Where I grew up, the leaves were nearly gone by Halloween, but the first pitiless blast of winter had yet to be felt. This always made October 31 a singular date. A neither/nor time, a turning time, as in "the turning of the year." An in-between time. A time when the door between this world and the next opens just enough to allow traffic either way. A time when the dead are among us. It's always been this way in the northern hemisphere, in those regions where the cycle of sowing and reaping, planting and harvest, are at the root of all rite and festival. The places where the king dies in autumn.
In winter, even on the bleakest day, there's a sense that beneath the frozen turf, dormant life subsists. Germinating. Hibernating. Not yet born but soon to be. Not so on Halloween. On Halloween, we see things in the process of dying. We experience the frisson of mortality, the thrill of terror. Even a kid of nine, invulnerable, immortal, feels the nearness of death. After all, it's on the faces of all those little ghouls and goblins parading up and down his bare tree-lined street. What is a Halloween mask if not a simulation of sickness, death and decay: the look of a corpse exhumed after three months in the grave. Oh, but how we love the dead! On Halloween, we all become necrophiliacs. May 1 and October 31 are the sexiest of pagan festivals. Flesh new and flesh corrupted, but flesh all the same. Betty in May and Veronica in October, and I confess that as sweet and ripe as Betty's beauty is, I've always had a thing for Veronica's blue-black, gothic comeliness. Bad girl in slit skirt, lips as red as only those of the undead can be. The shudder provoked by the onset of winter has an erotic charge. It's a dead man's party...who could ask for more?
My nine year-old son has been asking me about death lately. Can the swine flu really kill me? Can the vaccine make me die? At the same time, he insisted upon buying the scariest, most rotten corpse-like Halloween mask he could find, along with the Grim Reaper's robe and scythe. He knows. Even at nine, he knows. And he can't wait to terrorize the little girls in our building with his get-up, because he also knows what that little shudder of terror presages. Horror is as close to romance as a nine year-old can get. They are, in truth, incestuous brother and sister. Isis and Osiris. Orpheus and Eurydice. Archie and Veronica?
Hallowe'en is the in-betwe'en time. A time to make love in the face of death (because this is the only effective prophylactic). A time when it's not only permitted to dance on graves, but essential. The crack will close again on November 2, but until then, beware.
Causes A.W. Hill Supports