Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Our Annual Packos Pilgrimage

This article was composed by Misti and uploaded by Rod, it also appears on our family blog.

Every October 31, we make our annual pilgrimage to Tony Packos in Toledo.

You remember Tony Packos? In the M.A.S.H. television series, Corporal Klinger mentioned it often. It's a Hungarian restaurant, and Klinger waxed eloquent about their hot-dogs. We stopped in the first time because we were in the neighborhood and we wondered whether it would live up to the hype. It didn't. It's OK -- pretty mediocre, but not outright bad. But it is an adult oriented restaurant.

So every October 31, we go there. Mostly because it's an hour away in Toledo, making it easier to be busy and out of the way of the "festivities" we don't want to expose ourselves to between 6pm and 9pm. We darken the house, close the gates for the only time all year, and drive for an hour, eat for an hour in a restauramt that blessedly seems to have fogotten what date it is, and then drive home for an hour, arriving home after the last of the revellers has gone home to bed or out to the bars.

Why all the effort? As witches, aren't we supposed to love Halloween?

Well, a lot of witches do love it, but frankly, Rod and I don't enjoy Halloween at all. I find the whole thing disturbing and somewhat offensive. I don't particularly mind that people who see it differently than I do want to celebrate, especially now that they've stopped trying to insist that I have to play, too. But I really want no part of it, myself.

Like so many other holidays, Halloween started out as a pre-Christian celebration. The Celts called it Samhain, and it was the celebration of the final harvest and of death. When the Christian church entered the scene, they preferred to call the day All Saints Day or "Hallowed evening". But the the notion of dead folks wandering around wasn't so easy to quash, and the church had to find a way to deal with it. The combination of fear and misunderstanding between very different cultures left us with a mish-mash of ideas, none of which make a lot of sense when thrown together out of context.

The celebration of the final harvest and the honoring of the the dearly departed has morphed into a candy-fest featuring horrific images of death and highly fantasized images of magic and witchcraft.

Our major objection to Halloween as it's celebrated now start with the whole problem of the glorification of violence and the desecration of death's sacred nature. This time of year is indeed focused on death, just as spring is focused on birth. We honour the entire cycle of life, including death. Making one part of the cycle (birth) "sacred" and another (death) "scary" seems wrong. Add to that the "devils night" antics and the destruction of property that seems to have taken root in this time of year and the whole thing becomes pretty repulsive.

We also don't like the idea of children being fed on pounds and pounds of sugar. Yep, it's their parents call, and we honor that. But we don't want to poison your children and "healthy" treats will be thrown away, so we'll just opt out, thanks. (We have at least one friend who offers books to the children who come to her door -- and that is a great idea! If we ever get past our other objections, that's probably something we'll adopt.)

The idea of begging from strangers isn't a really great model to give kids, either. We prefer that our child be raised to be a contributor because in the end, that will make him much happier. If this was a once a year phenomenon it might pass muster, but name a single day of the year for which the children aren't conditioned to expect to be indulged ...

Then there's the commercialization problem -- people spend hundreds of dollars on this non-event every year! Hundreds of dollars for two hours of revelry on a holiday that has lost any real significance. It's insane!

What about the costumes? Those, I just don't understand. I think playing dress-up is great, but why limit it to once a year? And why focus on someone else's idea of a good costume, when there is a whole world of good ideas outside the costume shops? I have one friend whose children dress in costume on any day they wish -- now *that* is fun and imaginative! Jack hasn't shown any particular interest in costumes so far, but if he ever does, he won't be limited to this one day a year.

Rod adds to this list his objection to the appeasing of the spirit world with gifts, the trivializing of magic, and the typecasting of witchcraft and the supernatural as something perhaps frightening, or evil, but most definitely "other".

No we are not Disney Witches, nor even a Hogwarts graduates. This godawful trivialization, distortion, and commercialization of death and magic is something we just don't want to be a part of. So, we're going to enjoy our journey to Tony Packos.

See y'all tomorrow, when some semblance of sanity has returned.

Monday, October 01, 2007

We have met the enemy

"There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
Hamlet's words (or were they Horatio's?) have always been a challenge to us to explore the unknown. Like the tousands of plants and animals that were unknown when I was a kid, or the dozens of "new" elements that never made it into the periodic tables when I was a student. New nations keep appearing, so that the globe I once had in my living room is completely out of date, with few places in the world we're slowly learning to accept today.

I once had a small dinosaur family, tiny plastic creatures that I loved: Tyrannosaurus Rex -- I called him "Tyranny" and took him on adventures with me, along with Brontosaurus, Diplodicus, and all their friends, who were friends of mine, too.

One recent book, "Memoires of a Monster Hunter" by Nick Redfern (New Page Books, 2007) in pop-scientist style, tells of the author's attempts to locate such critters as the Loch Ness monster, or "the terrifying chimpaberra, a razor clawed, glowing eyed beast that is part giant bat and part vampire," and so on and so on. Unfortunately, the book is mostly about his treks into the wilderness and his adventures there.

Frankly, I've found it more fun to visit the real-life animals at Wolf Creek, where the big, very personable wolves are quite shy, particularly around men, but always alert and curious, protective of one another, and quite harmless to humans, although they see dogs as competitors for their territory.

Humans have a long history of destruction, far more devastating to our world heritage than anything less than the incredible planetary collision that destroyed the dinosaurs. We are at the center of a planetary disaster. Unfortunately Redfern's book shows little concern for the real disasters ahead. As Pogo once said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

John M. Morris