John Charming has been fighting the forces of darkness for a long time – a very long time. So you could say that he’s something of an expert on the subject. So before going out tonight, check out these helpful Pro-Tips.
Okay, so imagine that it’s the seventh century. It’s late October although they probably have a different name for that month in your village of Sucksalot, but however your calendar works, it’s that time of year when crops are dying and families are slaughtering and salting livestock so that they’ll have enough meat to survive the winter. There are no antibiotics except for a few plants with mild anti-septic qualities and maybe a few poultices whose ingredients include boiled urine, so now that flu and pneumonia seasons are coming around, villagers are dropping like pants at a Vegas convention. Death is everywhere, literally and symbolically. Souls are travelling through doorways between the physical world and the spirit world a lot more frequently, and this makes it easier for metaphysical predators from the other side to slip through.
So what do you do? Containment and appeasement rituals. You sacrifice some of your slaughtered cattle and toss their bones in the fire so that beings who can’t physically digest the food can still mingle with its essence. Your local priest leads crowds of children dressed like spirits from house to house to collect donations for the dead. You hollow out turnips or pumpkins and carve scary faces into them and light fires in their center because this is symbolic of life surrounded by death, of light surviving in the darkness.
That’s the origin of Halloween. Lighting a candle in the darkness and praying for survival.
So how can we 21st century denizens protect ourselves on a holiday that is traditionally the supernatural world’s equivalent of an office party? Well, common sense rules like staying in well-lit areas and keeping crowds around you still apply. The truth is, on this particular holiday it’s not about protection so much as deflection. You’re never going to make yourself invincible – but you can make yourself less attractive. For the spirit world, Halloween is a smorgasbord. You don’t want to be the banana pudding with vanilla wafers crumbled in, you want to be the pickled fish that probably should have gotten tossed out a day ago.
With that in mind, here are a few basic pointers.
Tip 1: BE GOOD FOR GOODNESS SAKE
It isn’t Santa Claus that’s coming to town, it’s spirits that can’t let go because they have unresolved issues. We’re talking anger management, self-loathing, greed, selfishness, or revenge fantasy type issues. The kind of souls who populate that train station between our life and the life that comes after are basically like the worst ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend that you’ve ever had. And one of the key principles of magic is that like is attracted to like. So on a purely pragmatic level, it might make sense to invite someone who doesn’t run very fast to come with your group so that you can leave that person behind to distract pursuers if things go to hell, but you know what? That kind of thinking is messed up, and not all threats are physical. That kind of thinking will cause beings looking for weak or evil minds to come knocking on your mental door. By the same reasoning, this is a season where the worst types of cunning folk come looking for harvest sacrifices, and it’s not the best time to be a virgin. So on one level, becoming unchaste might be logical, but you also don’t want to do anything that’s going to damage your self-esteem too close to D-Day. There’s a line where being practical is good, but being ruthless and selfish are counter-productive.
Or to quote Austin Powers, “Oh, Behave!”
Tip #2 USE UNCOMMON SENSE
On a related note, you know that abandoned house on the outskirts of wherever that no one will live in and no one will tear down? That one where someone supposedly committed murder and/or suicide a long time ago and there have been whispers of freaky incidents ever since? Sure, it’s all a bunch of nonsense, and you personally know people who claim to have been there without anything bad happening, and wow, what a great place to throw a party! But you know what? DON’T GO THERE!
Or you know those people who live by themselves in houses where the surrounding plants seem to die a lot? Those mildly creepy recluses who don’t seem to need a lot of light and give off a leave-me-alone vibe? DON’T MESS WITH THEM!
Especially if they have a lot of cats.
Tip #3: A DOG REALLY IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
Speaking of pets, taking a dog with you is always a good idea. Especially a short little yappy dog that won’t be able to tear its leash out of your hands and run off. A dog’s enhanced senses really are your best friend. Your dog might be a pain and routinely bark at strangers, but believe me, if it picks up a scent of something stranger than stranger, you’ll be able to tell the difference. More importantly, most paranormal creatures using Halloween as a chance to walk around openly will also smell or hear your dog coming and avoid it the same way you’d walk away from a car alarm that was going off.
