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I wanted to bring up black cats for this #superheroalert because we’ve got Halloween coming up. More black cats are tortured and killed around this time of year than any other month, and that’s pretty messed up. The stereotypical activity of a superhero—rescuing a cat out of a tree for some little old lady, right? We should do that.
This year, I’m “rescuing” by boycotting Halloween.
“Wait, what? Why you gotta hate on Halloween? Why can’t you just NOT torture cats?”
Great point, imaginary person I invented for the sake of argument. Here’s the deal. If you look into the history of Halloween across multiple Western (usually Catholic) cultures, you’ll find it almost always revolves around people placating some dead spirit (benevolent or otherwise) or demon, which is actually kind of anti-humanist. You know, like we have to bow to cruel forces, rather than rebelling, because of fear. Fear’s a great thing to talk about, as hero-wanna-bes, because it’s a healthy way for us to remember our place in the Universe. We’re not the biggest thing. We’re not even the best thing. Fear is healthy sometimes. But when our fear becomes a celebration of, and a submission to, the tyranny of evil, we have a problem.
“Oh, silly Jen, you’re over-exaggerating. Dressing up as ghosts isn’t a ‘submission to the tyranny of evil.’”
No, maybe not anymore. It is, however, an identification with the tragedy of unsatisfied death—with the murders and injustices that supposedly keep spirits from sleeping—rather than a solution to it. Dressing up as witches is an identification with women who manipulate and hurt people using covert means. It’s a stereotype of female sexuality and gender created by men who fear females. Dressing up as demons is an identification with that which would devour your soul if given the chance.
“So what, none of that is real!”
Maybe I don’t believe in ghosts, and you don’t believe in witches, or maybe we all believe in all of the things when we’re shivering in our beds at night and a tree scratches at the window—but we do all believe in evil. There is evil out there in the world, evil that we personify with our legends because we’re struggling as a species to wrap our heads around why a kid would walk into a church and shoot up a bunch of innocent people.
Symbols matter, and imaginary creatures matter, because the evil is real, and we communicate evil or good with our symbols and legends. Remember when we talked about using pretending, and using our imaginations, to CONSCIOUSLY become better people? We become what we identify with. Why do we fight so much about the simple symbol of raising the banner of the Confederate flag? Because it’s an identification with an idea. It’s saying “I believe in THIS.” Even if you accidentally wear a Confederate flag just for fun, without knowing its history, you’re still communicating belief. Similarly, when you put on that witch costume, you’re still identifying with the women throughout history who used science and trickery to poison, murder, and control people through fear, whether or not magic exists. Women who succumbed to the stereotype of the patriarchy rather than fighting it. There’s a reason most of East Africa doesn’t celebrate Halloween, to say nothing of the majority of Majority World believers or followers of the Way. It’s not just because many of us believe Halloween has its roots in celebration of the evil victims of Noah’s Flood: it’s because whether you’re pagan, Christian, Muslim, or whatever, Halloween today is an excuse to celebrate harm.
I mean, think about it. It’s a day when women are ritually objectified—how easy is it to find a non-sexualized adult costume for women? It’s a day when unplanned pregnancies increase—and I’m all about babies, but we all know unloving sex, without responsibility, puts us at risk for a number of health issues, to say nothing about the dreams ruined and hearts broken. It’s a day for alcohol abuse and ignored mental health crises and fraternity rapes and razors slipped into children’s candy apples.
And it’s a day when black cats are ritually tortured.
So I’ll dress up as a hero, and go to a harvest festival, and celebrate the beautiful fall solstice of Nature’s God. But I refuse to celebrate by name the belief system that makes black body parts a symbol of evil as we perpetuate humanity’s submission to spirits of fear.
What symbols do you fight, in your hero’s journey?
Support Black Cat Rescue, an organization that saves Black Cats from prejudice and torture.