One sure indicator that we’ve once again arrived in October, and the unnatural Season of the Witch, is that our local coffee stores have started to scrawl ‘Pumpkin Spice Lattes’ on their chalkboards in a large variety of charming handwritten fonts. Similarly to the joys of Christmas, some of us begin to wax poetic at the first signs of leaves falling, the gentle bite of chill in the breeze and the odd spot of an ‘autumnal shower’, and all of the thrilling opportunities we will have to wear our favourite jumpers pulled up to our chins. However, as the days march onward, there is one thing that moves from the back of our minds to the fore: Halloween.
Halloween is more and more filling us with a feeling of a sort-of nostalgia-for-the-present; where our communities thrive on little bursts of excitement at the prospect of gleeful chilren knocking on our door looking less for tricks, and more for sweets, and at the possibility of all the artistically carved pumpkins we’ll see as we walk down our streets back into the relative warmth and comfort of our houses. Even as we go into our local supermarkets we are surrounded by toys and teddies moving autonomously across the tiles singing ‘The Monster Mash’, throwaway skull chalices and cobwebbed paper plates, and an assortment of terrifying masks that put Jason Vorhees to shame. In all, this Halloween mirth draws us closer to the origins of All Hallow’s Eve, a Christian tradition (Whether influenced by older Celtic and Pagan traditions, or not) of dedicating a time in the year to remember saints (Hallows), martyrs, and the faithfully departed. These Christian beginnings are suggestive of Halloween as being a postitive time of remembrance.
However, there are differing tales from All Saint’s Eve about the souls, ‘less-faithfully’, departed. There have been claims that Halloween was a time for dead souls to return to the land of the living as one last change to avenge themselves, or settle any ‘outstanding business’ with the living, or that Hallowe’en featured decorations and lights to either; guide the souls of the dead to the other side, or rather, away from ‘Christian souls’. Across the tide of history, and an ever-revolving complex milieu of religious trend; from traditions of filling your house full of ‘soul lights’, to observing the three-day festival of Allahallowtide, to a more secular tradition of teen’lay, involving lighting a pitchfork of hay whilst gathering around the flames praying for the dead until the light burned out, we are left with Halloween as a blend of culture, tradition, and history.
It would appear that in our time many of us will have abandoned the rich tapestry of history behind the festival of Halloween, and instead focus on the time of year as an opportunity to represent the dead, or to celebrate the Uncanny, the unnatural, and the scary with increasing aplomb. So, for this month with Cellar Door, we will be thinking about the ‘Unnatural’, telling one another ghost stories around the campfire, keeping one ear on the tale, and another out for the sound of snapping twigs.
We would love to hear how you interpret Halloween and what it means to you; either through your own chilling tales of the unnatural, or through showing us All Hallow’s Eve through your eyes. We accept poetry, prose, short/flash fiction, photography, art, think-pieces, or articles. You can submit to: ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. We look forward to seeing what you come up with!
Aaron Simpson, Assistant Editor
Image: Memento Mori by Walter Kuhlman