My paternal grandfather was a master diamond faceter, and, a holistic healer. Besides being a great music lover, he also studied -- on his own -- the ancient Greek classics.
He was a great raconteur. Amongst the many stories he told me in my boyhood were two which pointed to the ‘eerie’ elements, not only for a young boy but even grown-ups.
One story, the Barong, featured the epic battles of Indonesia between good and evil, as portrayed by exotic dancers with fearsome masks. These stories depicted tales from the Hindu Mahabharata.
One of my grandfather’s five sons was a scribe or senior clerk in the Netherlands Colonial office in Indonesia. Another uncle was a pioneering photographer and documentary filmmaker. Upon hearing from his brother about those classical Indonesian dances, he travelled in the late 1920’s especially to Bali, to film the spectacular Kecak( or what Westerners call the Monkey Dance).
I had the honour of watching those films, at the ripe young age of 5 years.
The other “scary” myths my grandfather told me was about the Gorgons, to which we devote this special Hallowe’en post, and because I can’t remember all of this Greek classic, we quote here an excerpt here from from the web-based Encyclopedia Mythica at www.pantheon.org.)
“In Greek mythology a Gorgon is a monstrous feminine creature whose appearance would turn anyone who laid eyes upon it to stone. Later there were three of them: Euryale ("far-roaming"), Sthenno ("forceful"), and Medusa ("ruler"), the only one of them who was mortal. They are the three daughters of Phorcys and Ceto.
The Gorgons are monstrous creatures covered with impenetrable scales, with hair of living snakes, hands made of brass, sharp fangs and a beard. They live in the ultimate west, near the ocean, and guard the entrance to the underworld.
A stone head or picture of a Gorgon was often placed or drawn on temples and graves to avert the dark forces of evil, but also on the shields of soldiers.
Such a head (called a gorgoneion) could also be found on the older coins of Athens. Artists portrayed a Gorgon head with snake hair, and occasionally with a protruding tongue and wings.”
Returning to the topic of Hallowe’en (or Hallowed Evening),in the Netherlands we do not have the ‘doings’. We have other traditions, more connected to earlier Pagan traditions (or from the Middle Ages).
While writing this post I recalled a curious incident also from my boyhood, connected to a “scandal” around the Walt Disney movie “Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs”.
The reader may find this strange, but Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands forbad the showing of this film in Holland because she felt it was too “sinister” for the children: the witch with her poisoned apple, the trees with those threatening branches which threw shadows which looked like long-armed spikes.
Being inventive, the Netherlanders found a way to get around this censorship, at least those who could afford it: they simply went to Flanders across the border to watch the movie there. How about that? 'Have a Hair-raising Hallowe'en', Henri