For October, Kristen has challenged us to venture more toward the “thin places,” the potentially spooky aspects of where our faith and our world intersect.
She correctly said that I’d be thrilled about this, because I love October, horror stories, and all things spooky. This has always been my favorite month, and I enjoy reading and watching horror stories all year long (though lately, with the late autumn in Maryland, the fog-horn-chilly days of mid-November have the most appropriate ambiance). As a kid my friends and I would regularly play in the local cemetery. We weren’t trying to be daring or brave; it was just a quiet area with lots of interesting places to hide where the adults left us alone. It didn’t occur to me until high school that some of my peers might find this odd.
But if graveyards and stories of monsters and ghouls don’t bother me, I have come to realize that I have some thick, rigid lines that I do not cross. My home town also boasted a neighborhood that was purported to be occupied by devil worshipers (it had the ironically adorable name “Bunny Run”). And although my extremely religiously conservative parents were pleasantly mum on Dungeons and Dragons, we were strictly forbidden from “messing around” with things like Ouija boards and tarot cards. Slightly less damning but still on shaky ground were things like astrology, crystals, and attending a non-Catholic religious service, with yoga, charismatic practices, and mystic saints like St. Hildegard of Bingen being firmly labeled “hippy-dippy new agey nonsense,” best avoided to be safe. The fear of these things was instilled so deeply that it never occurred to me to even look into why they were forbidden—I just knew I needed to avoid even thinking about them. (The one exception was yoga. Even my mom tried yoga eventually. Sadly, inversions make me ill so I can’t practice it regularly.)
So I accept Kristen’s challenge, not to take up “spooky things,” but to more thoroughly understand things that have spooked me in the past. I will not be buying an Ouija board, but learning the often-rich history of “scary” religious practices feels like a perfect October pastime.