Planning for Eerie Season
October is nearly here! The witchiest, gothiest, most autumntacular time of year is once again approaching.
If you’re like me, October requires some time commitment and advanced planning in order to get every sanguine drop out of the season. So here is a description of all the stuff I do in October to steep myself in its gothy goodness.
Throughout the month, I watch movies: I like to watch creepy, campy and thematic films in October on my way to Halloween. Perennial favorites include Practical Magic, The Others, Jacob’s Ladder, The Sixth Sense, various Hammer Horror films (lots of Christopher Lee!), classics like James Whale’s Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, the Lugosi Dracula and The Innocents with Deborah Kerr, Young Frankenstein and Beetlejuice (because of course), maybe the Kenneth Branagh Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and this year I may fire up Lovecraft Country again. Gotham, a ghost story movie from the 80s starring Virginia Madsen and Tommy Lee Jones I’m partial to. I’m sure there are others I am forgetting. I liked the miniseries of The Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass from a few years ago–maybe I’ll cue those up as well. I’m sure I’m forgetting some. Oh, Shaun of the Dead. And, a little guiltily but it IS hilarious, Zombie Strippers.
The advent of Halloween, of course, requires decorating: Here, my watchword, and what I recommend to you, is authenticity. It’s much better just to have a dash of seasonal flair than to buy a bunch of plastic junk from the Halloween store that is going to end up in the landfill. PLEASE don’t buy fake spiderwebs –they kill wildlife. I have web-design fabrics for use as tablecloths, and use candlesticks and real bones and autumn leaves and real pumpkins and winter squash for decorating. I do have one life-sized plastic skeleton, I admit; it’s nice to have something to greet people at the front door.
You can set the holiday scene by playing music: I’m not much of one for Halloween soundtracks, but there is one artist of eeriness that I find exquisite: Jill Tracy. Her album Diabolical Streak is sublimely dark; her soundtrack to the original Fritz Murnau Nosferatu, Into the Land of Phantoms, makes for great October listening. Check her out: you will be a fan, too. Buy her stuff–she is an independent artist and needs your support!
It helps to fill the house with seasonal Scents: There’s pumpkin spice, of course, and that is really nice for the autumn. But Atheopagans cannot live by cinnamon and cloves alone! Try out some earthy, evocative scents like this one or this one to really lay some spooky vibes down in your home.
And, of course, when the week of Hallows (Oct. 31 through Nov. 7, which is the actual midpoint between the equinox and the solstice) rolls around, it’s time for rituals.
Trick-or-treating on Halloween night is still a thing where I live, and I enjoy the parade of cute young kids, sullen teenagers* and patient, caring parents. I try to choose for our candy something the kids will really like, and we dress in costume to greet them.
I tend to conduct solitary rituals during Hallows week: remembrances of my honored dead, my ancestors (I tend to focus on Deep Time ancestors like protozoa and tetrapods), and contemplations of mortality. I update my death packet then, as well, updating any information for my survivors that may have changed. I pour a bottle of stormwater from the previous winter onto the ground to summon back the rains dry California so desperately needs.
Finally, on the first weekend in November, my ritual circle, Dark Sun, gathers again for what will be our 33rd Hallows ritual. The combination of years of tradition, deep familial relationships, and the awe-inspiring meanings of the season make for a deep, transformational tip of the hat to Death and turning of the wheel of the year into the time of compost, decomposition and the magic of new life made from old.
And then the wheel is turned, and the clocks are turned back (in places where Daylight Savings is observed, anyway), and the Dark of the Year holds sway over all. Whatever the weather, the darkness says Winter has arrived.
A great deal of meaning and symbolism are freighted into those eight days. It helps me to prep my mindset with three weeks of movies and atmospherics. I hope these ideas are helpful for you as Hallows rolls around once more.
Have a wonderful October!
*I have no problem giving candy to teenagers who are resentfully/embarrassedly canvassing for candy because they can. It’s rough being a teenager.