roamin' catholic: karin rosner

Confessions of an Ex-Occultist on Halloween (Part the First)

Posted on: October 27, 2011

It was the eighties…”

So, like, yeah: over a period of about ten years from the late eighties and through the nineties, I was a spiritual thrill-seeker trying to find some kind of religious system that helped me control my very unstable world and unstable self. I had survived teenage cancer; I cheated death. I did not want to ever deal with death again. I turned to self-help and New Age techniques to stay healthy, and then I explored traditional and nontraditional religious systems of the East and the West. I was deeply drawn into the extremely diverse world of modern neo-paganism, particularly getting involved with feminist spirituality, Goddess religion and Wicca. There’s more to modern witchcraft than the practice of the occult: Wicca is a multi-layered spiritual subculture of religious practice (or none), politics (or apathy), philosophy (always) and spirituality (or even agnosticism/ atheism) that almost defies a strict definition. Wicca is an extremely disorganized structure placed lightly over chaos; it’s un-religion.

I had a spiritual experience during Spring 2000 that profoundly changed me, one that forced me to look at how unstable my life and my spiritual choices still were. It was a supernatural experience: Jesus found me, called my name and I was surprised as anyone when I found myself back in a Christian church. I discovered, not all at once but very gradually, that because I was in a secure friendship with the Creator of the Universe, I didn’t have a need to try and control the Universe anymore. I was profoundly safe, no matter what happened around me or to me… I had no more need to ritualize the problems in my life to deal with them (what the practice of modern magick really does is psychological moreso than metaphysical), I was beginning to live in real freedom, living into an authentically deeper magical life,  living in the absolute Source of all creation. I beleive that the only way to get to that Source, i.e. God, is through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

When I finally understood, sort of, who Jesus Christ was, I tossed away the Tarot Cards and rune stones, got rid of books, journals, and ritual tools. I engaged in one more meaninful, personal ritual. I shed what was dark and psychologically superstitious, and physically burned up lots of expensive stuff in a Weber Grill … but …

There’s still something left over of the authentic, original me that’s always been a part of me… the me who is the story-teller, the day-dreamer, the weaver of tall-tales and screenplay ideas….

There’s still a monster under my bed that gives some of my Christian brothers and sisters the shivers.

I still love horror and dark fantasy. Chill me, thrill me, fulfill me with a scary story, or even better, a scary story that’s also wickedly funny. Genre literature, film and music turns our modern Western culture on its head, and examines its underbelly through a creatively warped lens. This is why I still love a classic American Halloween. Bring on the candy, toffee apples, dress-up, spooks, ghouls and goblins. Give me Zombies and brains served in a silver domed dish. Cover me in face paint and Kensington Gore. Tempt me with jack-o-lanterns, battery-operated flashing light satan horns and tails. Ply me with scary movie marathons, and ghost stories told around bonfires and fireplaces. Let me dress more Goth than I usually do. Give me a bowl full of Candy Corn, my black cat and lots of TV reruns of The Addams Family and The Munsters back to back, and I will be happy. Throw in repeats of Bewitched, and I will kiss you.

There are a couple of fundamentally different American Christian approaches to handling Halloween.

One approach proclaims Grace: it embraces a redeemed human creative culture and encourages having family-oriented fun, even while remembering the story of the Fall. It recalls saints, sinners, and recognizes that there’s a few billion of us human beings still alive, caught in between heaven and hell, dealing with scary situations in the theater of our lives.

The second approach proclaims Law: it embraces the superstitious, sinister edge of Halloween and feeds off of fear of the occult and effectively says, “thou shalt not eat candy corn that has been sacrificed to idols lest thy daughter become a witch, and thou shalt hide your toilet paper lest thy offspring get ideas about how might wreak havoc on thy neighbors’ front porches… oh and hide thy garden hose too, lest they wet the toilet paper strewn across thy neighbors’ elms and oaks and make the mess worse…. “

Summing up a little background holiday theology: Halloween, the Eve of All Hallows (also known as the Feast of All Saints) is a secular day in American culture that deals with sin and death. It’s a day cut off from its origins. What All Saints and All Souls Days were, celebrations of God’s saving power through Christ in the lives of us human beings, are now only remembered in certain segments of American Christianity. Christians know that through Christ’s Resurrection, we are ultimately set free from the pain of sin and death. Easter should cancel out our culture’s folk-religious need for Halloween, but yet… it doesn’t. We  still have a real need  to deal with death through our culture in a way that traditional Christianity isn’t very good at handling. We use secular culture’s storytelling, including Halloween and Horror,  to take a look at what terrifies us.

To be continued…

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2 Responses to "Confessions of an Ex-Occultist on Halloween (Part the First)"

[…] about roamin’ catholic… Confessions of an Ex-Occultist on Halloween (Part the First) […]

[…] (Mel Brooks, 1974) For the earlier parts of this three-part nonsensical raving, see here and […]

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