The number and richness of man’s signifiers always surpasses the set of defined objects that could be termed signifieds. The symbolic function must always precede its object and does not encounter reality except when it precedes it into the imaginary…”
― Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Last time, we talked about some of the origins of this deliciously dark season we fondly call Halloween. We touched on ancient roots that spread and grew to the ways we celebrate it now. At the core of our remembrance are the seed-bearing fruits — the symbols that have been passed on from our cultures, religions, and beliefs. These stay with us to bloom our imagination.
The forms of these symbols handed down from our ancestors may have transformed with their passing — evolving with the changes in societal norms, technological advancements, and creative trends. However, the essence of Halloween lives on through its emblems as a shared experience that spans borders. We start getting into the spirit when the spooky things start showing themselves come October.
Celebrating Halloween is fun. It brings the community together, allowing for a common, enjoyable way to face our fears of the metaphorical unknown. Our traditions may not be as solemn as our forebears, but the undercurrents of meaning that have withstood the test of time still flow. They continue to resonate among those of us who have sought to delve deeper — beneath the fake blood, fun-size candy, plastic masks, and jump scares. (Hello, polarizing candy corn! I miss you.)
It is our love for symbols (and fountain pens, of course ;)) that made me and my found sisters so excited to create the Hocus Opus series, in collaboration with Opus 88 Writing and Robert Oster Signature Inks. EndlessPens gave us the welcome opportunity to unleash our symbolic reworkings, as Halloween is rich with connotations close to our hearts. May our personal stories spark your own creative flames —
Illusions by @micahfinds ⁓
Halloween — I’ve grown up with mixed feelings about this season. Would you believe me if I told you that I’ve never gone trick or treating? Not once. Not a single time in my childhood, owing to religious beliefs (albeit, not even my own). I envied my peers who could dress up, and share tales as well as candy loots. And I’m also too much of a scaredy cat to sit down and binge-watch scary movies! Still, the supernatural, haunting literature and legends, the veils thinning between worlds, and magick called to me anyway. Despite all, they each have found a portion in my heart today.
⁓ When the Pandemic began in 2020, isolation led to discovery. I didn’t know it then, but I began weaving my own path during this time. I discovered Tarot, through which I also discovered myself. And I continue to do so.
The Moon tarot card represents our fears, the subconscious, repressions, inner confusions, and even lies. When we are governed by these things and they are not brought to light, we can behave in ways that seem out of our control. But really, we are not out of control. We are simply in a state of blindness.
In that darkness, there is a greater tendency to shame ourselves, cling to labels — or on the other side of that spectrum blame others and refuse to hold ourselves accountable to our actions. This is a horror I have had to live with most of my life. I was asleep, but thankfully, now, I am waking.
This October, EndlessPens gave me and our coven the chance to design our own Halloween-themed Opus 88 Writing pocket pens. For my pen, I chose the Moon Tarot as an inspiration. And it is called Illusions. Beware them for things are not always as they appear.
Magic Shop by @twenty_sides / @twenty_sides_illustrations ⁓
Halloween brings with it not just dark creatures and restless wraiths, but enchantment and sorcery as well. Woven into various cultural myths is the connected thread of magick that ripples freely during this in-between season. This is the time of divination, of wishing, and of rituals of protection for the coming cold months. As is natural for traditions kept alive through generations and across cultures, related elements become subsumed and adapted as humans see fit.
⁓ Enter the Witch with her spells and potions. With Magic Shop, my sister-creative has explored human agency at work, apart from the actions of supernatural beings or the deeds of the gods. What mortals need, mortals will make. And it is up to us to make that choice of what potion to use — love or madness, calm or confusion, death or life?
This is the way @twenty_sides weaves her own brand of magick within the world of Karma she has created for our coven. With her home-brewed world-building, role-playing game, she has given us the freedom of choice of what magick to use for our characters. Yes, rules still do apply, but each reaction and interaction is played by our own hands. Like selecting either a poison or a cure, our decisions determine our paths. The magick of her world adds depth and insight to our real one.
Tethered by @lekzumali ⁓
Growing up with my family traditions meant understanding Halloween as a time to honor our dead. My relatives would congregate in my hometown’s local cemetery to offer prayers and remember them through the sharing of stories. Soon enough, young me would join the other children, collecting hot drippings from lighted candles (it didn’t matter if your fingers got burnt a bit) in a contest as to who could mold the biggest wax ball. Before we went home, I would place my multicolored sphere as an offering on my grandmother’s tomb. I didn't understand it then, but that time was a commemoration of duality — death and life, grief and joy, solemnity and play — all coexist and are accepted.
⁓ With Tethered I sought to deepen my understanding of one of the supernatural beings evocative of Halloween — the earthbound spirit. Ghost stories have fascinated me even as they send chills down my spine. However, beyond my immediate, living reaction to them is the urge to discover what they mean to me through what they represent. The enduring emotions that tie haunts to this plane of existence are still very human even if they are disembodied. What I feel is not much different.
We often fear the unknown, it is a natural survival instinct. Yet when we seek wisdom we sometimes need to welcome the unfamiliar, the strange. Only then can we expand beyond our initial understanding.
The Graveyard Shift by @thefickleartist ⁓
Horror stories come to the fore during Halloween, each of them celebrating the fears we have given faces to. Even as we watch with trepidation (some of us partly covering our eyes), our hearts fire up with the thrill of it — the immediacy of danger, the possibility of sudden death. There is that rush, both in our bodies and minds. We engage in the dance of fight-or-flight within the safety of our homes, amongst friends, or even alone as @thefickleartist has done. Suspending disbelief and being fully immersed in a truly horrifying tale reap real rewards. That heady cocktail of adrenaline, endorphins, and dopamine that comes flowing out makes us feel good and more alive, without actually putting ourselves in harm’s way. And for those of us who see the true faces of the monsters behind the masks and makeup, horror stories allow us to explore and gain some measure of insight into the real terrors that exist each day.
⁓ At the crux of all this is death, the reality of our own mortality. No matter how well we live or how deeply we love, this is our inherent inevitability as human beings. Halloween serves to remind us of this, and yet allows us to celebrate being alive while honoring those who have passed on. During this season of darkness, we share this experience with our community — engaging in late-night revelry, shrieking our way through scares and surprises, and partaking of sweets. Perhaps, it is our own way of laughing in the face of the unknown and learning to enjoy each moment we are still here.
Own The Shadows
May the Halloween spirit sink deep into your bones. Let the denizens who come out to play dredge up old fears so that your heart will skip a beat and make you feel more alive. Embrace the magick of rituals transformed in new-old ways. Illuminate your hollows with hopeful stories of possibilities. And gaze back at Death with a lively twinkle in your eye.
Halloween is a celebration of the inversion of reality and a necessary Gothic hat-tip to the darker aspects of life, death, and ourselves.
– Stewart Stafford
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Written by @lekzumali
Check out her musings on Instagram!