No Quarter: an Anarchist Zine about Pirates

Thursday, July 23, 1992

From Idle Hands the Devils Work



Here is the original blurb soliciting contributions:
Re-envisioning Halloween as a festival of children's liberation, exploring the social history of dressing up, encouraging critical readings of halloween, horror movies, and horror fiction. These are the topics covered in a forthcoming zine. You are encouraged to contribute.


It must not have been very good, seeing as I only got one response.

Halloween Manifesto

Halloween Manifesto
Every year more than a few pranks are perpetrated by anonymous ghosts and goblins at the expense of straight society. For one night a year business is suspended and children rule the streets. A few pathetic attempts are made to preserve “law and order”, but it cannot be preserved. It is doubtful that it existed to begin with. Halloween is the shadowy specter of the unconscious haunting the dreams of pious Christian parents. It is a glimpse of the truth: that your kids are not miniature versions of yourself. They have not yet forgotten the joy of chaotic play. They have not yet lost the ability to imagine something better than ordered subdivisions and the banality of school and work. Some of them will never forget.
On Halloween more than any other night you look at your children in fear because they are not masquerading as pirates, witches and evil spirits. They are the mask; your worst fears. Unruly, uncontrollable, spirits of chaos. Every year straight society goes into damage control mode, trying desperately to contain the festival to one night. But it is not just caffeine and sugar that your children want. It is absolute freedom… and revenge. Revenge against a society determined to domesticate them and to force them into a function that merely serves to replicate itself and society. Revenge against schools that kill imagination and critical thought. That teach regurgitation of so-called facts and submission to authority. Revenge against parents and teachers; against adults in general. The great oppressor. And against automobiles; the great child killer. Straight society dreams fevered nightmares about feral children raised by wolves. Their own children turned against them. They try to concentrate those fears into one night, but it spills out every day. Halloween isn’t the only night teachers cars get egged. Parents see reports on TV about youth riots in France. Beneath the racism is the subconscious knowledge that France is not so far off. No neighborhood is ever as far away from youth rebellion as they would like.
Every night should be Halloween! Undisciplined, unruly, unstoppable. Reviled by the press, feared by parents and teachers, and owners of SUVs and chain stores. School is cancelled tomorrow. On account of real life. No school, no jobs, no curfew. A never-never land of forever-ever. Now, for real! Fuck School! Fuck their oppressive order and their no-future! We say yes! An ecstatic yes to life! Fuck off to their death culture: work and wars and chain stores and concrete. Halloween belongs to Eris, goddess of discord and strife, as it belongs to every child who ever threw a rotten egg or played hooky. On Halloween every child is Eris, if they want it. Everyday is Halloween. Your parents can smell it in the air. Even over the rotten eggs and the fear. Jack-o-lantern, the original merry prankster, the original shit disturber rides again. And again and again.
We bring you this message: You are not alone. You avatars of Eris, of Bacchus and Pan, of Shiva and Kali. We have not forgotten what it is to be alive. We Knights of Eris, guardians of the sacred Chao, horsemen(sic) of the golden apple, harbingers of chaos and destruction, stand with you. We dream of unlimited freedom, ruined cities, and impenetrable forests. We dream of a world without authority, without school, without work. Only joy as radiant as a golden apple. Of a wildness with no bounds.
In Pandemonium,
Knights of Eris 2006

Musings on the History of Halloween

The history of Halloween is invariably traced back to Samhain, the Celtic festival of the death of summer and the beginning of the (Celtic) new year. David J. Skal makes the point that mass media representations of Halloween “often leave the impression that the holiday has been handed down, more or less intact, from Celtic antiquity… In reality, contemporary Halloween is a patchwork holiday, a kind of cultural Frankenstein stitched together quite recently from a number of traditions, all fused beneath the cauldron-light of the American melting pot”(p.20).
Skal Points to Roman influences on Samhain including the November 1st harvest festival dedicated to Pomona, Goddess of the orchard (hence bobbing for apples), and Saturnalia, the winter Solstice, which was celebrated by masked reveling. The feast of All Saints (Nov 1st) and All Souls (Nov 2nd) were established by the Church in the middle ages as part of an attempt to move Christian holidays into line with pagan holidays to co-opt them. Lisa Morton points out the similarities between Martinmas (Nov 11th) and both Samhain and Halloween. Martinmas is the feast of St. Martin of Tours, patron saint of the harvest. Morton points out that before the Gregorian calendar Martinmas was celebrated on Nov 1st. Martinmas is celebrated by children carrying jack-o’-lanterns in Germany, and house to house begging in the Netherlands.

