How your Halloween costume can help you re-imagine yourself
I’m going to take a little break from the cards today to offer my thoughts on how Halloween can be a catalyst for self-exploration.
For me, Halloween costumes have always been a source of joy. As a kiddo, I broke my arm on the afternoon of October 31st. I remember going straight from the ER to put on my costume (conveniently a mummy!) and then trick-or-treating. At age 12, I promised myself I would never miss a year of dressing up, and I never have! For others, I know that choosing a Halloween costume can be a source of stress and anxiety. If that’s you, I’d like to help. Halloween can be an opportunity to practice some transformational magic- even if you decide not to dress up!
Halloween is a Transformative Saturnalia
Halloween is the day that the jester rules the castle. We can permission the forbidden and nothing is taboo.
On Halloween, children become superheroes, hobos, princesses, and goblins. Adults become political figure spoofs, villains, and “sexy” versions of heroines, animals, and legends. Don an orange jumpsuit knowing that come November 1st, you will be free. Take a cardboard box, paint it silver, and become an invincible Knight of the Round Table.
Women can fearlessly throw off dress code rules and reverse the power dynamics of sex while dressing as salaciously as imaginable, knowing that they will be safe from speculation, rumor, shame, ridicule, and obligation.
Though a woman wearing a “sexy” nurse costume may not have consciously articulated it, she is repossessing her full power. What could possibly be more radical than a woman unafraid of her own sexuality in the uniform of a healer?
Men can abandon the limitations of toxic masculinity to become teddy bears without embarrassment, or warriors without violence.
Halloween can provide a waking dream state. Our dreams are communications from our unconscious, helping us play out what we cannot do in real life.
The purpose of our dreams is to help us process our feelings, hopes, and fears. Today, I’m inviting you to play with those feelings in the waking safety of a Halloween costume.
Whether you don’t normally enjoy costuming or you’re like me and can’t live without it, I hope my own story of past Halloweens can inspire you this year.
Transformative Costumes, A Retrospective:
My experimentation with sacred costuming actually began with a photography project in college.
For my final project, I did a series of self-portraits. In each photo, I chose one element of my life and then tried to imagine what that part of myself would express if it was in a super-hero Imax fantasy proportion. Because I wasn’t using actual costumes, I had to get creative with the seed of the inner feeling and blow it up to larger-than-life proportions.
Since those were the days of analog, I can only describe the finals. As an English major, I spent a lot of time writing papers, and so for my ‘work’ life, I portrayed myself as a corpse, black words written on my skin turned to white chalk words on a black floor and wall as if in a crime scene. In a ‘romance’ vision I was completely suspended in ropes, carried away.
This project opened a door for me. I discovered that the exercise of re-imagining one part of my inner life in epic proportions allowed me something like long-distance introspection. This is the heart of sacred costuming.
I began applying this practice to Halloween In the way-back machine of 2006. The practice wasn’t quite crystalized in my mind, but the seeds were there. My selection was part deliberate, part subconscious, but the result was the same.
I was in a relationship, I loved my job, and I felt playful and glamorous. I wanted to expand those feelings of power and attraction and I wanted attention without showing too much skin. I channeled Marie Antoinette.
The magic of Marie Antoinette manifested and I married the man who came as my Louis the XV!
When 2007 came, I was newly married and I wasn’t sure I enjoyed the new identity. In an attention-grabbing and very impractical outfit, I was a Ziegfeld-Folly showgirl. Sadly, the photos from 2007 are nowhere to be found (in fact I remember dropping my new ‘camera phone’ in the toilet)!
I was with my new ‘wife’ label and that led me into an uncomfortable costume. I was trying to have fun, but it wasn’t a fit.
In 2008 my then-husband was determined to be a mascot-style Easter bunny, and so I became the Tooth Fairy. I wanted to be a part of a ‘couple’s costume’ but as I reflect, I remember, that wasn’t a version of myself I was excited about. I was doing a lot of magical thinking in those days, and so in a way, it worked, but it was a squeeze.
Looking back on your own past costumes, was there a year that you picked something that didn’t feel quite right? Is it possible you were working out something in your inner world that wasn’t a fit?
