I’ve made my annual pilgrimage to Walmart to get more hot glue sticks while wearing embarrassing pajamas, so I guess I’m just about ready for Halloween. Last night I made progress on an Athena costume (helmet, spear, and aegis) for Corrie, and Clara saved the day by sewing a pirate skirt for Benny. I did my part by buying bootlaces that don’t perpetually untie themselves, and honestly, that may have saved Halloween, too.
I’ve been saving up a few interesting bits of reading to share, more or less Halloween related:
Samhain photo by Robin Canfield on Unsplash
Short answer: No. Long answer: No, it’s Catholic, always has been, you absolute shoehorning no-history-knowing nits. So says Tim O’Neill of History for Atheists, and he has the goods. The idea that religious people stole Samhain or some other pre-christian tradition from pagans is popular but completely without historical merit. A longish and fascinating read from a guy who can’t be accused of having a religious agenda.
Sorta related: Who burned the witches? This is an older article by Salon co-founder Laura Miller published in 2005, challenging the idea that, when we say “witch burning,” we mean some concerted effort by the big bad church to quash rebellious wise women who knew too much about how to gather healing herbs and whatnot.
Photo by Evgeniy Kletsov on Unsplash
Nobody really comes out looking especially awesome in the witch trial era, but it really seems to have been mostly a case of people being like people be, which is horrible enough in itself:
The mass of detail can be numbing, but what it reveals is important: not a sweeping, coordinated effort to exert control by a major historical player, but something more like what Hannah Arendt called the “banality of evil.” Witch hunts were a collaboration between lower-level authorities and commonfolk succumbing to garden-variety pettiness, vindictiveness, superstition and hysteria. Seen that way, it’s a pattern that recurs over and over again in various forms throughout human history, whether or not an evil international church or a ruthless patriarchy is involved, in places as different as Seattle and Rwanda.
I’m still amazed it got broadcast, because it’s so weird and beautiful and thoughtful. It’s an animated miniseries of 12 short episodes, and every one is gorgeous, creepy, funny, and strangely moving, with crazy, memorable music.
Two half-brothers find themselves lost in the woods on Halloween, and as they try to make their way home, they become entangled in some terrifying otherworldly business. It’s loosely inspired by The Divine Comedy, but I wouldn’t push that too far.
Each episode is about 11 minutes, so you can watch the entire series in about two hours. We split it into two nights. Here’s the first episode, which is pretty representative:
It’s rated PG, but some of the characters and situations are extremely creepy, so while we did let our six-year-old watch it, she has a very high tolerance for scary stuff, and some kids under the age of eight or nine could find it too scary. (Here’s a specific list of creepy stuff.) There is a lot of very silly and hilarious stuff that fixes you right up when you get creeped out. No gore, graphic violence, or sex. There is a persistent melancholy tone, but all the relationships in the show get worked out very satisfactorily, and familial love is the true theme of the miniseries, and all is restored in the end.
This show also contains one of the most realistic depictions of a goofy little boy we’ve ever seen. We’ve come to burgle your turts! Lots of quotes and songs have become part of our family culture.
Here’s a beast costume
a Wirt costume
and a Wirt and Greg cake:
The whole thing is crowded with allusions and suggestions and portents, and you can either pursue them or just enjoy them. It originally ran on Cartoon Network in 2014. It doesn’t appear to be streaming for free anywhere right now. We bought it to stream on Amazon.
Halloween/All Saints Day protip!
Save yourself the hassle of putting together two different costumes for the two different occasions: dress up as Blessed Carlo Acutis dressing up as Spider-Man.
You’re welcome. https://t.co/dz24C9kNVQ
— Matt Swaim (@mattswaim) October 12, 2021
And if you’re really ahead of the game, here is my All Soul’s Day cheat sheet: A recipe for eggs in purgatory, a recipe for soul cakes, and a quick prayer for the dead. Donezo.