Change is magical.
Metamorphosis, alchemy, transmutation; words that conjure ritual and pagan lore, golden crucibles, and half-hairy limbs contorted.
Perhaps that’s why so many of us feel drawn to autumn, a flame-coloured season forged by nature’s relentless cycle of change. We become eager, greedy spectators, watching the leaves turn russet and fall in photogenic heaps to crunch beneath our feet. Long sultry days measured in rivulets of sweat down the spine give way to crisp, bright mornings when we wind wool round our necks and sniff the air with keen noses. Nodding sagely: “Winter is on the way”, as though the year’s end is borne to us on the air with the scents of wood and smoke and sweet pumpkin spice.
You can’t untangle autumn from the wild pagan tendrils that entwine it, even in an era of microchips and plastic. Dark nights and superstition haunt us still, thrilling the primal heart deep within, even if All Hallows’ Eve has acquired the sticky gloss of commercialism and the ghouls lurking in the streets are dressed as sexy cats.
Hallowe’en – or Samhain, as it is in languages older than ours – is a climax of this metamorphosis, the hours when the barriers between worlds is at its thinnest. Or, in our terms, an evening when we can shuck off our shells of respectability, drink deep and transmute into something less… polite. Even as adults we embrace the childish delight of putting on a mask, of becoming someone or something else entirely. It’s an acceptable way of accessing a tamed wildness or darkness that you never quite let loose.
Then there’s the thought that in a time (although is there ever a time this isn’t true?) when we feel helpless in the face of our world and its disasters, large and small, it’s no wonder we embrace the chance to scare ourselves with more manageable fears. Ghost stories, headless horsemen, things that go bump in the night – at least they dissolve with the daylight.