Halloween: From Pagan Rituals to Prosthetics.

issue four : the magician

We investigate HOW HALLOWEEN BECAME A MAKEUP LOVERS MOST FAVOURED DAY IN THE CALENDAR.

 

My Instagram feed is a-flood with the weekend's Halloween celebrations. Not being a fan of dress up myself, my weekend was spent like every other. Reading, writing and watching. Fortuitously, season 2 of Stranger Things was released so at least I feel a little more in the Halloween spirit.

The portrayal of Halloween appears to be imbude in the occult. I investigate the real origins of this pagan festival and how it was highjacked by consumer culture.

 

Summers end

Halloween has been practised in some respect for some 2000 years. Rooted in Celtic paganism, it was originally celebrated to welcome in the Gaelic New Year. Observed on 1 November, known as Samhain (pronounced "sah-win"), which translated to 'summers end'. It was a time for the community to come together after the harvest and gather what they needed for the winter months. It was also believed that it was the time the dead would need encouragement to depart this plain and move onto the next, taking any evil spirits with them. To this, the Celts would light bonfires and make sacrifices of animals, fruits and vegetables in honour of the dead. 

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All hallows Eve

When the Celts were conquered by the Roman Empire and Christianity became the order of the day, Samhain was seen to be an 'evil' practice so the Church imposed their own beliefs and practices onto their newly acquired population. In the Christian calendar, All Saints Day (also known as “All Hallows” or “All Hallowmas”) was observed on 1 November. People gathered on Hallows Eve to begin a three-day celebration of the faithfully departed, martyrs and saints (hallows). 

While some historians and folklorists dispute whether the Halloween we know today did indeed stem from the Samhain celebration but, there is something to be said for similarities if you ask me. 

 

You can't keep people from celebrating

When Protestantism became the ruling religion in England, even All Souls Day was banned and the bells stopped ringing to honour the dead. However, the defiant Celts continued to celebrate the Samhain, with its now blended ideals of Hallows Eve.  Dressing up in ritualistic attire and leaving "gifts" of food at their doors to placate the spirits. It's fascinating to think how, even today, we forget that our rituals have a long history. 

  Feile Na Marbh  ( FAY-luh na MAR-ve ) – the Feast of the Dead | Image via The Wild Geese

Feile Na Marbh (FAY-luh na MAR-ve) – the Feast of the Dead | Image via The Wild Geese

a transatlantic export

Richly steep in Irish folklore, the traditions of Halloween were shipped over to America with the earliest Irish immigrants, as they fled the famine of their motherland.

Lest we not forget, America - seen as the home of Halloween - is still very much in its infancy in the grander scheme of things. While native American's have of course been on that sacred land for millennia, followed by the Spanish invaders who settled in the south.  In 1607 the first English settlers started laying claim to the land, known as the Pilgrims. It wasn't until however, 3 July 1776 (4 July was the date the Declaration of Independence was ratified apparently) that the America's became the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA that we have come to know today. Once, the land of the free and home of the brave. Today it is more like the land of the large portion and the home of consumerism. It is said that Americans spend well over 2.5 billion dollars every year on sweets, costumes, and decorations for the holiday annually.

Don't worry, this isn't an American history lesson, but rather a discovery of how America adopted the festival with such gusto. Halloween, as we know it today, became popular in the 19th and 20th centuries. Predominantly as kid's festival in fact. The carving of pumpkins, the dressing up and the knocking on doors to collect sweets to appease 'evil'. (Oh, if only those parents realised it was the evil sugar in those 'sacrifices' that made for 'evil' children.)

 Image via  The Wild Geese

Image via The Wild Geese

 From the book: Haunted Air by Ossian Brown Anonymous Halloween photographs from c.1875–1955.

From the book: Haunted Air by Ossian Brown Anonymous Halloween photographs from c.1875–1955.

hollywood

Adults eventually caught onto the idea that this was a perfect excuse for a party. As the golden age of Hollywood developed into the scary machine it is today, it too played its part in amalgamating ideas and ideals. Early horror films and the monsters man created became symbols of modern-day Halloween and inspiration for next years' costume. 

Halloween has officially become the biggest dress-up night of the year. Unburdened by limitation, anything is fair game as a Halloween outfit these days, provided of course it has some reference to death, witchery, monsters, ghoul or scary-ass clown. And, of course, it's the one night a year that straight men feel confident enough to dress up in drag with gay abandon.

Here are some of the most inspiring Halloween costumes and makeup inspirations to come out of Hollywood.

 Boris Karloff as Frankenstein in Bride of Frankenstein, 1935.

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein in Bride of Frankenstein, 1935.

 Sissy Spacek in the 1976 film, Carrie.

Sissy Spacek in the 1976 film, Carrie.

 Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family 1991 remake.

Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family 1991 remake.

 Tim Curry as Pennywise in IT, 1990.

Tim Curry as Pennywise in IT, 1990.

The scariest things of all

 Elsa Lanchester in Bride of Frankenstein, 1935.

Elsa Lanchester in Bride of Frankenstein, 1935.

 Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975.

Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975.

 Béla Lugosi as Count Dracula in the 1931 film, Dracular

Béla Lugosi as Count Dracula in the 1931 film, Dracular

 

 

Who is your favourite halloween icon of all time?

In my personal opinion, however, the scariest things are not witches, ghosts or warlocks, but power hungry presidents, the threat of nuclear war, famine and the flagrant disregard for this planet.

It seems Paganism, in its true essence, is something we all need a little more of these days. 


An untainted fake blood receipe

Ingredients for runny blood

Corn Syrup (You can substitute it with Golden Syrup if you can't find any clear corn syrup.)

Red Gel Food Colouring (I like this set of reds because it allows me to create different colour bloods)

Blue Gel Food Colouring

 

add To make goopy blood

Cocoa Powder

Agar Flakes

 

Method

Pour the syrup into a glass bowl or beaker. Add your red food colouring gel (remember that different kinds of bloods are different colours)and stir into into the syrup. You will need a fair amount of the red colouring, but there are no hard and fast rules as too how much. 

Next, add a small drop of blue colouring. Mix into the red syrup. You still want the colour to be red and not purple, so rather start with less and build up to the desired colour. Hey presto, you have an easy, edible fake blood. Be careful because it will stain clothes and fabrics.

If you wanted to create a more congealed blood that doesn't carry the blood of animals in it, you can use agar flakes. 

Empty a sachet of agar flakes into a separate container and pour just enough boiling water to cover the flakes. Stir the mixture until all the flakes are dissolved. Add half a teaspoon of cocoa powder to the agar solution before stirring it into your runny blood mixture. You will need to work quickly with the mixing as the agar solution is super concentrated so it will congeal faster.

Coagulated blood is darker that fresh, runny blood, so the cocoa powder helps to achieve this colour.


Disclaimer:

The food colouring gels do contain synthetic dyes (which are classified for human consumption). While there are natural food colourings available they contain ground up Cochineal insects, and while appropriate for Halloween, I don't feel it necessary to use the blood of animals purely for our own hedonistic entertainment purposes.