This is the year that I have been in places where Halloween is not about spectacle, but about the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. In Celtic Lore, All Hallows Eve is really New Year’s Eve–the old world goes/the new year comes and yes the living and the dead may speak. Which is why Dios de los Muertos makes sense too. There needs to be an understanding of the many worlds we move through. Poets of course know this. We do. We may not always acknowledge that, but we do. Without that intuited understanding of the many worlds we move through we would be bereft of word play. We would not recognize the need for myths. We would be diminished in our words and in our play. One of my favorite uses of the mythic is Ishmael Reed’s masterful “I am a Cowboy in the Boat of Ra” http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/i-am-cowboy-boat-ra
My favorite Halloween time was in the late 1970s’early 80s before AIDS and celebrity overtook the Village Halloween Parade. In the early iteration, the parade was home made, artist organized-goofy, sexy and a true conversation between the living and the dead. When the Bread & Puppet Theater people met up in Washington Square around midnight and the hag became the maiden or was it the other way around; when drag queens wearing nurses uniforms tottered by on 5 inch heels across W. 4th St.; seeing The Royal Wedding at the corner of W. 10th & W. 4th–loved the guy as Princess Diana; when one group’s costumes were Victorian lamp shades just walking across 7th avenue South on the way to Christopher Street which post 10 pm. became a loud disco party. Everyone was dancing, everyone was conversing with the living and the dead. I guess the AIDS epidemic increased that conversation. I miss many people who were stricken with the disease-smart, talented pleasure seeking men and women. I am thankful for having known David Warrilow, Max Navarre, many others.
Now Halloween is a business, like everything else in America. The business of costumes and how to videos and sugared and sugar free candies and fake spider webs and decorations. I grew up with the hand made costume, the kind that make scenes in Meet me St. Louis and To Kill a Mockingbird so memorable. Things change, not always for the better. But every year Halloween comes round. Every year a circle of the living and dead meet, dance and begin to survive winter.