Spooky Szn & Decolonial Mythology with Stephanie Shugert (Part 2)
I'm publishing this on the morning of election day because I'm realizing that I wouldn't want to wait longer and risk publishing it in a wildly different context. Today is a time which for different people could range from stressful to traumatizing, and I hope you're able to do what you need to do to take care of yourself, especially now.
This entry comes as the second in a two-part interview with my friend Stephanie Shugert, who teaches an ExCo on Latin American Folklore. For more context, read Part 1 first.
What is your relationship with the word "spooky?"
When I think of spooky, I think of the song Spooky Scary Skeletons. *Sings* Spooky Scary Skeletons…
Spooky, I think— it's a fun word. I don't think there's anything wrong with it, I think we just have to be careful with what we choose to call spooky, because I feel like spooky is such an American media word that the only thing I would count as spooky is, like, a scary movie. Things that aren't real and they're just for fun are spooky. Me dressing up as a cliché ghost is spooky. In terms of the realm of what all this stuff can really be, let's say I have an experience— an encounter with a spiritual being— I wouldn't call that spooky, because I feel like that's just disrespectful.
Tell me about what happened when you went to get pumpkins for your ExCo.
October is a spooky month. It's time for people to get scared. Humans love being scared. We go on rollercoasters for the rush. But people sometimes forget that for some individuals, those rushes of fear are more permanent or more present throughout the entire year.
I went with Marilyn and Nashleen to get pumpkins. It was supposed to be five minutes away, and it took us an hour to get there, and it was pretty scary. There's fears that are fun, which is not real fear. There's getting scared for the sake of getting scared, like a rollercoaster, you're on it for the thrill, you consent to being scared. Sometimes scary things do happen that you didn't consent to. It doesn't even have to be supernatural. It can just be what kind of space you're moving through or what kind of people you are around. So what happened Thursday night is that we were driving, and it was spooky in the sense of, there were cornfields and it was dark and I'm like, alright, that's spooky.
When that spookiness turned into real fear was when I started driving by dark houses with Trump flags all over, and it seemed like it was so rural, and it's not like I could've cried for help, you know? Nobody would've come help us. If they see us, you know, they could have a gun. Those are the things that went through all three of our heads, because we were three brown people in the same car. We have to remember that those feelings are very different. Me being scared of the cornfields is not the same thing as me being scared of a Trump supporter.
For some moments it was a rush. When we tried to distract ourselves from the true scariness that it could be, when we played loud music and rolled down the windows, blasting "Money" by Cardi B by white houses— that was fun. That was a rush. But then when we were more quiet, and I was like, "That's the third house that's had a Trump flag"— that rush is a little different. It's an ugly rush, it's not exhilarating. It's like, I don't wanna be here.
Okay, so eventually, we got the pumpkins. I really like pumpkins. They're so delicious and I like how they have multiple purposes. Not only can they be eaten, but they can be painted or carved or just used to represent what you want. And the use of light! You know how we put candles in them? That is just a way of us using all of nature's gifts to celebrate. Everything that she does for us is a gift. That goes back to our distorted vision of what Halloween is. I'm not saying it's bad to dress up in costumes and stuff like that, but what it's really about is having a day— kind of like Día de los Muertos, even though they're very different— when the gate between our realm and the next realm is lifted, and we should celebrate that.
Can I insert a fun fact?
In Samhain— the Celtic ancestor of Halloween, I guess you could say— the reason why people would dress up in costumes was because they believed that these spirits called the fae (fairies, essentially, but not just ones who fit the mental image we have of them in the US) might come and eat you on that specific night, because of that same idea of the veil between worlds being thinner. People would dress up to trick the fae into staying away from them.
See? That's what I'm saying. There's nothing wrong with dressing up, but when we don't take advantage of the opportunities that these times provide, it's very disrespectful to the beings who take the time for us. They feel less compelled to come back. There's more skeptics now than believers, whereas before there were more believers, and that is why. Because nature is like, "Alright, you're not taking advantage of my thing? Then I'm not gonna do it no more." And that's valid! Nature is valid.
For a lot of people, it's like, "I have to see it to believe it," and that was me too.
And then you saw it.
I did! But with all of these things— it doesn't have to happen to you specifically to be real. We have to be respectful and adopt this attitude of "Why not?" There is no proof that any of these things are not real, so why not? I think there's proof that this stuff definitely exists, but some people don't consider that real proof.
I think of it as nature interacting with us, being like, "Hey— notice me!" We can think that's annoying or that's scary, but we have to remember that we have been ignoring their cries for a long time. You know? It's okay for them to be annoying. That's just la recompensa. If I'm angry with someone and they keep on ignoring me, I'm gonna get gradually angrier. We didn't listen to them the first time, so we shouldn't be upset when they lash out.
You mentioned taking advantage of the veil between the spirit world and our world being thinnest around the time of Halloween, Día de los Muertos, Samhain, All Souls Day, etc. Do you have any plans for taking advantage of that tomorrow?
People think that it has to be a process, you have to have equipment and everything. You have to remember that, no, back then people didn't have this much equipment, and yet they were able to do it better than we do today! It can be as simple as meditating out in nature, it can be as simple as just sitting in a space and really being in the moment. This is the first year I'm participating in Halloween in the way we are expected to. I'm dressing up, I'm gonna have fun. But I'm gonna take it a step further. What I wanna do tomorrow is really think about where I am in those spaces, and what kind of spirits would approach me, if any. Why me? What about my energy will attract them? What about me would unattract someone? I think it's important for people to think about their place in all of this, even if it's just for five minutes— to acknowledge that we are still an important puzzle piece in this whole universe. Acknowledging nature and thanking her for her gifts will let her know that "Hey, someone still believes you, loves you, appreciates you, and wants to work with you— not as corrupt children anymore." Because we have been very bad kids. Malcriados. That includes me, too— acknowledging those things is the first step towards positive recovery and a positive decolonization. I have thought very colonized things before. This is me in my process of not feeling that way anymore.
We as humans won't even accept the truth of our sins against nature, so how can we accept the truths of her work? Because we won't accept how we messed up nature, we therefore won't believe that she has these powers. That's contributing again to this closed-minded attitude when it comes to nature, when it comes to deconstruction— decolonization. Where would we be right now if these issues didn't exist? They didn't have to exist. They were man made, colonizer made, and so now we're in the process of tryna fight back, tryna reclaim, tryna undo climate change, tryna dismantle white supremacy and deconstruct the binary and all of these things, but the thing is that we shouldn't have to be doing this in the first place— we just have to because the issues are so prevalent. If we didn't, where would we be?
We have to think carefully and respectfully, we have to know that it is possible to live with nature. Because it has been done. There is proof. Literal proof, this is not just me making it up. It's just that so many people now are really messed up in the head because colonization has really gotten to them that they don't think it's possible. They don't think a better world is possible.