Things that go bump in the night

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Halloween collage
Out of the Broomcloset Halloween photo by Leon Calafiore

Out of the Broomcloset

This magazine, and this column, is having its 19th anniversary. As we approach the 20 year Anniversary and Samhain/All Hallows—please don’t feel the need to send presents. China, the traditional commemorative for such, we have in abundance; as for platinum, the modern alternative, it’s too, too dear, and counts as income. Best to send thoughts and prayers as so many folks seem to think these are suitable for every occasion as they take up no space and are easy to dispose of if unneeded.

It’s a bit difficult to digest, frankly, that there will be readers who were not yet born when Peter, Toby, and others, brought this publication into being. But here we are, and there it is. No doubt other cliches will come to mind.

So, here we are, the wheel of the year turns, and the dark season approaches. For some (and more so for distant ancestors), it heralds a time of anxiety; for others, a protective blanket in which to reflect on what and who has passed into memory and to dream a new future. Both have been reflected, for generations, in the trappings of the seasons; costumed revelers in the night, honoring one’s ancestors, trying to divine the future—all play a part.

let’s not forget scaring ourselves silly

And let’s not forget scaring ourselves silly, at least at a certain age.

In honor of the season, some of you may know the following by Scotland’s Bard, Robert Burns: “From ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, good Lord deliver us.”

Except he wrote no such thing. Others have presented the above verse as a “traditional” Cornish prayer, which is also not the case. It seems to date to the early 20th century, derived from a postcard series. Folks used to send masses of postcards, costing one cent postage, same-day delivery in town, cheaper than a telephone call.

This brings us to the main point: tradition, popular culture, and media/commercial culture have always interacted to create the universe our minds interact with (not quite sure how this applied in the Paleolithic, but it doubtless did, somehow).

And so it is with magical practices, and magical cultures today. Take, as an example, a love spell utilizing human-shaped candles, the kind you’ll find in almost any occult supply shop. Do they work? Sure. Are they part of an ancient tradition? In a way. Figures made of various natural materials, fibers, and minerals have occupied the practices of manipulation of others by manipulating an image worldwide through time. The candles stand in a fine tradition of commercial, labor-saving devices.

Or consider bottles of Jockey Club cologne, which is used as an offering to various spiritual beings, worn for success in gambling, created 1853, or Florida Water, used for many purposes in many magical systems, created 1808. Again, do they “work”? Absolutely; the use of scents in ritual, through the ages, is too extensive to go into here. These two have become traditional, though their genesis was commercial.

Do your personal magical practices require swooping around in fabulous, anachronistic robes and jewels? I should hope so, at least occasionally, as they do set the mood.

All of this has been put down on paper for the sole purpose of asking you to give yourself permission to cut loose, be a bit wild for Halloween, look and smell wonderful, while being your best magical self. Spend the season plotting how to bring the best new world into being, even if only on Tik-Tok, the latest in one-cent postcards. Bright blessings to you all.