A person is who you are. A persona is how you portray yourself to others. On Halloween, adults and children publicly parade and party as they portray different personas as disguises and costumes. These costumes may be simple to very sophisticated. Halloween costumes may be macabre, sinister, erotic, witty, political, entertaining, delightful, and cute. In the United States, sales of Halloween related candy, costumes, accessories, and paraphernalia rank a close second to Christmas. It’s only major world competition is Mardi gras, a festive day before the mournful period of Lent, in South American and predominantly Catholic communities. The earliest mentions of masked carnivals date back to the 12th century as a pre-Lent ball. These are festivities of the persona.
In psychology, the study of mind, Carl Jung’s concept of the persona plays a key role in self-development by protecting the ego (self) and allowing full expression of personal identity. The persona is the mask worn to greet the world. Optimally, this does not undermine the authenticity of the self. Its primary function is to navigate the space between the inner world of ego with its surrounding self and the outer world of values and culture. How these worlds rub up against one another is negotiated by the persona. Halloween allows people to exercise their persona to a fantastical power for fun and joy.
In Africa, masks stem back many thousands of years. They were exalted aspects of lifestyle from tribal identification to activity and rank. In medieval Italy (or pre-Italy) the use of masks during the life of the Venetian Republic remains one of mankind’s notably eccentric practices. Indeed, masks have been worn in cultures throughout the world for thousands of years, but perhaps never with such fervent pageantry as in Venice. In Italy’s Commedia Del Arte, characters often used masks to portray different characters.
Masks were once common in rural Mexico. On a village’s saint’s day, peasants donned masks and performed in the dances and parades of the fiesta. The masks were made of wood, bone, cloth, and wax and represented tigers, goats, donkeys, bats, lizards, deer, birds, serpents, rabbits, caimans, monkeys, and armadillos. These animalistic images were usually vestiges of early native gods, prior to Spain’s invasion into the New World.
Halloween occurs at October’s end, over 30 days past the autumn equinox. In earlier agrarian times, human civilizations reacted to the changing of days, as nights became longer. The candies of Halloween, particularly the corn and pumpkins, are indigenous with northern hemisphere harvests.
As nights grew longer still, and chills filled the air, civilizations celebrated Winter’s Night. Predating Christmas, Saturnalia was an up to week celebration where people partied and wore disguises, with hopes of longer days to come. Saturnalia festivities began with ritual and sacrifices in the Temple of Saturn. The statue of the god was hollow and filled with olive oil, as a symbol of his agricultural functions. His feet were bound with woolen strips that were unbound at Saturnalia. Like Christmas portrays the birth of the father of Christianity, the festivities of Saturnalia was based on Greek and Roman mythology. Costumes emulated the different gods. Needless to say, Bacchus (god of wine) played a key role in the festivities as wine eases the roles of the person. That may just be where the real personas appear. As Halloween has grown into a festival of the moon and Saturnalia was bound to Saturn, these holidays originate through our fascination with the sky and our world.
Yet, the persona plays more roles in our day to day lives. From hairstyles, to clothing to makeup and to perfume, these are industries that are based on the persona. For example, how would you dress casually, at work, at a formal occasion, or on a romantic date? Each negotiated interaction requires different persona qualities. So, the person-persona dynamic has melded itself as an integrated part of how humans behave and interact in modern society. The revelry of Halloween allows us to choose personas and the joy of expressing them.
Are our costumes near or distant to who the wearer. You really need to get beneath the mask. Halloween celebrates the persona and let your persona go wild. Find your masks, costumes, and accessories at www.jr.com and have a very happy Halloween.