Updated: Oct 28
How Your Halloween Costume Can Help you Re-Imagine Yourself
I’m going to take a little break from the cards today to offer my thoughts on how Halloween can be a catalyst for self-exploration.
For me, Halloween costumes have always been a source of joy. As a kiddo, I broke my arm on the afternoon of October 31st. I remember going straight from the ER to put on my into costume (conveniently a mummy!) and then trick-or-treating. At age 12 I promised myself I would never miss a year of dressing up, and I never have! For others, I know that choosing a Halloween costume can be a source of stress and anxiety. If that's you, I'd like to help. Halloween can be an opportunity to practice some transformational magic- even if you decide not to dress up!
Halloween is the day that the jester rules the castle. The forbidden and taboo becomes permissioned and free.
On Halloween, children become superheroes, hobos, princesses, and goblins. Adults become political figure spoofs, villains, and "sexy" versions of heroines, animals, and legends. Don an orange jumpsuit knowing that come November 1st, you will be free. Take a cardboard box, paint it silver, and become an invincible knight of the round table.
Women can fearlessly throw off the unspoken rules of dress and reverse the power dynamics of sex by dressing as salaciously as imaginable, knowing that they will be safe from speculation, rumor, shame, ridicule, and obligation.
Though a woman wearing a "sexy" nurse costume may not have consciously articulated it, she is repossessing her full power. What could possibly be more radical than a woman unafraid of her own sexuality in the uniform of a healer?
Men can abandon the limitations of toxic masculinity to become teddy bears without embarrassment, or warriors without violence.
Halloween can provide a waking dream state. Our dreams are communications from our unconscious, helping us play out what we cannot do in real life. The purpose of our dreams is to help us process our feelings, hopes, and fears. Today, I'm inviting you to play with those feelings in the waking safety of a Halloween costume. If you don't normally enjoy costuming or you are like me and can't live without it, I hope my own story of Halloweens past can inspire you this year.
A Costume Story
My experimentation with sacred costuming actually began with a photography project in college.
For my final project I did a series of nude self-portraits. In each photo I chose one element of my life and then tried to imagine what that part of myself would express if it was in a super-hero Imax fantasy proportion. Because I wasn't using actual costumes, I had to get creative with the seed of the inner feeling and blow it up to larger-than life proportions.
Since those were the days of analogue, I can only describe the finals. As an English major I spent a lot of time writing papers, and so for my 'work' life I portrayed myself as a corpse, black words written on my skin turned to white chalk words on a black floor and wall as if in a crime scene. In a 'romance' vision I was completely suspended in ropes, carried away.
This project opened a door for me. I discovered that the exercise of re-imagining one part of my inner-life in epic proportions allowed me something like long-distance introspection. This is the heart of sacred costuming.
I began applying this practice to Halloween In the way-back machine of 2006. The practice wasn't quite crystalized in my mind, but the seeds were there. My selection part deliberate, part subconscious, but the result was the same.
I was in a relationship, I loved my job, and I felt playful and glamorous. I wanted to expand those feelings of power and attraction and I wanted attention without showing too much skin. I channeled Marie Antoinette.
The magic of Marie Antoinette manifested into a marriage with the Louis the XVI of that night!
When 2007 came, I was newly married and I wasn't sure I enjoyed the new identity. In an attention-grabbing and very impractical outfit, I was a Ziegfeld-Folly showgirl. Sadly, the photos from 2007 are nowhere to be found (in fact I remember dropping my windows camera phone in the toilet)! Feeling uncomfortable in my new life-role lead me to an uncomfortable costume. I was trying to have fun, but it wasn't a fit.
In 2008 my then-husband was determined to be a mascot-style Easter bunny, and so I became the Tooth Fairy. I wanted to be a part of a 'couple's costume' but as I reflect, I remember that wasn't a version of myself I was excited about. I was doing a lot of magical thinking in those days, and so in a way, it worked, but it was a squeeze.
Looking back on your own past costumes, was there a year that you picked something that didn't feel quite right? Is it possible you were working out something in you inner-world that wasn't a fit?
It's been almost 15 years since that short-lived partnership mercifully dissolved. I'm grateful for all of my past experiences, but when we officially separated, it was tough times. In fact, the official date of our separation was October 30th 2009!
The best part about Halloween that year is that was it was the day after one chapter in my story ended.