Interestingly Morton also relates Martinmas to wine and quotes church documents referring to “Bacchus in the figure of Martin”. Bacchus is of course the beloved Roman God of Wine and Madness, also known to the Greeks as Dionysus. Dionysus was known as the Liberator, freeing one from one’s normal self either in the sense of intoxication or madness. In his last days Friedrich Nietzsche was freed from himself and became Dionysus. Perhaps Dionysus in the figure of Nietzsche (see Peter Lamborn Wilson, “Crazy Nietzsche”).
Another interesting influence on modern Halloween (although the extent of the influence is questionable) is Guy Fawkes Day (Nov 4th), which commemorates the “Gunpowder, Treason and Plot” of the Catholic Fawkes to blow up Parliament in England. Guy Fawkes Day involves children collecting “pennies for the Guy” to help deter the cost of fireworks and huge bonfires to burn the effigies of Fawkes and the Pope. As strange as it seems to us in North America, Guy Fawkes Day doesn’t celebrate Fawkes or his attempted demolition, but rather celebrates the foiling of the plot. This point may have been lost on some of the North American viewers of V for Vendetta this year, which was undoubtedly the introduction of many to the holiday. Unless they read the comic first.
Ronald Hutton notes that in the UK “Hallowe’en was also notable for the activities of mummers and guisers, figures found at winter festivals in general but particularly appropriate to a night upon which supernatural beings were said to be abroad and could be imitated or warded off by human wanderers”(p.380).

Orkney Boys in the early twentieth century went about dressed in female clothes, while those on Skye in the same period wore old clothes and blackened their faces. The latter were traditionally allowed to ‘exercise the greatest licence’, sitting where they pleased in a kitchen, singing, conversing, and ignoring the inhabitants of the house which they had entered and who were expected to set scones, cakes and fruit before them. Sooty, painted, or masked faces were also important on the Scottish mainland, as was odd dress of almost any kind. A common rhyme among Scots Hallowe’en guisers was:

Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are marchin’
We are the guisers at the door,
If ye dinna let us in
We will bash yer windies in
An ye’ll never see the guisers any more” (p.381).


This is the sort of trick or treat we dream of. None of the ridiculous sing for your candy or say thank you. Candy on Halloween is not a gift. It’s a payment to prevent the ‘trick’. If ye dinna let us in, we will bash yer SUV’s windies in. Then again, if the candy isn’t good enough maybe we’ll do it anyway. But I digress.
An admirable part of modern Halloween lore is the Jack-o’-lantern. Jack-o’lantern seems to have been the original “God doesn’t want me and the Devil is afraid I’ll take over” type character (ok, maybe not the original, but dating back to at least the 1600s) . His pranks having offended both God and the Devil, Jack was condemned to walk the earth until judgment day with only a burning coal from the Devil that Jack caught in a hollowed out turnip to light his way. The turnip eventually became a pumpkin and Jack was brought over to North America from Scotland or Ireland, perhaps both. According to Skal, Jack-o’-lantern was associated with spooky pranks as early as 1817, but not explicitly with Halloween. Skal argues that almost nothing of modern Halloween existed in its modern form before 1900. Certainly not Trick-or-Treating.

