Updated: Nov 5, 2019
This year, I celebrated my first Halloween in 13 years. For just a smidge over a decade, I was involved in a religious cult, one that didn't allow it's members to celebrate...anything...in any capacity.
Taking part in Halloween this year was new...strange...and yet familiar. You see, I converted to the cult when I was just 20, so I had grown up celebrating all the typical Christian/American holidays.
I've always been one of those people who love to dress up and Halloween is basically the only time when it is socially acceptable to do such things in public (unless you're part of a comic convention or renaissance fair). I had spent many a Halloween night Trick-Or-Treating in my neighborhood with friends, running across front lawns through knee-high leaves, constantly fidgeting with my too tight/too big/too staticky/too long costume and eating candy until I felt sick but then still finding the gumption to shove another piece in my mouth all before the festivities were over.
This past Halloween was so different from any I had experienced in childhood. I was excited to hand out candy, to have my porch light on, to not have to have all the windows closed up, to actually say, "happy Halloween", to watch fun/scary movies on TV, to appreciate all the aspects of the origin of the holiday (Samhain), to let whatever pieces resonate with me....resonate with me. Like the old traditions of the holiday - to remember those who have passed on before us, to appreciate the bounties of the year, the nearing of the end of the warm, sunny seasons.
With all the anticipation and excitement, I am still deeply bruised by the years of heavy, intense indoctrination which taught that this holiday (and all the rest) are evil and if celebrated, would mean certain disfellowshipping (shunning) from the cult and death in the soon approaching armageddon. Freedom from such teachings is wonderful but it comes at a price - one's mind is not completely free. Doubts set in, guilt, fear...questioning my decision to be a part of yet another holiday.
On Halloween eve, I walked through the woods with my brother, thinking about the ones I've lost in life to death. Most of whom it was just a metaphorical death, because they are all still alive. Anyone I've ever known for the past 13 years is gone. We will never get to speak to each other again, never laugh together, never sit together. The cult instructs them to cross the street if we happen to be walking on the same side of the road, just so that they can avoid me. But just like what we experience when a person dies, so it is the same in this situation. To them, it's like I have died as well. Besides the fact that they have lost me to "the world" and turned away from Jehovah, they believe that now I will undoubtedly die in armageddon. We are both the walking dead but for different reasons and from different viewpoints.
I reflected on the memories of my best friend and I getting into our usual antics, laughing until our stomachs hurt and we nearly peed our pants...the things she used to say....how she used to say them. I can still hear her laugh, specific jokes she had said, the way she used to walk fast in chunky, black 1990's style shoes (that she just couldn't give up) because she was ALWAYS running late to everything.
I thought too of my maternal grandmother and her cousin (my namesake). Questions of what I'd ask them, what we'd talk about intersected memories of people who I lost to the cult.
Despite all that, the walk through the woods with my brother was pleasant, with dappled, late afternoon sunbeams. It's one of our favorite spots to explore. The area we went to, we refer to as "the beaver pond" - because...for obvious reasons, it's a pond and a beaver lives there. Evidence of it's daily workings encircle the water's edge with stubby, gnawed trees all over the place, making it look like some other-worldly desolated landscape. On the opposite side of the pond, you can see it's massive pile of a log mansion.
My costume is one I had made back when I was 22 and supposed to have gone to a renaissance fair with one of my friends. It's a beautiful green velvet dress with laces on the side. The boots I paired with it I had bought a few years back because of their vintage look with their long laces all the way to the top. The cloak was loaned to me by my cousin who purchased it on one of his visits to Salem, Massachusetts. I accessorized the ensemble with a simple western-style silver necklace, which ended up doubling nicely as a medieval piece of jewelry and blue/brown feathers in my hair. Put it all together and it was very Maid Marian-esque.
Sean (my brother) was dressed as a knight so we debated who he should be - Robin Hood....a generic knight or a dragon slayer. He opted for all of them.
Since our part of the country got rained out on Halloween night, our neighborhood rescheduled Trick-Or-Treating for Friday, which means, we got TWO Halloweens. I completely loved it. The kiddos coming up the door, all dressed up, were so cute and of course the teenagers were fun and crazy. Watching the kids run from door to door reminded me of Halloweens past, when I was their age. Sean and I sat on the front step, all dressed up and all bundled up because even though we live in South Carolina, the temperatures were abnormally chilly. We took turns handing out candy, complimenting costumes, acting scared when a kid arrived in something gruesome and joyfully shouting out, "happy Halloween!"
I'm excited to celebrate the rest of the holidays this year and can't wait for all the years to come.