Halloween: If I Were A Witch's Hat

From the Whitstable Times

"If ET was around now he wouldn't have to wear a sheet over his head. He could come as himself."
"If ET was around now he wouldn't have to wear a sheet over his head. He could come as himself."

Witch's Hat by The Incredible String Band

Lyrics to Witch's Hat by The Incredible String Band

certainly the children have seen them
in quiet places where the moss grows green

coloured shells jangle together
the wind is cold the year is old the trees whisper together
and bend in the wind they lean

next week a monkey is coming to stay

if I was a witches hat
sitting on her head like a paraffin stove
I'd fly away and be a bat
across the air I would rove

stepping like a tightrope walker
putting one foot after another
wearing black cherries for rings

It's that time of year again folks: the world-famous festival of fake blood and tackiness known as Halloween.

In my local budget supermarket, called George’s Mini-Market, you can buy vampire teeth, horror masks, wigs, face paint, skeleton costumes, glow-in-the-dark fingers and vampire's blood from anywhere between 10p to £2.

You can buy all the same things everywhere else too. The windows of all the shops are full up of the stuff.

Meanwhile in one of the posh craft shops in the town they have a proper witch's broomstick in the window, obviously hand made. They also have a witch's hat. My sister went in and asked how much the hat cost and they laughed. They got it from George’s Mini-Market , they said.

The psychedelic folk rock group The Incredible String Band recorded a song called Witch's Hat on an album called The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, which you can listen to here. It is a fine evocation of the state of childhood and although it is not explicitly about Halloween it creates a mood that is very like it.

It's an interesting song, if a little strange.

When I was on holiday in Romania a couple of years ago I went to Bran castle in Transylvania, which is popularly known as "Dracula's Castle". They were selling all the same Halloween tat there too.

It's an international conspiracy. Why go to Transylvania when you can buy your Dracula gear from George’s Mini-Market ?

Actually the only connection between Bran Castle and Dracula is the fact that the movie Bram Stoker's Dracula was filmed there.

The real historical Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, may have spent a night there once. "Dracula" was one of his titles. It means "Son of the Dragon".

Bram Stoker based his own Dracula's Castle upon one in Scotland which he also visited only once.

So Bram Stoker and Vlad the Impaler have one thing in common. They both only ever went to Dracula's Castle once.

A few years back in England Christians used to get very upset about Halloween. They would send angry letters to the newspapers accusing anyone taking part of "occult practices".

Fortunately this kind of superstitious scaremongering seems to have died out in more recent times. Or maybe it’s that Christians don't want to be accused of being spoilsports any more, when secretly they still disapprove.

The first time I was ever published in my local paper was in a letter sent in reply to one of these letters, which I signed "Puck". I was going through a pagan phase at the time.

In pagan circles Halloween is called Samhain, and is the Celtic New Year. It is a very ancient festival indeed, and involves a meal in which an extra place is laid out for the visiting dead.

It had mainly died out in England due to its replacement by Bonfire Night, but was revived recently as an American import after the popularity of Steven Spielberg's ET, which used Halloween night as a convenient plot-device.

These days the ET costume has become a part of the Halloween tradition. If ET was around now he wouldn't have to wear a sheet over his head to disguise his identity. He could come as himself and no one would notice the difference.

Our local supermarket, meanwhile, is refusing to sell flour or eggs to under 16 year olds. Apparently this is to do with the practice of egging people's houses as part of Trick or Treat.

The English don’t really know how to do Halloween. The kids are just going round begging for money. No one puts any effort into it.

One time some kids came to my door saying “Trick or treat!” I thought I’d call their bluff. “Trick!” I said. That threw them. They looked at each other in a confused manner. “Er, boo?” one of them ventured, tentatively.

“You call that scary?” I said.

A friend of mine has the following notice on his door:

No Trick Or Treat

X-Ray Lasers

Mounted

On Roof

The kids all think he’s mad, but they daren’t knock at his door.

Just in case.

More Halloween stories by CJ Stone

  • Chapter 1 of La Vie D'Arthur
    Samhain. Halloween. The season of darkness. Grim clouds scutter like thin grey rags under a sombre sky. This is the time of the ancestors, the time of the ancients, when spirits roam the land. The time of the dark awakening...
  • Ten Thousand Days: Bonfire Night
    Although in England we have moved the date to suit the anti-Catholic propaganda element, it is really an ancient festival recognising the coming of winter. It's historic date is October 31st, All-Hallows Eve, also known as Samhain.
  • Shades of Other Lives: Photographs by Gerry Atkinson
    And even after the children grow up and have children of their own, this picture will live on, with those playful shouts of joy still echoing in the other room on that Halloween night so long ago.

More by this Author


Comments 10 comments

Chef Jeff profile image

Chef Jeff 8 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

As a child I used to love this day because we could go out without an adult supervising us and we'd also get candy - lots of candy!  Actually, the without an adult part was important, but it was clearly outshined by the candy aspect.

Most of the time we would save the candy for months after we got it, because we got way too much to eat.  Even if we were naughty little pigs and just stuffed ourselves, there always seemed to be more candy in those cute little pumpkin buckets we carried!  Plus, I discovered early on the meanings of "sugar rush" and "stomach ache".  Nature has a way of putting bounds on just about everyhting, I discovered, including sugar consumption.

Still, I also discovered that candy, unlike the mummy costume I wore for three years straight, didn't last all that long.  Usually by Christmas it was stale, mouldy or otherwise inedible.  How fortunate we were that at Yule Tide our stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that more candy we would soon find there!