Tip #4: BELIEVE IN SOMETHING MORE THAN GOOD DENTAL HYGIENE
I’m not trying to preach. Believe me, I am the last person who would try to be anyone’s spiritual advisor. But bear with me for a second here, because I’m about to get physics-al. Reality is changed when molecules shift. Molecules shift when the electrons binding atoms together move. Thought is also essentially electrical activity. This is why just observing molecules changes the way they interact, something physicists have known for a long time. Do you see where I’m going with this? On a sub-atomic level, our thoughts and our reality basically run on the same energy, and magic is what occurs when thought and reality directly interact. This is why faith is such an important part of magic and a key defense against it. So believe in something that has the power to protect you – I don’t care what so long as it doesn’t involve hurting other people (see tip #1) and display its symbol proudly and prominently. If you believe that at the dawn of time, the giant Indian cosmic cow, Dhol, hooked up with the gigantic Persian primordial bull, Geush Urvan, and that their stellar moo-filled sex produced planets and constellations, then believe it with all your heart and have a tattoo of those lusty bovines going at it inked on your neck. I’ve heard of stranger big bang theories.
Tip #5 WHEN IN DOUBT, DON’T GO WITHOUT
If being atheist or agnostic is fundamental to your sense of self, and you really can’t embrace tip number four, all is not lost. There are certain wards and guards that don’t require your belief to power them. You can purchase ba gua mirrors that are 5 centimeters in diameter, for example, and while they are more effective if you are an ardent believer in Feng Shui, unholy presences don’t like being reflected in them under any circumstances. You can keep a hand held Ba gua mirror in your purse or back pack, or even incorporate them into your Halloween costume. You might also consider finding a Tibetan Koan that resonates with you, and learn to recite it in its original language for bonus points. These verbal puzzles are meant to provoke doubt and disbelief as an essential step in the path of spiritual development, and because they are steeped in this tradition, they offer some protection to the most steadfast unbeliever. Learning to focus and concentrate on a koan can keep your mind clear while something that doesn’t belong in your head is trying to break in and also act like bug repellant to unholy presences with physical bodies.
Tip #6 LIGHT EM’ UP
I’m a huge fan of the wide brimmed UV flashlights that you can order for less than twenty dollars from multiple online sources. Carrying your own portable (albeit watered down) source of sunlight around is a great way to discourage things that aren’t nocturnal by choice.
Tip #7: BE THINKING OF STINKING
Here’s something you won’t hear very often from people claiming to be supernatural experts: that whole thing about garlic having supernatural warding properties? It’s crap. Total crap. What garlic does do is possess a pungent aroma, and most supernatural beings with physical bodies have enhanced senses of smell. So yes, someone who’s rubbed themselves down with cloves of garlic actually is less likely to be targeted by a predator with no agenda other than a good time, but it’s for the same reason they’re less likely to get a date. Just remember, garlic won’t protect you at all against a predator who is targeting you specifically for personal reasons. Or against one who really likes Italian food. And honestly, not showering for a few days is equally effective. If you’re too self-conscious to commit to this step, consider getting some stink perfume. If you begin to feel uneasy, this novelty item can fill the air with a rotten egg stink with a simple twist of a cap, and you can always claim that you’re being rank for a prank.
Most lists have ten items these days, but I’m kind of inclined to buck the trend and go with the old lucky seven in this particular area. One thing I would never suggest is staying at home and hiding, not unless you really could use some privacy and quiet for your own peace of mind. Survival is not about living in fear, or committing senseless acts of aggression or selfishness which is really just living in fear and not having the cojones to admit it, or doing foolhardy acts to conquer fear. Survival is about taking control so that you can express who you really are and do the things that make life worth living. The word “Survive” literally translates to “Over or above life” not “Existing for the sake of existing.”
So have a good October 31st. Just remember that November first doesn’t have to be too bad either.
For more of John’s adventures, check out CHARMING (US | UK | AUS) by Elliott James, and as an added Halloween treat we’ve made one of the John Charming stories available to read online. Read DOG-GONE free for a limited time.