm not going to stop that tradition, and I'm not going to stop covering my walls with bat silhouettes. It makes me happy.

That doesn't mean I don't spend time building an altar for my beloved dead. It doesn't mean I won't light candles on Samhain and spend time in prayer. It doesn't mean I don't take the holiday seriously. Because I do all those things. And honestly, I don't find it appropriate to spend Samhain all gloomy anyway. Not in my tradition - which is influenced by Dia de los Muertos, as celebrated on my father's side of the family. Maybe that makes a difference. It's a celebration, not a funeral. I'm not sad to have the spirits of my ancestors visit and I don't think those I love want to see me all weepy on their behalf, but rather to be happy and fondly remembering them. That's what I was taught growing up, and it's important to me.

Not to mention, if devout Christians can wear Santa hats and watch Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and feast and send each other funny Christmas cards but still take Christmas seriously as a religious holiday, there is absolutely no reason why I shouldn't be able to do the same kind of thing with my holidays.

I also very much dislike your implication that anyone who doesn't share your exact traditions and emotions about a particular holiday is clearly only learning from "silly books" and has "no grasp of the tradition" they follow. People have different preferences and perspectives when it comes to spirituality, and your way isn't the only true way.
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Re: Irreverence Towards Halloween, Even Among Pagans
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2016, 10:18:30 pm »
Quote from: Demophon;198053
It's probably just another case of solitary eclectic Wicca being accessible to the mainstream, and anyone who likes Practical Magic can buy some silly book in the New Age section of a major bookstore and pretend to be Sally Owens without a full grasp of the tradition whose label they are claiming. It's really nothing new, but I guess I'm just an old grump.

Well then call me Sally Owens, because I'm frankly thrilled that wearing costumes is becoming more socially acceptable again, because costuming is a powerful form of magic. I love that the Halloween season on Tumblr starts in August and extends into November. I love that my fellow spooky pagans announce Code Pumpkin when the cheesy goth decor shows up in stores.

Also I'm raising my pagan child to hold vigil for the Great Pumpkin. ;)

None of this stops me from making offerings to my Dead and the Hunt, holding space for Hekate, or anything else, of course.

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Re: Irreverence Towards Halloween, Even Among Pagans
« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2016, 10:30:55 pm »
Quote from: Demophon;198053
It's annoying in the mainstream culture, but among witches it's even worse.


Why?

Quote from: Demophon;198053
but I remember being in my late teens and early twenties being a practicing pagan, and having a vastly different understanding of this holiday than the people around me.


...okay? Having a different understanding of a day from how most people celebrate it does not make you special or better in any way. It just makes you different.

Quote from: Demophon;198053
Being well over the age of 12, I feel silly dressing in some tacky costume.


Yes, we know you're older than 12. I'm not sure what that has to do with feeling silly dressing up. Dressing up in costumes is not, after all, a sign of immaturity.

Quote from: Demophon;198053
For me, November Eve was a solemn Feast of the Dead, a time for honouring one's ancestors, and ritually celebrating the Wiccan legend of the goddess's descent into the Realm of Death, where she learns his mysteries and teaches him those of rebirth in return.


And it means different things for different people! Some of whom don't even celebrate it religiously! Some who do! But we are all different!

Quote from: Demophon;198053
I realize that people in our culture like any excuse to get drunk and make fools of themselves, but when pagans and witches even just see Halloween in this shallow way, it's a bit worrying for the tradition.


What tradition?  

Also I feel offended as a maenad that you see getting drunk and acting foolishly as shallow and areligious. I'll have you know that it's a perfectly fine way to pay worship to the Lord of Wine.

Quote from: Demophon;198053
It's probably just another case of solitary eclectic Wicca being accessible to the mainstream, and anyone who likes Practical Magic can buy some silly book in the New Age section of a major bookstore and pretend to be Sally Owens without a full grasp of the tradition whose label they are claiming.


There are worse paths to the Craft than movies from the 90s witch boom and worse role models than Sally Owens.

Frankly Idgaf how someone gets to the Craft if it's the right path for them.



TBH your whole post sounds like the same sort of hand-wringing that comes up pretty much every Pagan Pride about the pagans who ~dare~ wear fairy wings or glitter or fun costumes to PPD because apparently "serious about one's religion" also needs to mean "dresses in neutrals and is solemn all the time". Personally I'm not really interested in community with pagans who are going to shame me for letting my freak flag fly or being more interested in ecstatic, mirthful worship than the alternative.

