Monday 3 November 2014

Celebrating Samhain

What has All Hallows Eve become? Today people go door to door with their children in costume and are given sweets. How this pagan festival has changed since its pre-Christian roots, we think. Well perhaps not so much.
Halloween is a festival which was once called 'Samhain' (pronounced 'sow - in'  - sow as in cow). Until the 9th century AD, this was a time when we Celts celebrated the end of harvest season and coming of winter with bonfires, parties and the carving of turnips and mangelwurzels (root vegetable usually fed to animals) into jack o' lanterns. People would dress up in costume and go door to door reciting seasonal poetry or singing songs in exchange for food. See, it's not all that different, is it?!
The aspect I like about Samhain is the mythology surrounding it. People believed that Samhain (which was from sunset on 31st Oct to sunset 1st Nov) was a liminal time - when the boundaries of our world and that of the spirit world merged and the spirits of the dead could re-enter ours. Whilst bonfires were lit to keep evil spirits away, and the smoke wafted over the festival goers to cleanse them, place settings were created at the banquets for the spirits of their ancestors. Turnips were carved into ghoulish faces and people dressed in spooky ways in order to deceive evil spirits and remain safe from them during Samhain.

Something I notice which is very different about Halloween in America versus the UK, is that here people dress as anything they like (superheros, princesses, slutty versions of anything they like... basically anything goes), whereas in the UK Halloween is still a time to dress as something spooky. Back in England I always always dressed as a witch / vampire / the un-dead and so forth. Of course here I go with the flow and dress as whatever I want. This year I was Barbarella, as I got SO busy with work for two upcoming exhibitions that I didn't have time to finish my Queen Boudicca costume. Appalling, I know. Below, for fun, I've put photos of all 4 Halloweens I have spent in LA. The Absinthe Fairy, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, and then this year, Barbarella.

I celebrated Halloween over three evenings this year. One of the events was held at the amazing Magic Castle here in Hollywood. Wow, what a cool place. If you ever visit LA then try to plan a visit there, but plan ahead as it's members only and can be hard to get into. If you can get in for Halloween then all the better as they go all-out on the decor. Below are photos of the Magic Castle as it is most of the year. They don't allow photography so I couldn't show you the fabulous Halloween show they put on.

As for something creative? I have been working towards these exhibitions and will share info and photos on that very soon. Also, I'm pleased to see I'm on another magazine cover this month. My ninth in 3 years, so let's see if I can go for 10 before the year is out!

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