Friday 20 October 2023

Enchanting Encounters: My Magical Halloween in Western Australia


The word itself conjures up images full of witches cackling over bubbling cauldrons as they incant their spells, throwing odd ingredients into the mix. Pumpkins carved into jagged glowing mouths and eyes spring to mind, as do troops of children dressed in sheets, robes, and an assortment of other apparel to be their favourite scary creature or hero.

Having grown up in Australia in the 1970s and 1980s, I never experienced any of this. Halloween was regarded as “something those Yanks do in America, not here”, which is a misnomer, of course.

Halloween, originally known as 'Samhain,' marked the end of the harvest season in Celtic lands like Ireland and parts of Britain. The Celts believed that on October 31st, the boundary between the living and the dead blurred, giving rise to bonfires, feasts, and costumes made from animal heads and skins. Over time, it evolved into the Halloween we know today, with influences from various cultures.

As Christianity spread across Europe, the Catholic Church sought to Christianise existing pagan celebrations. In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV established All Saints' Day (also known as All Hallows' Day) on November 1st to honour saints and martyrs. The evening before, known as All Hallows' Eve, eventually became Halloween.

Eventually, it was introduced through migration to America where it flourished to such a level, it’s any wonder people think it’s “something the Americans cooked up”.

Back to Australia now, I remember mention of it in 1978 when my second grade teacher, Mrs Childs, who came from the USA, showed us all how to make a Jack O Lantern. We might have dressed up in fancy-dress costumes for a school dance for the occasion too, but that was the only time at school. It never caught on because it was “an American thing”.

Fast-forward to 1999, when I was living in Perth. On the 31st October, I was caught off-guard by the knock-knock on the door by Trick-or-Treaters. Although I had no lollies for the kids, I was working as a magician – so I “treated” them with my “tricks”. We soon had the same kids coming back with their friends, and I found myself doing an impromptu show for many others throughout the night.

A year later, I did the same thing just a little differently. You see, I had a lot of work as a walk-around wizard in corporate and private functions throughout the year. Perth was great for that. So on Halloween of 2000, I decided to join the other trick-or-treaters in character. Dressed in my black cloak, armed with my knowledge of sleight-of-hand and a bunch of business cards, I joined the costumed zombies, ghouls, ghosts, and a Pokémon on the streets, moving house to house.

Chris Johnson as "The Seer"

At each house, silver balls blossomed into existence between my fingers before amazed eyes. People gasped when I produced coins from their noses and lit cigarettes from their pockets. It was an amazing night, bringing magic to people, sharing the wonder and a smile or two with each of them. Then something bigger happened.

Just as I was plucking a ribbon from someone’s fingertips, someone cried, “Hey! Look at the cats!”

I turned in time to see that my Siamese and Burmese cats sitting at my feet, watching in rapt attention. Apparently, they had been following me to each house, watching from the bushes or nearby. It proved the spectacle for the residents of three blocks to see the goth wizard and his familiars spreading magic and smiles on the night of magical happenings.

In the end, what began as a foreign tradition to me became a night of magic and connection. The streets of Seville Grove in Perth, Western Australia, adorned with ghosts and goblins, witnessed a wizard and his faithful feline companions spreading wonder and smiles. A night of shared enchantment, it proved to me that magic isn’t just found in spells and sleight-of-hand, but in the simple act of bringing joy to others wherever you are in the world.


Speaking of Tricks and Treats, check out one of my stories -- The Trick -- below.



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