I mean there are way worse things that fellow pagans or witches could be doing than ~gasp~ enjoying dressing up or having fun on a holiday that is also secular so I'd much rather save what few spoons I have for being upset for the important stuff.
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Re: Irreverence Towards Halloween, Even Among Pagans
« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2016, 10:46:23 pm »
Quote from: Demophon;198053
It just seems like even the self-identified witches I know in real life have an attitude that is like, "OMG I love October because I'm so morbid and I love the Nightmare Before Christmas. Halloween is so awesome, I'm gonna wear a goofy costume and get drunk." It's annoying in the mainstream culture, but among witches it's even worse. Maybe I'm stuck-up and overly pious, whatever religion I follow, but I remember being in my late teens and early twenties being a practicing pagan, and having a vastly different understanding of this holiday than the people around me. Being well over the age of 12, I feel silly dressing in some tacky costume. For me, November Eve was a solemn Feast of the Dead, a time for honouring one's ancestors, and ritually celebrating the Wiccan legend of the goddess's descent into the Realm of Death, where she learns his mysteries and teaches him those of rebirth in return. I realize that people in our culture like any excuse to get drunk and make fools of themselves, but when pagans and witches even just see Halloween in this shallow way, it's a bit worrying for the tradition.


You seem to be under the impression that this is an either/or thing. While this might be true for some, it's not a universal truth.  You may not mix frivolity and seriousness, sacred and mundane in your practices, but that doesn't mean that there's something inherently wrong in doing so. For some of us, it's how we've shaped our overall practices.  

This "self-identified witch", pagan, and psychopomp celebrates both aspects of the season. The silliness of the holiday doesn't bother me in the least.  A lot of people use that irreverence as a way of coping with what may be scary shit for them - ghosts, mortality, evil, and death.  Our culture has distanced itself from death to an extreme.  Secular Halloween celebrations give that chance in a way that's socially acceptable and relatively safe to explore death and darkness.

Everyone approaches holidays differently.  Why be so judgemental about people whose way of celebrating is different from yours?
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Demophon

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Re: Irreverence Towards Halloween, Even Among Pagans
« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2016, 11:16:39 pm »
Quote from: MadZealot;198056
I see no reason why the day can't be both somber and a little fun at the same time.  There's nothing saying it has to be all dour.


That's true. I think of November Eve/Halloween as being a funerary occasion, so solemnity is appropriate. I do accept that different cultures approach death in different ways.
 
Quote from: Darkhawk;198059
Obligatory "the tradition?!" grumpy comment goes here.

(Can't say I've seen what you see, honestly.  I have, however, seen a whole bunch of people assume that because someone is pagan they celebrate Samhain religiously.)


Haha I knew that was coming. I originally had a disclaimer at the end explaining that I know not all witches are Wiccan or celebrate Samhain, yada yada yada, but I took it out for the sake of brevity because I thought I had rambled on enough.
 
Quote from: Dusk;198060
I also very much dislike your implication that anyone who doesn't share your exact traditions and emotions about a particular holiday is clearly only learning from "silly books" and has "no grasp of the tradition" they follow. People have different preferences and perspectives when it comes to spirituality, and your way isn't the only true way.


Now that we've established that I'm a pompous twat, I would just like to say that it's not the specific practices of costumes and revelry at Halloween that I have a problem with, which was probably not clear in my original post. I was just using them as examples as modern day trappings that, at face value, have no connection to the religious significance of the day.

What irritates me is that there are people who will call themselves Wiccan and make a big fuss about how into October and Halloween they are, yet know next to nothing about the Legend of the Descent, or any other spiritual understandings of the occasion outside of what they learn from pop culture. Maybe I'm a jerk for being annoyed by that, but that's how it is. I guess there's a reason I gravitated towards the Catholic Church, where there is reverence, tradition, and unity, and could never relate very well to pagan groups.

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Re: Irreverence Towards Halloween, Even Among Pagans
« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2016, 11:27:55 pm »
Quote from: Dusk;198060
The thing is, first of all, there isn't really any other holiday like Halloween where people can dress up in fun costumes and decorate their house in cobwebs and drink cocktails that look like blood. Many people happen to like that sort of thing, myself included.

