October 30, 2007

All Hallows' Eve

It's that time of year again, when scary guys come out and act like they're some kinda big deal, when lunatics put cobwebs all over their house to substitute for the ones they've prevented real spiders from making, and when a handeful of concerned people try to keep kids away from the whole mess. The story goes that back when pagans were being evangelized, the consensus was to take what was good in the pagan tendencies and sift it out of what was bad. In the case of the creation of Halloween, the practice of honoring the dead (especially relatives and friends) and leaving food for them was replaced by similar but really Christian things: the food and treats were shared with the needy, they prayed to God for the purification of the souls in purgatory. Some people still mixed up their old pagan practices with the new thing, and today we've got secular horror spilling into the old stuff, such that a number of Christians prefer to treat the whole thing as pagan once again. Personally, I think Halloween, when done properly and not overdone (all things in moderation, you know), is actually rather healthy for a few reasons. Most of them have to do with things it can very well be besides a fascination with evil. There are several places where these things are being discussed, so I'd feel like I was being superfluous to go through the whole thing here. (Okay, I admit it, I just can't remember all the things between now and too late.) However, I want to, after offering some good links (several of my favorite blogs here!), present my own personal take on the whole thing.

http://wardweb.blogspot.com/2007/10/obligatory-halloween-post.html -- Hat tip: Ark.



http://www.christianhalloweenfan.com/ -- Be sure to read at least one of the in depth essays! I say, pick whichever is on the topic you "get" the least and keep reading whether it sounds sensible to you at first or not, it should begin to get clearer. Hat tip: Mark Shea.

http://holywhapping.blogspot.com/2007_10_01_archive.html#7235344027031536404 -- Alright, so it isn't much discussion, but honestly, these guys are funny. (Plus it's a nice heads-up: if you can find one of them Santos collection machines, that's way cool!)

Okay, so my take?

First of all, I'll say that a good bit of spiritual warfare does occur on this night. We Christians should indeed be praying for protection and doing our best to discern so we don't dabble in evil ourselves. However, that said and done, I think from there it is more effective to fight evil by showing the good in Halloween than by trying to shun it altogether. From there I'll talk about what I in particular see as good in it.

Well, beyond saying I agree that whatever makes certain things (dusky evenings, dark cats, etc.) fascinating is natural and predated their being associated with magicky nonsense, and beyond saying that it's good to be reminded that we'll become freaky at best if we don't be good... I think it can be a lot like Classic dramatic tradgedies and epics.

I don't have much familiarity with old monster films, but I read the in depth essay on them at Christian Halloween Fan and almost wished I had -- with the old fashioned ones, that is -- when I realized that they struck a chord with something I've long held. Perhaps I learned it in The Lord of the Rings, perhaps I learned it in some old role playing videogame. Perhaps it is akin to my elder brother supposing there may be such things as literary videogames. Perhaps it is akin to points that lovers of faerie tale role playing games (among other things more controversial) have made about the struggle between good and evil being portrayable with imperfect heroes battling in a magical story that, were we who don't belong in it to purposely wander in, would be immoral, but isn't for the characters who are meant to be there. It seems to me that the whole point of the Classics is to deal with the two essential truths about man found by Pascal: greatness and wretchedness.

Man is at once both great in nature, wretched in his fallenness, and, if we so choose, great again in his triumph, through God, or perhaps God through him, over the evil of his fall.

It seems to me that Halloween (done right at least), faerie tales and old monster movies portray this same thing that the classics portray. The classics view it at one point as men's conflicts being entangled in the conflicts of the gods, at another as man's flaws bringing his own destruction upon him, at yet another as man daringly braving death and destruction in a hundred ways for the damsel in distress. Halloween portrays much the same sort of things merely with the spooky side of the spectrum brought out, adding a little taste of fear and freakishness to the situation. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that. It helps us because the world is frightful, really, and evil really is freakish. Trying to look at these things as they are can be good for our courage in overcoming them and for our sense of reality in not overlooking the reality of evil's horror.

The wretchedness of man comes out in the monsters, the ghouls, and sometimes the haunting infirmities of some heroes themselves. These are the warnings of what man will fall to in his wickedness. The greatness of man comes out in the fact that we will stand tall and strong against them, make them playthings to have sport of. The same thing that warns us of what we can become also is our opportunity to make mocking fun out of it, because it's not what we are and because when all is said and done we will throw it off like our costumes, vanquishing it.

To put it in terms of C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy, we mock the Devil through his agent, the Unman, before we toss the poor thing off into the fire. Yes, and afterwards we pity the poor man who became the Unman and, just in case it was more Devil's tricks than actual mortal sinning, pray he may make it to Heaven.

I believe Chesterton's defence of pirate and thief tales in his Defense of Penny Dreadfuls is fairly instructive in any play about what would ordinarily be an evil thing but really is just far fetched for most of us. For some, certain things may be a temptation to sin, and some things cannot be played at by anyone because by nature they are temptations to virtually all, but for many things his argument applies. See this post at The Blue Boar for it, and come back to tell me what you think. If you ask me, Halloween is one big penny dreadful, and deserves to be looked at as something, while not necessarily sophisticated, certainly wholesome in a deep, child-like way.

If I may close with a quote from a videogame, of all things, I'd like to quote my older brother's favorite, Vagrant Story.

"Leave the back-from-the-grave stuff to the faerie tales."
"Show...a little more respect...for faerie tales."

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Blogger Gretchen said...

What a great post!!!

November 02, 2007 8:11 PM  

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