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This year Halloween just isn’t that scary.

INTRO: You’re listening to a special Halloween Episode of Patrick McLean’s the Seanachai
So it’s Halloween. All Saint’s Day. Samhain.
(Spelled Sow an. Thankfully I don’t mispronounce every odd word that crosses my tongue. Apologies to Goethe — pronounced Gerta)
And this year, well, Halloween hasn’t had much of an effect on me. Ghouls or zombies or a guy with a sawblade sticking out of his head — even Vincent Price and a room full of clowns on an angry Golschlager drunk — aren’t as scary as what I’ve been seeing on the news.
The financial system is melting down, we’re facing a great crises (plural) and times of tremendous change and I’m not convinced that either of our presidential candiates has a plan –really. But for that matter, neither does anybody else.
All of this has given me pause. You see Halloween started as, Samhain, a Celtic holiday. The day marked the end of summer, end of the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter. November 1st was the Celtic New Year. And they believed that on the night before New Year’s the the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became a little blurry.
that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids to make predictions about the future.
And any predictions we might make about the future on this halloween, would only be made grimmer by the ghosts of the great depression.
But ghosts and divination is not that Halloween is about. In fact, Halloween has proved to be a pretty malleable and transmittable holiday. The roman’s co-opted it, and later so did the Catholic Church. Halloween didn’t exist in the United States until it was was brought here by the Irish fleeing from a Potato Famine.
Which is a fact that helps me put things into perspective. A housing crisis is scary, but can it old a candle to a famine so bad that most of a country’s population decided to flee?
At it’s core, Halloween is about coming to grips with your fear. Something I’m not sure we’re doing such a great job right now. Even the wearing of costumes is based on fear. Originally people would disguise themselves as what they feared so that what they feared would not be able find them as it roamed the earth on Halloween night.
This halloween there are no shortages of doomsday predictions. And this remarkable intersection of holiday and zeitgeist has really made me reconsider fear. What am I afraid of. What should I be afraid of. How much fear is healthy? How much is too much?
I think the real thing to be afraid of is death.
Sure the economy might be a scary. But death, death is terrifying. And death, as they say, is no respecter of persons. No matter how much money is in your pocket (or 401k) death is coming for you.
And when I look at it that way, the volume knob on everything else gets turned down a little. You see I once had a friend who was flat broke and had just gotten fired from his job. He didn’t have money for bills. He didn’t have money for rent. And he was okay about it. I was actually more worked up about it than he was. And when I asked him what he was going to do — how he could just sit there so calmly smoking a cigarette that he had bummed from me — he said the greatest thing —
Hey said hey, it’s not like they can take my birthday.
So on this scary, commercialized day, I’m taking a deep breath. Because, no matter what happens, it’s not like they can take my birthday. or yours. And I also think it’s unlikely that we’re going to run out of potatoes.
So for Halloween, I’ll leave you with a poem by Edgar Allen Poe.
The conqueror worm
LO! ‘t is a gala night
Within the lonesome latter years.
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
In veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre to see 5
A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.
Mimes, in the form of God on high,
Mutter and mumble low, 10
And hither and thither fly;
Mere puppets they, who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
That shift the scenery to and fro,
Flapping from out their condor wings 15
Invisible Woe.
That motley drama—oh, be sure
It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore
By a crowd that seize it not, 20
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot;
And much of Madness, and more of Sin,
And Horror the soul of the plot.
But see amid the mimic rout 25
A crawling shape intrude:
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes—it writhes!—with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food, 30
And over each quivering form
In human gore imbued.
Out—out are the lights—out all!
And over each quivering form
The curtain, a funeral pall, 35
Comes down with the rush of a storm,
While the angels, all pallid and wan,
Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy, “Man,”
And its hero, the Conqueror Worm.
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