I’ve always loved Halloween. I sported some fantastic homemade costumes as a kid: Statue of Liberty, gypsy, prairie girl (complete with bonnets). As a young adult, my hits included Velma from Scooby Doo (a group effort), an excellent (if I do say so myself) babydoll, and a very conceptual tornado. As I’ve gotten older, though, the holiday has lost some of its buzz for me. I don’t love binge-drinking. I don’t have a gang to do group costumes with. I try to avoid sugar. I hate the traffic to and from parties and the clusterfuckery of bars on Halloween. I want something better, something more…wholesome?
I’ve seen Hocus Pocus at least 23 times. I have always wanted that New England Halloween thing where all the houses are decked out and there are local tales of evil witches and the cemetary has a crypt. Now that I’m older, I want that party where all the adults wear elaborate costumes and dance (all night, because they are cursed, of course) and there’s an awesome bluesy band and presumably good booze.
I also want to do all the kid stuff. I can’t do that, of course, but I want to borrow a kid for the season at least. I want to go to pumpkin patches and costume parades and trick-or-treating and school Fall Festivals and all the family-friendly events that you really can’t do if you don’t have a kid.
Anyway. I want something new for Halloween. I don’t know exactly what that is, but this year it involves the road trip I advocated last weekend. I’m heading to Asheville to have a spook out with my witchy friend Kara. Plans include a burlesque, a Sleepy Hollow puppet show, and possible a seance. Here are some suggestions for things to bring some witch to your weekend:
Honor Your Ancestors
This is really pertinent to me right now, since I lost my Dad to cancer a little over a month ago. I want to emphasize that I am neither Pagan nor Catholic and do not want to diminish the religious holidays of Samhain, Dio de los Muertos, or All Saint’s Day. I do really love the idea, though, of taking time out to honor those who have passed with celebration and remembrance. I am also interested in experiencing a Samhain ritual as part of my full witch explorations. Here are some suggestions of simple activities you can do this weekend to honor those who have gone before us (borrowed from the lovely website Circle Sanctuary):
- Ancestors Altar. Gather photographs, heirlooms, and other mementos of deceased family, friends, and companion creatures. Arrange them on a table, dresser, or other surface, along with several votive candles. Kindle the candles in their memory as you call out their names and express well wishes. Thank them for being part of your life. Sit quietly and pay attention to what you experience. Note any messages you receive in your journal. (Read Creating an Altar for more ideas.)
- Feast of the Dead. Prepare a Samhain dinner. Include a place setting at your table or at a nearby altar for the Dead. Add an offering of a bit of each beverage being consumed to the cup at that place setting, and to the plate, add a bit of each food served. Invite your ancestors and other deceased loved ones to come and dine with you. To have this as a Samhain Dumb Supper experience, dine in silence. After the feast, place the contents of the plate and cup for the Dead outdoors in a natural location as an offering for the Dead.
- Ancestor Stories. Learn about family history. Contact one or more older relatives and ask them to share memories of family members now dead. Record them in some way and later write accounts of what they share. Give thanks. Share what you learned and have written with another family member or friend. Add names of those you learned about and wish to honor to your Ancestors Altar.
- Cemetery Visit. Visit and tend the gravesite of a loved one at a cemetery. Call to mind memories and consider ways the loved one continues to live on within you. Place an offering there such as fresh flowers, dried herbs, or a libation of water.
Walk in the Woods
This weekend marks the end of summer (that’s what the word “samhain” means) and the beginning of the colder weather. Make a point to spend some time in the great outdoors this weekend and enjoy the harvest season. Throw on some plaid flannel, wooly socks, boots and a knit cap. Recreate all those wonderful photos of hip young adults in sweaters, walking through the woods. Take a hike. Sit on your porch with a pumpkin chai. Rake leaves, or gather them to make a wreath. Build a bonfire. Celebrate the season and connect with nature.
Go outside and stay there.
Listen to Halloween Music
Like, nonstop. You’ve got like 48 hours so make it count! I’ve had Werewolf Bar Mitzvah stuck in my head for months and now I can play it on repeat without feeling unseasonable.
Here’s a Spotify playlist I made last year for my occasional radio show, The Friday Night Mixtape on WCOM FM. There are a lot of spooky instrumental songs mixed in there to add a really creepy ambiance to your car or home. Honestly, I’ve been listening to this since September.
Do you have any Halloween traditions or rituals of your own?