When I was a kid I thought it was just the candy and hijinks. Maybe it was then, but now it’s much more…
We’re a culture that avoids the reality of aging and death.
From the collective perception of youthfulness as beauty to the ascendance of plastic surgery and Botox to the massive healthcare spending on maximal therapies for those who have lived long and full lives, we want to avoid our mortal reality like the Great Plague.
But really you can’t avoid death no matter how far you stuff the thought of it down into your subconscious Jungian basement.
Halloween brings death and all the associated fears and phantasms to the surface and keeps it palatable enough for even the most avoidant so that we can embrace mortality consciously for a little while anyway and even have some fun doing it.
It seems paradoxical maybe but the reality of death is what connects us to this world and our people and ushers the value of time.
Which brings me to Jung’s dream and the basement – which I love to read this time of year:
I was in a house I did not know, which had two storeys. It was “my house”. I found myself in the upper storey, where there was a kind of salon furnished with fine old pieces in Rococo style. On the walls hung a number of precious, old paintings. I wondered that this should be my house and thought, “Not bad”. But then it occurred to me that I did not know what the lower floor looked like. Descending the stairs, I reached the ground floor. There everything was much older. I realised that this part of the house must date from about the fifteenth or sixteenth century. The furnishings were medieval, the floors were of red brick. Everywhere it was rather dark. I went from one room to another, thinking, “Now I really must explore the whole house.” I came upon a heavy door and opened it. Beyond it, I discovered a stone stairway that led down into a cellar. Descending again, I found myself in a beautifully vaulted room which looked exceedingly ancient. Examining the walls, I discovered layers of brick among the ordinary stone blocks, and chips of brick in the mortar. As soon as I saw this, I knew that the walls dated from Roman times. My interest by now was intense. I looked more closely at the floor. It was of stone slabs and in one of these I discovered a ring. When I pulled it, the stone slab lifted and again I saw a stairway of narrow stone steps leading down to the depths. These, too, I descended and entered a low cave cut into rock. Thick dust lay on the floor and in the dust were scattered bones and broken pottery, like remains of a primitive culture. I discovered two human skulls, obviously very old, and half disintegrated. Then I awoke.