Monday, October 23, 2006

Freak Out

Last weekend I went pumpkin picking with Kai, my brother, and my parents. In accordance with the law, we piled into my parent's enormous van the moment the leaves were yellow enough to be considered scenic and came back loaded with gourds and mums aplenty. I guess if you really stop to think about it, it's sort of moronic to drive from Brooklyn to Westchester to rural Connecticut to buy a vegetable whose sole purpose is to sit on my desk and be orange.

But also, fuck you.

I like Halloween, but moreso in theory than in practice. I like ghosts, skeletons, bats (from afar), and horror (in moderation), but real life Halloween doesn't ever have anything to do with any of that. Real life Halloween is for people who like torturously small candy bars and Sexy Noun Syndrome (documented last year here, and this year here). What do you do in the 31st if you secretly sort of believe Ouija boards and tarot cards, and you're goth enough to move into a new apartment that faces a graveyard? Go to work, maybe go to a party, and then go to sleep totally unhaunted, that's what.

I particularly like witches. I watched Hocus Pocus last weekend to get in the Halloweeny mood, and, while Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy aren't exactly the pinnacle of what the black arts have to offer someone in search of a good scare, and it sort of did the trick. I've got witches on the brain. All this week at work, during lunch, I've been reading the Malleus Maleficarum because 1. I am a loser, and 2. I was hoping it would be creepy.

The result is actually 3. Fodder for this theory I'm developing and 4. Hysterical. Right down to the translation of the name: The Witch Hammer. What? Really? That's not a wrestler? Or a screamo girl band?

[Sidenote: Should it be? I could get on this right now.]

To explain, the Malleus Maleficarum is the document produced by a certain faction of the Catholic church in 1486 which became, basically, the handbook for the Inquisition. In a series of questions and answers it nails down exactly how you can identify a witch (in short: suspect anything with a vagina), how one comes to be possessed by a demon, and how to try and sentence such a woman. It's also the ultimate resource for answers to age old questions like "Whether Witches may work some Prestidigitory Illusion so that the Male Organ appears to be entirely removed and separate from the Body."

I'm not all that far into it, because it's the kind of writing that take a while to digest. The arcane, sort of philosophical style reads like a Rubik's cube, especially when you're trying to answer work related e-mail at the same time. However, there are standout gems like the following:
What else is woman but foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil of nature, painted with fair colors?
I mean, come on. That's so fantastic I want it tattooed across my face. A desirable calamity. Honestly, if someone ever described me as "a desirable calamity," I would be so thrilled I"d pee. That's precisely what I aspire to be. I just didn't have the right phrase for it. Thanks, Catholicism!

Lately, I've been doing more thinking than is probably normal about circus freaks. I recently Netflixed the 1932 film "Freaks," which is a bizarre movie that cast real sideshow performers in an over the (big) top circus love story/revenge tale.

[A circus midget, Hans, leaves his midget fiance, Frieda, for full-sized trapeze artist Cleopatra, who's just using him for his money. The two are married and at the reception the whole freak crew attempts to initiate her into their circle by drinking from a communal glass of wine and chanting "One of us, one of us, gooble gobble, gooble gobble, we accept her, we accept her." Cleopatra loses her shit insults them, tries to poison Hans, and, when the freaks figure out her nefarious plan, ends up as some half chicken/half woman in a sideshow.]

[Also, I think it's fantastic that the pair of conjoined twins in the movie were "the Hilton Sisters" in real life.]

But anyway, I've been thinking about who makes it as a freak. Tiny, powerless men. Bearded, masculine women. Siamese twins: same gendered pairs bound to each other for life.

Back to the Malleus Maleficarum for a second. There's not that much to laugh about once you get a few questions into it. I was surprised how angry a six-hundred year old document could make me, but, as it turns out, blaming male impotence on women's allegiance to the devil is a boiling point I didn't know I had. The M.M. reads like a Freudian anxiety attack, or a medieval midlife crisis. Witches are the cause for impotence, for infidelity, for loss of faith, and sin, and your stillborn baby. Your cow dies? Totally a witch. And witches, my friend, are scary with a capital S.

Here's my theory: everything we're afraid of, freaks and witches and probably ghosts and maybe Joan Rivers's face, is because some guy, like, seven hundred years ago, just couldn't get it up.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a different reason to believe in tarot cards, LOL
Did you know that in Europe tarot cards are still used for playing actual card games similar to spades and euchre! In fact, tarot decks were originally made for game playing and the fortune telling stuff came about much later. The players these days are using more modern decks that look somewhat like regular playing cards and the trumps have different pictures than the fortune telling decks.
It doesn't matter if you believe in the occult, if you like games then go to Google and search "jeu de tarot" or "tarock"

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Kai said...

Speaking of witches, I am going to be the Wicked Witch of Westchester this year.

11:02 PM  
Anonymous stupidboy said...

Did you ever read 'Geek Love' by Katherine Dunn? It's about a family of circus freaks and narrated by the bald, hunchback, albino, dwarf sister. It doesn't have that Halloween feel to it but it's still really good.

3:38 AM  
Blogger What'sHerFace said...

Unless tarot cards are telling me that cute guys like me, I'm really not that into, basically, I like to be lied to by inanimate objects.

And how, Kai, will that be any different than your average day?

Also, no, I've never read Geek Love. I've picked it up at the book store about seven thousand times and ALMOST bought it, but now I actually will.

9:02 AM  
Anonymous rachel said...

I just really like this post, all the different parts of it--from the cute pumpkin bit at the beginning to the ye olde witchy timey quotes, to the freak deconstruction, to the why are men historically dumbasses part (cheers). Been reading for awhile--keep up the great writing!

12:14 PM  
Anonymous anonymous mom said...

you should check this guy's blog when you have a chance, i think you'll adore him as much as i do.

3:29 PM  

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