Pagan Studies

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Halloween Masks and Invocation

Halloween is the first cosplay convention that ever was, and the longest running one, but Halloween is more than just that. It's a time for people to connect with the pop culture they love and embody that pop culture. For example, the recent Verizon commercial shows a family dressed up as characters (and more) from Star Wars. What strikes me about that commercial is that for that family Star Wars is real that night and in a way they get to become those characters while they trick and treat (though they do seem more obsessed with Candy than anything else).

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, and it's also one of the inspirations for my approach to pop culture magic. This isn't surprising because its during Halloween that pop culture comes out in force. People dress up as the characters they love and for an evening embody those characters in one form or another. This occurs across ages, with little children dressing up to go trick and treat, while adults dress up to have fun at a costume party. Now not all of these people intentionally set out to work magic, but Halloween is a night of masks, and as such it can be useful for magical work to explore the idea of taking on a mask.

A mask allows a person to become something else, to invoke a different presence into his/her life. The mask isn't a permanent change in identity, but rather is a temporary change that allows the person to access what the mask represents. And what the mask represents is a chance to let go and allow yourself to connect with something that isn't you, that is different from your usual identity. Of course there are potential dangers when you do this without the right constraints, and I think that one of the constraints that is present in Halloween is the idea that it's all make believe. It's a useful constraint for people who aren't magicians, but for someone who practices magic, putting on the mask is never make believe. Putting on the mask is a connection with the character, entity, deity, etc that the mask represents.

To me, Halloween is a night of invocation. When you put on the mask, and put on the costume you are invoking the character and what the character represents. The moment you start to dress the part is the moment the ritual begins. Each article of clothing you put on and each stroke of paint and make up you apply puts you in touch with the character, allowing you to connect with the character and invoke him/her/it into you. When the costume is complete, at that moment you've fully opened the door to become the character for as long as you wear the costume. However the costume is only part of the invocation. The rest of the invocation occurs when you choose to behave like the character. By choosing to behave like the character, you allow yourself to become that character. The invocation ends when you take off the costume, allowing the connection to slip away and resuming your everyday identity.

Of course, you don't have to limit invocation along these lines to Halloween, but I think Halloween is the one day of the year where you can get away with it anywhere you go. In a sense Halloween becomes the one day that everyone takes on a different identity, a different mask, a different reality, if only for the time that they wear the costume. So why not become that character you identify with or even better a character that isn't anything like you and might challenge you to behave differently than you normally would. Put on a mask and let yourself temporarily be something or someone else. It's a kind of magic in its own right, and one that can be quite useful to explore, both on Halloween and at other times if you feel so inclined.

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Taylor Ellwood is the author of Pop Culture Magick, Space/Time Magic, Magical Identity and a number of other occult books. He posts about his latest projects at Magical Experiments. He is also the managing non-fiction editor of Immanion Press. Taylor lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two kids, as well as 7 cats.

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