Posted by: tlnemethy | November 1, 2012

Thinning The Veil

The historical significance of Halloween is famed for its outlandishness and allowing our fears to be suspended for a single night. We fear the dark and the things that go bump in the night, yet on Halloween we dress ourselves in “sexy” or “scary” outfits (although they can be interchangeable depending on who is doing the wearing). We wander the streets that normally would keep us indoors, the darkness only illuminated through a fiendishly carved pumpkin or a thin flashlight beam, and we stride purposefully into the dentist’s chair for a filling.

October is a perfectly placed month for such festivities in that the thinning of the veil between the living and the dead allows for a brief crossing, a brief switching of energies and emotions. We can take the night as one in which to celebrate our continued living or even to celebrate the expired lives of anyone we had a chance to know, we can look forward to candy in our hands or the adorable children who come to our doors. But it is the one night of the year that we set our fears aside to step out of our circled light and embrace the dark and the macabre, the grotesque and the foregone. Sure, we could be seen as mocking when we attend candlelit ghost tours of the graves of Salem witches hanged in the gallows, we could be treading on holy ground with our foolish feet, our plastic knives dripping cornstarch and food coloring where their blood stopped churning.

How did the holiday become something less of remembrance and more of selfish grubbing for candy? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not craggy and grumbling because I can no longer go door to door for candy without embarrassment. I don’t mind the holiday at all. And this year I celebrated in the style of the ancestors. As a native New Englander I grew up hearing stories of the Salem witches and their persecution, but I never delved too deeply into the roots of witchcraft until this very evening when I attended the open house for an organization known as the Temple of Witchcraft.

The temple just recently relocated to Salem, NH (Salem, MA is where the witch trials were held) and they fondly dubbed themselves “the other witches of Salem.” A small religious group, they were forthright on their connection to nature rather than the devil, which is something that many people get confused about. Now, I tend to avoid religion in general because as much as I love hearing stories (from all religions), I often find that as soon as I show any interest I get designated as “someone to save” and therefore never left alone. Although I was kind of skeeved to attend a religious open house, Halloween sounded like the best evening to jump in. We were greeted by a barefoot man who asked that we please remove our shoes, instantly throwing me into a panic because of my hatred of feet, but the tour only went uphill from there. My group seems to be the only one to attend the open house, and we stayed for two and a half hours.

I find the uproar that goes on when something controversial moves into town to be something of a failure in the development of our societal norms. Who cares if a temple of witchcraft moves into town? Don’t attend if it bothers you that much. I know the temple personally invited a bunch of people from the community when they relocated, but only my group showed up. And to top it off, I read a complaint letter circulating the neighborhood about the temple already. They haven’t even unpacked boxes and there are complaints about “what could possibly happen.” Not a single one of the concerned people showed up to actually figure out whether the temple would be problematic, or whether the people running it were crazies. I believe this lacking understanding is how the witch trials ran as long as they did in the first place.

Don’t condemn before looking into things yourself. They aren’t sacrificing neighborhood cats or virgins on the altar out back. They light candles and stand in circles, they have priests and religion, the only difference is in how they choose to connect themselves to the world. They seemed very welcoming, and not at all like some wingnuts I’ve met in my day. But hey, check them out yourself or you’ll never be satisfied that they aren’t playing with voodoo dolls and running around cursing townsfolk.


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