 
Worth noting: inversion holidays are an ancient thing, and many sociologists consider them critical for blowing off steam in an intensely socially stratisfied culture such as the United States has.

There are no other inversion holidays in general US culture.  (I mean, Mardi Gras exists, but it is localised, and that's one of the classics.)  Which means all of the role stagnation, psychological consequences of being trapped in a particular social status with no meaningful hope of change, and shadow release has a grand total of one possible outlet.
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

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Re: Irreverence Towards Halloween, Even Among Pagans
« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2016, 11:38:38 pm »
Quote from: Demophon;198064
What irritates me is that there are people who will call themselves Wiccan


Perhaps the rant directed at "pagans" was poorly phrased then.

Quote
and make a big fuss about how into October and Halloween they are, yet know next to nothing about the Legend of the Descent, or any other spiritual understandings of the occasion outside of what they learn from pop culture.

 
There are a number of different versions of outer court Wiccan mythological cycles; you appear to have latched onto one of them as The Correct One To Be Celebrating.  (I know I am not privy to the actual mythologies that BTW deal with, if, indeed, they have specific ones.  I am not an initiate in those traditions; my Craft is additionally not descended from those traditions.)

Meanwhile, you also appear to be of the opinion that people's public discourse is all the information to be had about their full scope of practice, which is honestly something I find really, really funny when talking about Wicca of all things.  I mean that particular thing is canonically and widely known to be full of the stuff that you talk about in public and the stuff that you only deal with among intimates.

Yeah, a lot of these people aren't going to be lineaged Wiccans who have oathbound stuff to deal with, but the rest of us know the difference between public and private too.  I'm not an initiate of anything and I'm about a billion percent more likely to talk about working on my kids' Halloween costumes than about my seasonal rituals.
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Re: Irreverence Towards Halloween, Even Among Pagans
« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2016, 08:30:13 am »
Quote from: Jack;198061
Well then call me Sally Owens, because I'm frankly thrilled that wearing costumes is becoming more socially acceptable again, because costuming is a powerful form of magic. I love that the Halloween season on Tumblr starts in August and extends into November. I love that my fellow spooky pagans announce Code Pumpkin when the cheesy goth decor shows up in stores.


This. There's a tremendous amount of power in the guising tradition, and in exploring different ways of being than our ordinary day to day life. Sure, some people do the "Hey, excuse to get drunk." (but my religion includes a recognition of the more Dionysian bacchanal line of celebration as well as other forms, we contain multitudes) but for a lot of people, costuming and parties are important parts of magical and community experience, and one of the few times some people can be public about their love of magic and myth and the power of story.

As mentioned else-thread, I don't do the secular Hallowe'en thing for personal reasons (too close an overlap with my father's death anniversary, and I am not in the mood for parties) but that's a personal thing.

I'm glad other people get to have a good time, and even more glad that it means that some stuff that's useful for my rituals sometimes (dry ice, interesting decorations, actually black candles, and much more) is easy to shop for.

Pretty much the only time I get cranky about it are when I've run into people who impede other people's celebration of the more somber parts by blocking scheduling of the more somber rituals because they want to be at a party.

(If they pick the party instead, that's their call. It's when they ask people to significantly affect ritual timing so they can party, or are hungover or otherwise not up for ritual commitments because of the partying, that's no fair to people who have been focusing on the more somber ritual stuff. And in practice, the people who do that kind of thing have tended to not be a great fit for me ritually in other ways, so finding out at Samhain is often a tidy piece of info.)
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Re: Irreverence Towards Halloween, Even Among Pagans
« Reply #11 on: October 26, 2016, 10:15:43 am »
Quote from: Demophon;198064
What irritates me is that there are people who will call themselves Wiccan and make a big fuss about how into October and Halloween they are, yet know next to nothing about the Legend of the Descent, or any other spiritual understandings of the occasion outside of what they learn from pop culture. Maybe I'm a jerk for being annoyed by that, but that's how it is. I guess there's a reason I gravitated towards the Catholic Church, where there is reverence, tradition, and unity, and could never relate very well to pagan groups.

Here's how I see it, though: the Charge of the Goddess, which most Wiccans follow last I checked, specifically calls for both mirth and reverence, paired together. So turning a deeply spiritual holiday into an occasion with a bit of fun in it too is still well within acceptable bounds, I'd imagine.