It’s been almost 15 years since that short-lived partnership mercifully dissolved. I’m grateful for all of my past experiences, but when we officially separated, it was a tough time for me. In fact, the official date of our separation was October 30th 2009!
The best part about Halloween that year is that it was the day after one chapter in my story ended.
I was channeling transformation. I felt both powerful and angry. I wanted to be seen as sexy, but I didn’t want anyone to even think about trying to touch me. I became Hedwig from Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
If you’re not familiar with the musical, I highly recommend you watch the film. It is the story of a (somewhat) transgender person from East Berlin living in the US experiencing a break-up and creating an identity through performance.
Inhabiting that space was magic for me that year and carried me into what would become a year of transformation.
As you can see, all I required was the wig and make-up to become transported into the vessel of Hedwig. I’ve worn that wig since then, but I spent all of its magic that evening.
We can invoke very powerful spells and characters without a lot of actual materials. Is there a wig or a style of make-up that you can imagine your everyday self dissolving away into and becoming something unrecognizable in?
Fast-forward to 2010. I think I collected 30+ wigs between those Halloweens. I was figuring out who I was going to be and that exploration required a lot of different looks.
When it came time to choose what I would be, I chose the mythic figure of the Phoenix. I had risen from the ashes and I felt reborn.
My philosophy of sacred costuming was fully formed by this time and I was ready to take full advantage of this time when the veil to the spirit world is the thinnest.
By inhabiting the symbol of eternal rebirth with mythic proportions, I did truly feel reborn. The Phoenix requires no mate to reproduce and understands that ashes can give rise to new life. That was me.
Have you experienced a major transformation in your life this year? Would it be possible for you to embrace this change more fully by animating yourself as a butterfly, or an Olympic champion?
I really enjoyed the avian qualities of the Phoenix, and I wanted to continue exploring that feeling in 2011. I was also finally ready to start dating again! And so, I was a peacock.
I learned first-hand that year that peacocks are pretty ridiculous birds. I thought the costume would help me get back into the mood for mate-finding, but I actually discovered that peacock-ing just made me feel silly.
This is also a gift of sacred costuming. When we try on something and find out it’s not what we want to invoke in real life, we gain greater clarity on what’s not going to work. The make-up comes off and we return to ourselves.
In 2012, I wanted to try being a bird once more. I had seen the Wes Anderson film Moonrise Kingdom and was inspired by the scene in which our two anti-heroes meet.
saw something of myself in that story. The rebelliousness and individualism of the central characters require the adults in their lives to face their own struggles of isolation, and ultimately all the characters reunify with authenticity.
The raven is of course a fantastic Halloween macabre trope from the Edgar Allen Poe poem. It is also a symbol of, “Creation, transformation, knowledge, prestige as well as the complexity of nature and the subtlety of truth.” -Spirits of the West Coast Art Gallery. As the raven, I got to explore all those ideas that year.
Finally complete with my avian fever, in 2013 I was hoping to leave my career in software sales for something more artistic and creatively fulfilling. I wanted to become an event planner, and so I invoked the Maenad.
I first learned about these ancient brides of Dionysus/Bacchus (the god of wine) from HBO’s True Blood. Their name literally translates as “raving ones”. I thought that this would be the perfect way to try on for size what creating bacchanal events would be like. As my then-roommate would certainly attest, I went a bit mad that year.
I created individual voodoo doll invitations with creepy poems and a date and time as the only instructions.
I transformed my loft into a haunted house that rivaled any professional event producer’s ability.
And I made horns and a dress that expressed that madness and essential nature of party reverie.
If it looks like it was all a bit much, it was. And more. And, I did not become an event planner. By going full bore, I got to experience being a party planner without actually changing my career.
Is there an alternate career path you’ve considered, but the idea of tossing out your current resume makes that dream feel impossible? Why not blow up the photo-negative of that dream snapshot into epic proportions for one night and see how it feels?
In 2021 I’d finally created a job for myself that used all my talents — Sea Tarot! That year I wanted to explore what feeling like a powerful healer could be at an extreme, and so I became a white witch.
