What has Halloween ever been but a strangely elaborate redistribution of wealth? A way for a grubby peasant like you to roll up to some sweet crib and go “hiiiii please give me candy you literally cannot say no for some reason”. For one night out of the year, we all owe each other something, and we all deserve to get what we want. For this reason, Halloween has historically appealed to such classic persona non grata as The Social Outcast, The Bullied Emo Child, The Neglected Younger Sister, or Any Child Growing Up In The Lower Middle Class. The list goes on. But before any of us picked up a Milky Way with our tacky little kid hands, a bunch of Medieval European people said, and I quote, “Fuck it, it is Allhallowtide and we are going to steal from some rich people. May god bless us and keep us.”
When I was a kid, we took Halloween pretty seriously, as a family of medically theatrical people who could not resist any kind of ridiculous or extravagant excursion. We would start early, making the humble rounds of our own neighborhood, collecting fistfuls of Jolly Ranchers and rolling our eyes at the plastic bowls labelled “Please Only Take One”. We made quick work of the familiar territory, cutting through backyards and occasionally running away from big scary dogs. Then we would move on, shoving each other into my mom’s car and driving down to the East End, where the rich people lived.
Me and all the other kids living in my neighborhood engaged in our own small-time fuckery with class warfare, as many American children have during Halloween for the last century. But we never knew that our instincts were deeper than just our gluttonous desire for more candy, or our parents’ complicated desire to motivate us toward being more financially successful than they were by making us feel weird about where we lived. This mass exodus toward the glitzy homes of the high-earners is not contained to my own experience. Rather it is deeply connected to a Halloween tradition harkening back to England during the Middle Ages. Normally I am against pretty much anything credited to the miserable people of England, but in this case I have to give them a bit of credit. It was the Middle Ages, shit was crazy, so even those vacuous poppycocks had to get a little scrappy from time to time.
During this period in England, many people annually participated in the tradition of Souling, in which you and all your hungry homies would gather up and go knocking on people’s doors begging for some fun little tasty treats. The poorer classes, living throughout the Northern and Western regions of England, would scatter themselves through their counties: Yorkshire, Cheshire, even Derbyshire. Derbyshire! Those poor old Derbyshians would gather up their weathered petticoats, harangue their dozens of children, and go get some good old fashioned socialistic work done.
They engaged in a lot of tomfoolery to make their pleading seem more fun and seasonal. The Soulers would often dress in disguises as they made their rounds, so that their wealthy neighbors couldn’t recognize them in the market on Monday morning and go, “So you’re the bitch that took all my fresh biscuits”. They walked the streets carrying lanterns made of hollowed-out turnips, their dismal faces cast in darkness by heavy cloaks and hoods, a small army of children crowded around them, daring anyone passing by to ask exactly what was up with them. Soulers were also known, if they ever got tired of the lanterns, to carry severed horse heads with them on their journey. And that’s how you incentivize. Hey neighbor, got anything for us in the cellar? No? Alright, why don’t you take a good long stare into the dead eyes of this decapitated horse?
Once the Soulers arrived at your tricked out medieval doorstep, you were expected to serve them Soul Cakes. Soul Cakes were disgusting little cookies decorated with black currants in the shape of a cross. I dread to think what would happen if one failed to deliver these Soul Cakes, but I would have to assume that the friendly Soulers would simply feed you into their traditional bonfires, which were said to have represented the Purgation of restless souls by holy fire. So you make the damn cookies, is what I’m saying.
Having said all this, I hope you take the Soulers’ message into your own Halloweeny hearts and go a little crazy this year. Light some shit on fire! Cast an eternal curse on your landlord! Speak in tongues if that’s what you’re into. Walk all the way down to those neighborhoods you never dare to pass, the ones with the perfect view of the lake, the cars parked in front like spaceships. Knock on their freshly painted front doors, and politely ask them for some Soul Cakes. Watch the blood drain from their faces.
Categories: oct. 26, side bar, sophie wolfe, vol 25