THE BLOG
10/31/2016 03:02 pm ET Updated Oct 29, 2017

Halloween: Diversity, Respect, Faith

"Halloween brings threat of race controversies on campus." Yes. Every year. So awful. Especially when you consider that Samhain was a sacred event in ancient spaces and remains so for many modern Pagans and others. Anti-Paganism is rarely addressed either in the mainstream media discussions of Capitalist Halloween and its many injuries and assaults or in higher educational settings appropriately concerned with stopping bias-related insensitivity and deep cluelessness, without presumed infringement on free speech.

One ought never to "dress up" as a Blind person, a Person of Color, or both. The homophobia, gender normativity, and misogyny that elevate during "celebrations" of Halloween are of course also often deeply alarming if not egregious, and, needless to say, interface wildly with racism, ableism, Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, xenophobia, etc.

Raised as an Orthodox Jewish girl in the 1970s, my peers and I came home each late October from Yeshiva with parental letters, admonishments from The Rabbis advising the adult authorities in our households never to allow us, as eager kids, to engage in the gerund known as Trick or Treating, for it was "a Pagan ritual" and thus deemed unsuitable and immoral.

I pleaded with my mother one year to be allowed to Trick or Treat. I imagined myself an excellent Peter Pan. "He is a boy," she scowled; I fought back, asserting that Peter was played typically by a girl. I lost the argument and was forced to be a mortified Tinker Bell.

My days as a Trick or Treater in childhood ended there, until later, when I had already won the argument to be put into public school, and eventually accompanied children younger than I to assure their candies were clear and their apples razor blade free.

Samhain, in stark contrast, remains about the universe, the rich and predictable while changeable cycles and meanderings of nature, and the thin veil between the worlds, particularly during this time of year...if one believes in that sort of conceptualization of the sacred. I do.

As we labor to educate students and each other without condescension about the necessity of sensitivity and awareness in the midst of hopefully harmless and well-meaning (while arguably appropriative) "fun," we might also do far more to educate others and ourselves about Paganism, imagining and remembering in our stalwart commitment to diversity and inclusion a group of marginalized students and other university constituents who rarely make headlines.

Some people "dress up" as witches and wizards, too. Not all of these costumes are crafted with sensitivity, to say the very least. Brutal stereotypes of whatever form, paraded or otherwise on display, are amusing to some while violent to many; they cause dissonance, they hurt. I am in no way intending, either, to equate violences or to engage in what some call Oppression Olympics.

I'm a Jewish Secular Humanist who is also a self-identified Pantheist. Really, a Panvitalist or Hylozoist, more than solely an Animist. But, I know that comes across as impossibly complicated, if not unintentionally arrogant. So, I use Pantheist as my shorthand term, a "foreign" enough concept that still requires me to provide frequent explanations. I've had an awareness of the sentience of everything since I was about three. I'm not doing any of this to be hip. And, I love Halloween candy. There. I said it.

When I'm home on Halloween, which happens now and again, I greet the door knockers and doorbell ringers wearing slightly bent, glittery purple wings that rise up and linger awkwardly above my tilted grey head. That's how I roll, in middle aged, self-proclaimed Mad, Crip, Queer Pagan Pride.

Blessed Be.