Wednesday, October 19, 2011

War on Halloween 2011 edition: News from the Underground

Another innocent victim of the War on Halloween
"Halloween: Everything you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask"

Local daily. Check.
Cringe inducing title. Check.
Proximity to Halloween: Close enough. (you'll get the joke later)
Outdated encyclopedic references. Check.
Samhain, Lord of the Dead. Check.
Token Pagan spokespeople. Actually, the author appears to have actually done some research on this one.
Hyperbolic Christian explaining the "real" origins. Double check, and in fine form.

Yes, its Halloween origin article season, and this particular article comes courtesy of the Cleveland Daily Banner. Now I found this article, because I got a hit for "Celtic Reconstructionist" in my Google news search, so right away it scored some points for even mentioning CR. That, unfortunately, is about the only positive thing about this article.

For starters, the article is written by William Wright, author of "The Little White Book Of Light", which according to its Amazon plug: "This is at last an inspiring piece of work with solid Scriptural and practical advice from some of the greatest minds of the past." Red Flag. Upon perusing more of his columns on the Daily's site, we get reassuring titles like: "That Old Black magic", "What is Heaven Like?", and "Planet of the Apes". Alarm bells, at this point, started going off. But he actually quoted Druid authors, I say to myself, maybe I'm jumping the gun?

The article starts off in a typical fashion, some people are interviewed and they mention how fun Halloween is, and how much their grandchildren enjoy dressing up. Seems like harmless fun, right? Nope, the very next paragraph we are told how macabre and eerie Halloween is. Insert just quoted grandparent providing typical, "we know there was some evil in there, but we just want our grand kids to have fun". Yup, next comes the many people are very concerned with the true origins of Halloween bit, and this outdated encyclopedic entry from the 1970's will surely not fail to provide.
The Encyclopedia Americana says, “Elements of the customs connected with Halloween can be traced to a Druid ceremony in pre-Christian times. The Celts had festivals for two major gods — a sun god (called Lug) and a god of the dead, called Samhain, whose festival was held on Nov. 1, the beginning of the Celtic New Year.”
An artists depiction of Samhain, Celtic Spirit of Death
Alright, so he uncritically accepts an outdated encyclopedia article, but then he quotes some books by real life Druids, so it can't be all bad, right? Wright quotes from Carr-Gomm's, "Elements of the Druids in England":
“Time was abolished for the three days of this festival and people did crazy things, men dressed as women and women as men ... children would knock on neighbors’ doors for food and treats in a way that we still find today, in a watered down way, in the custom of trick-or-treating on Halloween.”

He added, “With the coming of Christianity, this festival turned into Halloween, Oct. 31, All Hallows (All Saints Day), Nov. 1 and All Souls Day, Nov. 2. Here we can see most clearly the way in which Christianity built on pagan foundations it found rooted in these (British) isles. Not only does the purpose of the festival match the earlier one, but even the unusual length of the festival is the same.”
 And from Issac Bonewit's, "Bonewit’s Essential Guide to Witchcraft and Wicca", (Alright so he quotes a Druid from a book said Druid wrote about Neowicca, so yes I should edit my list and throw in the Wiccan reference too).
Bonewits said, “Halloween is a time to lift the veil between many material and spiritual worlds in divination, so as to gain spiritual insight about our past and futures ... to deepen our connection to the gods and goddesses we worship.”
Such fine examples of backhanded references are rare, but to elaborate just a tad: The uneasiness which permeates the article, and the implied horror that one ought to be feeling are well served from these quotes. The funny thing is, the quotes do imply an actual aspect of the significance of Halloween (or Samhain), that it is a marked period of liminality. Unfortunately, Wright then spins this concept to come across as weird, even sinister. For starters he was sure to mention the aspect of cross dressing, guaranteed to cause a twist in the britches of his readership. The other aspect is the assertion of survival of those scary pagan elements into the modern day activities associated with Halloween. Yup, the Iron age Celts would celebrate their dark lord of the dead by going door to door and tick or treating, nothing modern at all to see here, move along.
Here we see the "trick" of arson being played when the inhabitants failed to provide an appropriate treat
Wright then goes into serious investigative journalist mode by quoting a book by Colonel J. Garnier, "The Worship of the Dead", or (and Wright fails to mention the alternative title) "The Origin And Nature Of Pagan Idolatry And Its Bearing Upon The Early History Of Egypt And Babylonia". In it, you wil learn all about the fact that ancient celebrations of the dead can all be traced back to after the Biblical deluge, and this is shown by the proximity for these festivals to happen around the same time.
This festival, moreover, held by all on or about the very day on which, according to the Mosaic account, the deluge took place, the seventeenth day of the second month — the month nearly corresponding with our November.
Clearly "nearly corresponding" is close enough that a bafflingly stupid argument designed to try and make actual history fit in with the mythic narrative offered by Genesis, has convinced some that this actually makes sense, because apparently this is the reason many people feel uncomfortable with celebrating Halloween. Wrights penultimate paragraph provides some very confused conclusions to boot.
Whether it is viewed as harmless fun, a longstanding tradition, sacred rites or something to avoid, Halloween no longer has any skeletons in its closet. Even unmasked, it is as scary as ever
That's right, longstanding traditions and sacred rites are really, really scary. The fact that some people are not Christian, and may even worship other deities is truly horrifying. If you're interested in either a good laugh/ repeatedly smashing your head against your desk, I would also recommend Wright's "Roots of Halloween", which expands Garnier's ridiculous thesis, posits the universality of global flood myths, the ever popular Nephilim = ancient gods, and that the reason that folks celebrate the lives and memory of their ancestors is because they were all killed, at once; no mention is made of how the tradition survived this global purge. Still, my favourite bit of "look at the incontrovertible evidence, duh" moment is when he says, "But don’t forget the fact that all of this water on planet earth came from somewhere. It wasn’t always here."

I never thought I would find an article that would top Kimberly Daniels "The Dangers of Celebrating Halloween", but her article is so over the top that it almost borders on parody. Wright's article(s) try in a very backhanded way to appear educational and objective, all the while denouncing the perceived evils of Halloween. This to me makes his articles all the more problematic, because your average reader (and mind I've no idea of the demographic who reads his articles, let alone the Cleveland Daily) would glance at this, find its arguments reasonable, and accept it as fact With this in mind, Wright's article is the new gold standard by which all other "War on Halloween" articles will be judged. Not only does it denounce Halloween, it goes the extra mile of revealing the horrors of other religions.

1 comment:

  1. *bangs head against desk* ... the stupid, it burns us precioussssss