The costuming, the make-up, it all came together and I felt very much at home in this mythic version of what is now my everyday life
In 2022 I allowed the theme of the party, a Surrealist Mascarae, to inspire me. I chose to explore how surreal our reflections can be.
If you’ve been invited to a party that has a specific theme, there’s still a lot of room to explore what your unique reflection of that theme will be.
As for this year, I am going to be working on the 28th and the 31st, so I guess I’ll have to invent some new way of exploring my inner-self through costume. Maybe underneath my tarot outfit I’ll wear some secret amulet, wouldn’t that be some inner-self exploration?
Whatever happens this year, I hope that my personal costuming journey will help inspire you to try some sacred costuming yourself!
If your costume is already planned out, use this exercise to investigate if your wise unconscious mind had a hand in its choosing. You can always imbibe whatever you decide to dress as with intention and magic!
Sacred Costuming Ritual
All you need is a pen and paper.
1) Settle into a comfortable space. Close your eyes and take a few meditative deep breaths. Imagine yourself as a character in a movie.
Observe yourself over the last two weeks, as if you were in an Imax theater. What are the descriptive titles or roles that would be in the script for your life? For me, I’ve been a daughter, a friend, a dog mom, and a business owner. Every day I am a cook, a cleaner, a driver, a gardener, a diabetic, a writer and an artist. In my professional life, I’ve been a housecleaner, a restaurant hostess, a saleswoman, a comedian, and a tarot reader.
2) Next, what feelings does the character go through in this movie? Love, romance, exhaustion, anger, joy, fear?
What does the character want to feel, but can’t seem to access? Safety, acceptance, strength, adoration? Remember you are just observing with no judgment or attachment. 3) What are some things this character is afraid of being? Destructive, destitute, ugly, alone, sick, blind, imprisoned, vulnerable, greedy, weak, objectified?
5) When you have written all this down, come back to the breath and review. Take one of the feelings your character longs for but can’t access and see if it aligns with a fear or a fantasy.
4) What are some of this character’s fantasies? More time, creativity, money, sex, status, or freedom? 5) When you have written all this down, come back to the breath and review. Take one of the feelings your character longs for but can’t access and see if it aligns with a fear or a fantasy.
6) Blow up that fear or fantasy until it is in Imax proportions. What would be the biggest exaggeration and expression of that feeling? World-fame, immortality, magic powers, superhuman skills, invisibility?
Is there an animal that embodies those fantasies? What is the ugliest, weakest, or most unlovable thing you can imagine? Gollum, the Ghost of Christmas Past, Beetlejuice a zombie?
7) Finally, go ahead and ‘dress up’ your everyday titles in these exaggerated expressions.
For example, if your movie character is a busy mother who wants more time and greater freedom, but is afraid that taking time for herself would be greedy, imagine costuming that character in either the most liberated or greedy outfit you can.
Feel free to pull from history or myth. In thinking of freedom, I think of a bird. For greed, The Queen of Hearts comes to mind. Perhaps a feathered queen from your imagination would embody both extremes.
Perhaps you are professionally successful, but your intimacy is limited by a fear of vulnerability, sadness, or being perceived as lazy or weak. The avatar for you might be the Cowardly Lion, an emo musician, or the strongest most burdened man in the world, Atlas.
What could you do to blow up the fear into such a huge exaggeration that it could only seem outrageous, and then step into that role? When we put our fantasies and fears outside of reality, we can look at them more objectively. The feeling that you long to inhabit can be accessed through an avatar of your creation.
8) When you’ve written down your ideas, go ahead and return to the breath. Close your eyes and drop into your body.
Ask the divine if there is any way you can incorporate this exercise into you Halloween experience so that it is an opportunity for growth If you want, before you go to sleep, place your sacred costuming work underneath your pillow and ask to receive any more information from your subconscious dream life on what it would like you to face and embrace, especially for Halloween.
Be prepared to write down your dreams as soon as you wake up. I am wishing you love and laughter, strength, and pumpkin-spiced everything!
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Reading the Tarot is my joy and my vocation. If you would like to receive a reading from me, I would be honored to serve you. You can read more and book with me, either in-person from my San Francisco location, or remotely from anywhere in the world here.