Espiritus and Ghouls
My little daughter is so excited about Halloween. She will be a green-faced bruja, dressed in a flowing black and silver dress her aunt made. Though nearly 6, it is only her second time trick-or-treating because until last year, she was allergic to nuts.
So, as you can imagine, Halloween is a gigantic deal for Maria Felice.
As it has gotten closer to All Hallows Eve, we have heard her talk with curiosity about ghouls, the dead and vampires. She comes home repeating the scary stories I imagine she hears on the school yard, because I don’t go there with her.
It hit me yesterday that, as a kid, I did not have the same obsession with the dark side of Halloween. I was all about the costumes and candy. It felt silly — even to the child I was — to focus such energy on ghosts just one day a year. Growing up in a superstitious Cuban family, those ghosts and spirits lived with us all year long.
Some of my relatives saw ghosts, family friends channeled spirits, and my grandmother left a tall glass of water for the spirits she believed visited her bedside each night.
All this just was. Early on, I understood the language of despojos, trabajos, and altares. I would bet all my little Cuban friends did too, even if their families were not believers.
I didn’t think of the spirits as ghouls or freaks in limbo walking around without their heads. They were benefactors, messengers, guardians. OK, some of them were described as lost, troubled souls who, if provoked, would pull your toes at night, or tell on you via the family medium. And, some of the angry Orishas do come off as pretty scary. But, overall, the spirits I grew up knowing about, just were, and not just on Oct. 31.
I don’t watch horror movies, or read about the paranormal. When I saw The Believers as a young adult, I wanted to sleep in between my Mami and Papi again. Jason, popular movie icon and Halloween character? He ain’t got nothing on some pissed-off palero. My growing up with the spirits means I have a healthy dose of respect for what they may, or may not, be capable of. And, so I treat them like one may treat the reclusive neighbor’s down the road. I know they are there, I wave when I get a glimpse, and I keep on going. It’s all good.
I don’t talk to my daughter about spirits and I don’t encourage the gory talk that Halloween has inspired in her. I don’t want to spook her, and can you imagine if she started talking about this stuff to her non-Latino classmates in Nashville, TN? Nah. I prefer to focus on the promised sugar high and the cartoonish ghouls of her traditional American Halloween.
The espiritus can wait.
They’ve got time.