Wicca, Witchcraft and Paganism, for the Novice to the Crone

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Scholars are currently

tussling over the origin of masks and costumes. Some feel that these fun forays into fantasy were worn to scare off things that screech in the night, where others are firmly entrenched in the ideology that costumes and masks brought the individual wearer closer to the spirit world by creating a sympathetic energy between themselves and the natural world. Regardless of the reasoning, costumes and masks pop up frequently when studying the roots and growth of Halloween. Today, parents and children alike vie for the right to parade around town, dressed in their favorite fantasy finery. (In the sixties our parents only did that behind closed doors at the neighbor's Halloween party, unless, of course, there was a parade nearby that you could use as an excuse.) Today, in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, moms work months before the Harvest Parade to concoct magnificent costumes for the kid dies (and themselves), while dads work diligently in their garages trying to come up with the miniature float that will win the grand prize. National Theme Productions, a costume rental agency, reports that in 1980, one in every four adults aged eighteen to forty wore a costume and that sixty percent of their rentals were adult oriented. Price does not seem to be a problem as we circle the millennium, and adults are willing to pay over $150 for rentals or costume purchases related to the holiday, let alone the cash used for cards, food, and decorations.

Wearing masks and costumes has traveled from Celtic mythos into present-day Halloween practices in America and the Day of the Dead practices in Mexico and South America. Like house-begging, the religious impact that originally created these customs has taken a back seat in the modern American holiday, almost to the point of total anonymity. To the modern American, Halloween has become a holiday to role play in their favorite disguise and become whomever they desire. Its only rivalry is in boxed role-playing games and an even bigger competition, the Internet, where every day can provide a psychological escape in mental costuming. But neither of these has the hands-on creativity and the competition we experience when designing the best Halloween costume ever.

Today's Halloween costumes fulfill the human need to live out a fantasy where there are no consequences. Dr. Steven Alter, a practicing clinical psychologist and an Adelphi University psychology professor, states that "wearing a mask allows us to experience another aspect of our identity without shaking the true identity that we normally use:' This may indicate why Halloween costumes have become so enticing to American adults.

Were masks originally created by Paleopagans and the early Celtic peoples to entice the good spirits or to scare away the bad ones? No one really knows. We have no concrete evidence either way, but we do have mountains of supposition from religious and scientific camps covering the past 2,000 years. What is evident is that the practice of using masks and unusual dress reflects the socialization of any era. From the hobo, the Witch, or the fairy princess in the 1930s to Darth Vader, Power Rangers, and Mutant Ninja Turtles in the 1990s, chosen costumes show the icons of the decade and the need for fantasy as well as provide a record for future historians. Recent studies of American corporate structures show that allowing workers to wear costumes and compete for prizes actually enhances the image of the company, raises morale, and humanizes their public presentation to customers.


Find this “Wicca How-To” and much more in:

Halloween! (Holiday Series)

by Silver Ravenwolf

Witches’ hats and harvest moon

Ghosts that dance to haunted tune

Apples, goodies, food galore

Halloween has this and more!

Just where did the autumn gaiety begin? Let Silver RavenWolf guide you through the cobwebby corners of time to uncover the history behind Halloween. Honor the spirit of this hallowed harvest holiday with:

Lore of Masks & Costumes

Halloween costumes fulfill the human need to live out a fantasy ...

Copyright © 1999 Silver Ravenwolff