This suits us fine. Halloween doesn’t need to have ancient traditions transmitted directly from the Druids. For my purposes Halloween doesn’t need to be ancient, only liberatory. The fact is that at some point in the Twentieth century (or perhaps before) Halloween developed into a celebration that gave children a lot of liberty to celebrate and to transgress normal social boundaries. If some of these practices are borrowed in altered forms from the Celts, medieval festival days, or Guy Fawkes, to name a few, then so much the better. We do not propose a ‘pure’ Halloween with ancient folkloric traditions, or even a stationary Halloween. The purpose of this project is not nostalgia for an imagined past (either in ancient times, or our childhood). Rather we seek to examine Halloween today and take what we find to be liberatory and to emphasize those elements. We seek to counteract the commercialization, pacification and policing of Halloween. We imagine an unruly Halloween, created by children for children, of ever shifting oral traditions, with little or no constraint, free from the control of parents, teachers, and police. We think that would be a Halloween worth celebrating!

introduction

Last year, the week before Halloween I heard that the police here were going to have 100 extra police cruisers patrolling on Halloween. Allegedly to protect kids from some hinted at peril - which of course is a load of shit. It’s true that Halloween is a dangerous night for kids, but only because they get hit by cars. It’s also a dangerous night for property, which of course is the real reason for the increased police presence. It also helps to reinforce the image of Halloween and trick or treating as a dangerous thing for children. A night of child killers and poisoned candy; a total fabrication.
This scaremongering made me angry enough to start thinking about what eventually became this project. It made me examine my ongoing discontent with the direction that Halloween has been headed for some time. Less and less trick or treating, and what remains, sanitized and commercialized. All treat and no trick. More parental (and police) control, more Halloween parties, less vandalism…
So I decided that I wanted to do this zine and hear from other people. I wanted to know if I was looking at my own Halloweens past through rose colored glasses. I wanted to hear what others thought about the way things have been going. So I solicited for radical interpretations of Halloween. I wanted to look at the libratory aspects of kids causing mischief, or trick or treating as a social phenomenon with a threat attached. I wanted a utopian vision of Halloween with no cops, no parental control. Pre-halloween parties where the kids watch Over the Edge for inspiration. A caffeine and sugar filled night of youth justice against a society designed to keep them in line. No scaremongering from the media. Or scaremongering for all the right reasons. Sensational stories about what might happen to your SUV if you don’t give good enough candy. Hell, it might happen anyway. Maybe squads of vegan kids dressed up as ALF partisans, lab mice with menacing clubs, or dead vivesectors, enforcing vegan options for all children. Kid solidarity preventing reprisals for vandalism. “Where I come from we have one rule: a kid who tells on another kid is a dead kid”. Maybe older brother’s and sisters dressed up as hooligans or bandits helping enforce a ban on surveillance cameras, media and cops. What if the kids got unruly? What if they decided that it wasn’t just candy that they lacked. What if schools got attacked (and indeed they do, and not just on Halloween). What if fat kids vandalized Weight Watchers (or the local health region offices, which were planning to test all grade 5 kids for obesity)? What if queer and trans kids dressed however they wanted and nobody laughed? Or people did but their friends had their back. What if the homophobic assholes down the street had shit thrown at their house with a note: “Next time you call someone a fag, we’ll smash your car”? How long could any of this stay contained to one night? If kids don’t take shit one night will they take it November 1st? Not likely. Maybe they’ll decide to enforce half-halloween on May 31st. Or a radical reinterpretation of Guy Fawkes day on November 5th. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine who might be burnt in effigy instead of the Guy. And if the bonfire was built dangerously close to a school, what could be done? And if the kids will no longer submit to the arbitrary authority of school - if they get a taste of the power of the solidarity of silence in the face of interrogation by parents, teachers, the police – will they readily submit to the indignities of college or work?
Besides these day dreams I wanted to explore to what extent (if any) there have been libratory threads that run through the fabric of Halloween past of present. I was hoping that submissions might address the social history of dressing up, critical readings of not only Halloween but also horror fiction and movies, maybe even discussions of how to help counteract the reactionary trajectory of Halloween. Or discussions of how to deflect it in a more libratory direction. Maybe even contributions from kids or teens young enough to trick or treat, or at least still in high school. As you look through this zine you will see some modest beginnings in some of these areas. In others, nothing at all. I’ve included a list of materials at the end which were an inspiration to myself or other contributors to this zine, or that cover relevant material. If you like this zine perhaps consider contributing to issue #2. The deadline is early august 2007. The theme, in addition to more on Halloween, will also include feral children. Please pass this around to your friends. Read, think critically, act.