And we did, much to the anger of our dentists.  Just the same, it was a fun time, and I would recommend going out in costume to anyone who treasures neither a reputation nor teeth, who values youth and a bit of the morbid, and to just have fun at Hallowe'en!

Great hub!

Cheers!

Chef Jeff


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 8 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Intriguing, CJ.  Particularly the YouTube musical video which I haven't decided I like.  It's tunefulness is in question.  Still, weirdness is always fun especially during this orange and black holiday when my Halloween cats are confined indoors.  I think you inspired a new Hub in me if I have time to write it.  I'm doing Election Judge during the wee hours of the morning into the middle of the day and ten hours of stark boredom wrings the energy from my generally buoyant spirit.  Thanks for the good read.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Hi Cheff Jeff, yes I think Halloween is a great tradition in America. Unfortunately, as I say, we don't know how to do it in England as we many years ago replaced it with Guy Fawlkes night, November 5th, so it is very much an American import to us. I'll write a hub about that next. Great evocation of the spirit of Halloween. Thanks for that.

Hi Storytellersrus, glad you are intriugued by the ISB song. I put the lyrics up so you can see what a fine poem it makes. I look forward to reading your hub.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

I have never been into Halloween much although I have made an effort in my more pagan phase days. As I live here I just treat it as another day and pride myself on how living in Tenerife has enabled me to ignore all the religious festivals pagan and Christian and other faiths. I couldn't ignore Halloween in Ely though because unless you gave the kids money and sweets they pelted the house with eggs. And it seemed to make the unruly elements even more so to the degree that travelling on buses on Halloween meant that stones were often thrown at them as well as eggs, which was dangerous. This stone throwing went on at other times and periodically meant that the buses were called off and increased police helicopters were brought in to fly over the estate and newspapers ran stories about it all. Eventually buses were restored and people breather a sigh of relief. I think for many people they do likewise when Halloween is over.

The only two enjoyable and memorable Halloweens that come to mind were both with King Arthur - on one we were on the peak of Carn Ingli in West Wales with Lawrence Main who was living where the Celtic Saint Brynach once lived and he wanted to be knighted there. Arthur ended up fighting psychic battles with ring wraiths to protect Megan, a young lady from Nova Scotia who joined us, and the other was when he changed my lyrics from "I'm a priest of the Venusians and all I ever wanted was your love" to"I'm High Priest of the Reptilians and all I ever wanted was your blood!" Arthur also changed into his black Wiccan robe and decided he would offer sweeties to anyone we met when we went to town. We had a lot of them left because the kids were in short supply that night for some reason. It couldn't have been that he scared them off cos the kids in my street thought Arthur was brilliant and used to bang on the door saying, "Steve,can you get King Arthur cos my mate wants to see his sword!"


CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Hi Steve, well it's the season really isn't it? the festival is to celebrate the change in the season, whether we do it on Oct 31st, or on November 5th. I think the ISB song sets the mood just right:

"the wind is cold the year is old the trees whisper together/ and bent in the wind they lean"

I guess Halloween is the only time that Arthur feels like he's wearing civvies, given that everyone else is dressed up too.


pgrundy 8 years ago

I liked the Witch's Hat song. Very atmospheric.

Thank you for the hub. Halloween used to be my favorite holiday, but we haven't gotten any trick-or-treating children at the door for years. I may drive down to Indiana Friday to go trick-or-treating with my four-year-old grandson. That will be fun. He's a stitch.

I went to a pagan party at Samhain once, and there was a bit about charging the house at one point? That is, all the women were inside, all the men were out in the yard, and the men charged the house to recreate something or the other. I used to get invited to join these groups often, but I never quite fit into them. I'd get there, and find myself standing around thinking, "God this is so stupid," which isn't really the right attitude. But I love the idea of it. And the food is always good. Never join anything with bad food! lol! Thanks CJ.


Chef Jeff profile image

Chef Jeff 8 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

Remember, remember, the 5th of November!

Cheers!

Chef Jeff


nils visser 5 years ago

Hey Puck,

Trying to instill as much cultural awareness as possible in teaching Dutch kids the English language (regardless of UK, Ireland, US, Australian, Kiwi or SA origins, any sane Kiwi would die of shame, but my kids love my version of the Haka), I dearly dearly love Halloween.

Naturally I point at the Samhain roots. When they claim England is boring (a popular misconception, England is middle-class dullness for middle-aged people, the US is fun for the young) I show them the Edinborough Beltaine Fire Festival and shock the Bejesus out of them, is there a link between this and Samhain? Aye, depending on the time of year, I'll happily tell them it's a Samhain festival if that's more suitable with regard to the season. Being too precise is not the point, teaching them a little Pagan fun is the goal, and any means will do.

Anyhow, I have a box full of the minimarket cheap Halloween crap to decorate the classroom with (the Goths end Emos love me around Halloween, they feel right at home), but most of all, more than anything else, it gives me an excuse to lower the curtains, dim the lights, and read them one of Poe's short stories, my imitation of the mad narrator in the Tell-Tale Heart being my favourite.

"TRUE! — nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous I had been, and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses — not destroyed — not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Harken! and observe how healthily — how calmly I can tell you the whole story."

Yours

Tuck.


fen lander profile image

fen lander 5 years ago from Whitstable

Interesting, and yeah, no-one knows what it's about really... like Christmas and Easter.... what I like about it though is that it's managed to survive a couple of thousand years of anti-paganism pogroms and programs. It's only a parody of its original self (like Christmas is) but that's OK - it's still here. I Love it....


CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Yes, I love it too.

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