I was channeling transformation. I felt both powerful and angry. I wanted to be seen as sexy, but I didn't want anyone to even think about trying to touch me. I became Hedwig from Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
If you're not familiar with the musical, I highly recommend you watch the film. It is the story of a (somewhat) transgender person from East Berlin living in the US experiencing a break-up and creating an identity through performance. Inhabiting that space was magic for me that year and carried me into what would become a year of transformation.
As you can see, all I required was the wig and make-up to become transported into the vessel of Hedwig. I've worn that wig since then, but I spent all its magic that evening.
We can invoke very powerful spells and characters without a lot of actual materials. Is there a wig or a style of make-up that you can imagine your everyday self dissolving away into and becoming something unrecognizable in?
Fast-forward to 2010. I think I collected 30+ wigs between those Halloweens, and I was excited to reveal my newfound strength as the Phoenix.
My philosophy of sacred costuming was fully formed by this time and I was ready to take full advantage of this time when the veil to the spirit world is the thinnest. By inhabiting the symbol of eternal rebirth with mythic proportions, I did truly feel reborn. The Phoenix requires no mate to reproduce, and understands that ashes can give rise to new life. That was me.
As a collective, we've all be through a lot. We are still coming out of Covid days. If there have been personal metamorphosis in your life, can you solidify them further by animating yourself as a butterfly, or an Olympic champion?
I really enjoyed the avian qualities of the Phoenix, and I wanted to continue exploring that feeling in 2011. I was also finally ready to start dating again! And so, I was a peacock.
I learned first-hand that year that peacocks are pretty ridiculous birds. I thought the costume would help me get back into mood for mate-finding, but I actually discovered all that peacock-ing just made me feel silly.
This is also a gift of sacred costuming. When we try on something and find out it's not what we want to invoke in real life, we gain greater clarity on what's not going to work. The make-up comes off and we return to ourselves.
In 2012, I wanted to try being a bird once more. I had seen the Wes Anderson film Moonrise Kingdom and was inspired by the scene in which our two anti-heros meet.
I saw something of myself in that story. The rebelliousness and individualism of the central characters requires the adults in their lives to face their own struggles of isolation, and ultimately all the characters do reunify with authenticity.
The raven is of course a fantastic Halloween macabre trope from the Edgar Allen Poe poem. It is also a symbol of, "Creation, transformation, knowledge, prestige as well as the complexity of nature and the subtlety of truth." -Spirits of the West Coast Art Gallery. As the raven, I got to explore all those ideas that year.
Finally complete with my avian fever, in 2013 I was hoping to leave my career in software sales for something more artistic and creatively fulfilling. I wanted to become and event planner, and so I invoked the Maenad.
I first learned about these ancient brides of Dionysus/Bacchus (the god of wine) from HBO's True Blood. Their name literally translates as "raving ones" and I thought that this would be the perfect way to try on for size what creating bacchanal events would be like. As my then roommate would certainly attest, I went a bit mad that year.
I created individual voodoo doll invitations with creepy poems and a date and time as the only instructions.
I transformed my loft into a haunted house that rivaled any professional event producer's ability.
And I made horns and a dress that expressed that madness and essential nature of party reverie.
If it looks like it was all a bit much, it was. And more. I did not become an event planner. I excised that particular fantasy by going all-in.
Is there an alternate career path you've considered, but the idea of tossing out your current resume makes that dream feel impossible? Why not blow-up the photo-negative of that dream snapshot into epic proportions for one night and see how it feels?
Having found my calling with Sea Tarot, last year I wanted to expand my experience of feeling like a powerful healer. I became a white witch.
The costuming, the make-up, it all came together and I felt very much at home in this mythic version of what is now my everyday life.
This year, I've been invited to a Surrealist Mascaraed themed party. One of my 2022 goals was to take an art class, and I loved it! I want to keep exploring my inner illustrator at Halloween, so I plan to wear a dress illustrated with a charcoal drawing of a face seen through a broken mirror. I like the idea of 'reflecting' on how we often see ourselves through others and what a reflection of self can mean to the mirror...
I hope that my personal costuming journey may help inspire you to try some sacred costuming yourself! If your costume is already planned out, use this exercise to investigate if your wise unconscious mind had a hand in its choosing. You can always imbibe whatever you decide to dress as with intention and magic!
New Moon Sacred Costuming Ritual
Since we begin a New Moon in Scorpio tonight, and with a Solar Eclipse to boot, this week is ideal to create your sacred costume.