It is November 17, 2016. A month from tonight we will embark on our SIXTH procession from Liberty Lands… but our first without the word “Krampus” in our name. (It’s being used in enough event names elsewhere, we think.) And yet, the largest number ever from our household — three out of five — are coming to the procession as a version of Krampus. Claudia’s costume is a picture of feminine regency; Béla has based his on “Bender” from Futurama but also managed to get some samurai in there; Ben and I both somehow, without telling each other, imagined his (far from complete) new look to be something like “Fruit Brute”, of the lesser Monster Cereals.
Tucker and I are still Cailleach and Perchta, but cronier, angrier, older this year. We earned it.
I was extremely touched this weekend when someone who attends our event described it to a person who had never been as “The closest thing you can have to a religious experience without having a religious experience.” We were, in fact, at their religious rite when this was said. We were there in our secular, we-don’t-get-out-much way, in friendship and respect, and with a gift. I am happy to say that Phase One of Boomba Preservation has been accomplished, and Urglaawe has been presented with their handmade boomba (the one with the fox head sculpted by Béla) — an appropriate gift for the holiday, which was for Ewicher Yeeger, the Great Hunter, and the deity most likely to be conflated with or related to Krampus on such a folklore family tree. See photos of our fun, chilly time with our Urglaawe family — and a fire full of scrapple — here.
So — what will this year at the former Krampuslauf Philadelphia be like? It is a big question. We have changed our name and essentially took out the word with the most commercial appeal (that happened fast), so that may leave some folks less interested, and looking for another nearby Krampus event. On the other hand, we have literally been named a “magical destination” in the book Magical Destinations of the Northeast, so we may well meet people we’ve never seen before.
Our beloved Guerilla Ultima BBQ truck is no longer a truck, but a brick-and-mortar restaurant near the Delaware shore, and so this year we will if all goes as planned have pierogies, and more, (and then more pierogies) from Mom-Mom’s Polish Food Truck (we are excited — Mercedes from Ultima recommended them).
It has been a stressful season, with the death of my father in September (and Ben and I the administrators of his estate), Tucker attending his final year of his undergraduate career and finishing graduate school applications over the next few weeks, the growth of our two family businesses, and the very recent decision to homeschool the kids. Being my usual Border Collie self, and pulling other people together — for planning, for workshops — hasn’t been possible, not in time or energy.
There has been no “maker workshop” for Parade of Spirits this year. Oh, something may pop up — add one person to our household and you’ve basically got a workshop — but nothing formal like we usually do. I just couldn’t manage. Although Natalie Zaman (author of Magical Destinations) and I had planned a small event at Laurel Hill Cemetery, it was more of a ceremonial one. It is Natalie who will don the Das Mädchen costume this year, fulfilling my hopes of making that glowing monster an attainable, not just an “attraction”. Our event was to be a welcoming, complete with cinnamon and crypt-glass talismans (we will still see them given out!) but bad weather and a SEPTA strike had us cancelling at the last minute.
And yet… across the country… a woman held her own crowdfunding campaign to come to Parade of Spirits this year (with an enormous puppet). She was funded in a little more than 24 hours.
Kari — who has crowdfunded her way here and has only explained to me that she will get that beautiful puppet here “in pieces” — is one of our Tucson family from All Souls’ Processional Weekend. She is coming with Jhon, and some other friends, and I am happy, because I need to see friends. During recent weeks when I have thought “Boy, I ought to be getting people excited about Parade of Spirits,” and feeling guilty that I couldn’t make myself do something — seriously considered what my “doing” had to “do” with anything.
Even if I wanted to, what position was I in to stop it?
We laid good groundwork early this year. We harvested our first withies (although it may not be until next year that we use them — Chris has a plan). We had a week of project-making in August that we feel could lead to an official summer camp in the future, and Tucker and I worked with literally the American heroes of processional arts (if you ask me) in Manhattan in early September. We laid good groundwork early this year, because we knew Tucker would be applying to graduate programs and we knew there was a good chance of my father dying.
Other, good, but energy-using things (businesses thriving, writing being published, plans coming to fruition), we did not expect.
Political events, and Death absolutely pillaging the world of music, we did not expect. And we are kind of shaken up. And tired. Avoiding social media. Eating a lot of ramen. Lotta comfort foods. (There was a day that I cut a piece of cream cheese and covered it in rainbow jimmies.) Looking for comfort, but scared to open the next door on the Advent calendar, because things have gotten that unpredictable.
Maybe this is exactly why we need to get out there and walk together.
Whatever my hand does to shape this event, its tendencies are Dionysian. When it was time to get our poster ready, I deconstructed it as much as possible, letting the children trace images from previous years using Béla’s light box, basically creating a diner coloring placemat of a poster. We bought many four-packs of crayons to give out at the places Janet usually puts posters.
Maybe it was a way of saying the input of others was more important and welcome than ever — and that maybe everyone should be picking up their metaphorical crayons.
Parade of Spirits has no political party but does have a platform of tolerance, love, acceptance, and expression. Expression of what is dark, in dark times, is important to bring to the community — in ritual — together. You can express what is terrifying in a community in which you are safe. We have done it five times in a row (no crying child yet, in a park full of monsters).
Two wonderful quotes I learned from Linda:
“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” — Carl Jung
“The person we choose to be, … automatically creates a dark double — the person we choose not to be.” — Thomas Moore, The Care of the Soul
Maybe this is how we take care of ourselves and each other.
As I said on Facebook earlier this week, I never thought that I would repost a video of myself so willingly, but once it’s out there, gods it’s convenient. Because this still says the things I need to have people hear (even though it was recorded in April 2015), I give you, again: my Ignite Philly talk about the event formerly known as Krampuslauf Philadelphia. Our message remains.
But as with our poster this year, our expectations are intentionally unfinished. We are relying on both our history, and on you — your creativity, your fear, your triumph, your can’t-get-out-of-bed days your need to gather and celebrate and surprise a stranger with a gift — to continue to evolve into what there is no other of in any city or town in America — Parade of Spirits, Liberty Lands.
Also, our rules remain:
I can honestly say my mask this year is my favorite ever. I am proud of the new surprises that exist to make the park even more magical. I have Tucker to thank for both. I am grateful for our friends from the desert, who come not as bystanders but to leave their mark. And I am grateful for everyone who recognizes there has never been a better time to come together and bring light.
And I am grateful for that guy we haven’t even met who wants to wear the Rook costume. Seriously.
(The Es Meedli costume, though, is still uninhabited — looking for a kid between seven and ten for that one!)