It's also funny that you mention the Catholic church as being very reverent and focused on tradition, because the Catholic church I attended when I was young would have Fr. Chuck give the Christmas morning mass every year while wearing a Santa hat. I know that's not going to be everyone's experience, but it at least illustrates that it's not all serious business everywhere.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2016, 10:17:21 am by Noctua »

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Re: Irreverence Towards Halloween, Even Among Pagans
« Reply #12 on: October 26, 2016, 06:41:39 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;198065
Worth noting: inversion holidays are an ancient thing, and many sociologists consider them critical for blowing off steam in an intensely socially stratisfied culture such as the United States has.

There are no other inversion holidays in general US culture.  (I mean, Mardi Gras exists, but it is localised, and that's one of the classics.)  Which means all of the role stagnation, psychological consequences of being trapped in a particular social status with no meaningful hope of change, and shadow release has a grand total of one possible outlet.


Much becomes clear.
... I wonder if this is a factor behind the rise of cosplay fandom?
*saunters off to look up inversion holidays*

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Re: Irreverence Towards Halloween, Even Among Pagans
« Reply #13 on: October 26, 2016, 06:58:24 pm »
Quote from: Demophon;198053
This is something I notice every year, and while I don't necessarily celebrate Samhain/November Eve as a pagan sabbat anymore, I do have a sentimental attachment to it remaining from when I followed neo-paganism more closely.

It just seems like even the self-identified witches I know in real life have an attitude that is like, "OMG I love October because I'm so morbid and I love the Nightmare Before Christmas. Halloween is so awesome, I'm gonna wear a goofy costume and get drunk." It's annoying in the mainstream culture, but among witches it's even worse. Maybe I'm stuck-up and overly pious, whatever religion I follow, but I remember being in my late teens and early twenties being a practicing pagan, and having a vastly different understanding of this holiday than the people around me. Being well over the age of 12, I feel silly dressing in some tacky costume. For me, November Eve was a solemn Feast of the Dead, a time for honouring one's ancestors, and ritually celebrating the Wiccan legend of the goddess's descent into the Realm of Death, where she learns his mysteries and teaches him those of rebirth in return. I realize that people in our culture like any excuse to get drunk and make fools of themselves, but when pagans and witches even just see Halloween in this shallow way, it's a bit worrying for the tradition.

It's probably just another case of solitary eclectic Wicca being accessible to the mainstream, and anyone who likes Practical Magic can buy some silly book in the New Age section of a major bookstore and pretend to be Sally Owens without a full grasp of the tradition whose label they are claiming. It's really nothing new, but I guess I'm just an old grump.

 
I was frankly confused by this thread title, as I had no idea Halloween was something people were supposed to be reverential towards.
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Re: Irreverence Towards Halloween, Even Among Pagans
« Reply #14 on: October 26, 2016, 07:09:53 pm »
Quote from: Demophon;198053
This is something I notice every year, and while I don't necessarily celebrate Samhain/November Eve as a pagan sabbat anymore, I do have a sentimental attachment to it remaining from when I followed neo-paganism more closely.

It just seems like even the self-identified witches I know in real life have an attitude that is like, "OMG I love October because I'm so morbid and I love the Nightmare Before Christmas. Halloween is so awesome, I'm gonna wear a goofy costume and get drunk."


I shall be dressing up for the Halloween party but the Samhain rituals will be much more sombre - no costumes.  My tradition does not use calendar dates for Samhain so usually there is quite a gap between the two -( nearly 2 weeks last year) so they are clearly separate.

This year however they are pretty closely aligned unfortunately and I'm actually wondering how I'm going to fit in all my ritual responsibilities. I must learn to say no.

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Marilyn (2013)

* Cauldron Staff

Host:
Sunflower

Message Board Staff
Board Coordinator:
Darkhawk

Assistant Board Coordinator:
Aster Breo

Senior Staff:
Aisling, Jenett, Sefiru

Staff:
Allaya, Chatelaine, EclecticWheel, HarpingHawke, Kylara, PerditaPickle, rocquelaire

Discord Chat Staff
Chat Coordinator:
Morag

Cauldron Council:
Bob, Catja, Emma-Eldritch, Fausta, Jubes, Kelly, LyricFox, Phouka, Sperran, Star, Steve, Tana

Site Administrator:
Randall