I have to confess the reason I started thinking more closely about what makes a Halloween scene or image was that I made a desktop wallpaper for the Halloween part of a site — it was promptly booted out into a more general category.
Oooops. Part of me really hates that…. being wrong, and having to be corrected. It hurts my pride. But it got me thinking about the traditional and not so traditional elements of Halloween.
I’ve been looking in the shops at Halloween window displays, and at the Halloween paraphernalia they have on sale. In previous years I didn’t care two hoots… but last year I looked at the desktop wallpapers on deviantArt after Halloween was already over, and got angry with myself for missing the whole thing! I always rather wanted to make a Halloween wallpaper, and there were some good and imaginative ones.
Anyway, the following were in the Halloween displays of local shops in the UK:
Strictly traditional elements:
Witches, broomsticks, witches’ hats, cauldrons, black cats;
Ghosts, ghouls, ectoplasm;
Tombs, tombstones, fangs;
Bats, full moons, spooky trees, haunted houses;
Traditional but less common:
Carved turnips… actually none of these were in local shop displays.
Acceptable but slightly less traditional elements:
Owls, rats, toads, cockroaches, toadstools;
Zombies, mummies, monsters in general, gibbets.
Elements I’ve seen included, but not especially traditional:
Poison bottles, old bottles with melted wax;
Snakes, crocodiles, dinosaurs, scorpions;
Aliens, Chewbacca, gremlins, Furbies.
Uncarved pumpkins, autumn foliage and flowers, conkers.
Not quite sure how to categorize the following! Probably ‘daring’?:
Weaponry, shackles and irons, dungeon signs, torture implements;
Body parts, blood, eyeballs, violent maniacs;
Pirates, highway men, mad scientists.
Things you would think would be included but weren’t (perhaps out of some basic Scottish unease):
Horned devils, dragons.
Presumably body parts and suchlike are there to symbolize those who have died violently… who are now wandering spirits having their last night of fun. But I was disturbed by the presence of a masked maniac who had costumes in some of the local shops. Who is Freddie with the boiler room? Do I really want to know?
Spiders aren’t ghosts, so why are they so traditional? Why are they more Halloweeny than snakes? Actually, I had this question answered only yesterday, when Mum said it’s a good job she’s not afraid of spiders. There she was, driving along, and a spider suddenly jumped on her. Then tonight I opened the kitchen door and looked out, and there were silvery spider webs on both corners, with the black night sky as their backdrop. This is a very spidery time of year, I guess… whereas presumably snakes are a bit past their best! (I don’t actually know that; it’s a stab in the dark!)
Anyway…. would you say a row of living, glowing test tubes was suitable Halloween fodder, or a bit borderline? It occurred to me to type in ‘Halloween test tubes’ and a surprising number of hits showed up. They’re all tied in with the mad scientist idea. I was saying to Mum “look at the glow sticks; they’re like my test tubes,” and today I found somebody out there asking if you could put the contents of glow sticks into test tubes for Halloween decorations, or would that be dangerous? (Answer: very probably).
And perhaps the real answer is that Halloween is still evolving in people’s minds.