Samhain 1998 was literally one of the greatest Samhains I’ve had in my entire life. I was a sophomore in high school, and it was my second year as a practicing Pagan and Typhonian. By this point in my initiation process, I had gravitated away from the ceremonial magic kind of stuff. I had learned about Kemetic reconstructionism, and I was interested in taking a more devotional approach to Set. At the same time, I had also just read Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible for the first time, and while I didn’t agree with everything in the book, I found LaVey’s approach toward magic to be very practical. As a matter of fact, whenever anyone asks me if I can suggest a good book to get them started in magic, I always recommend The Satanic Bible first. That might sound scary to some people, but if you actually read the book, you’ll see it’s not as bad as it sounds. Maybe one of these days I’ll review it, if I can ever get around to doing so.
Any way you slice it, it’s a damn good book.
Anyway, I also made some pretty awesome musical discoveries that Samhain. First off, Marilyn Manson had just released his new album, Mechanical Animals, earlier that September. The look and sound of that album was such a radical departure from his previous album, Antichrist Superstar (1996), that I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it at first; after hearing it, though, it became my official soundtrack for my sophomore year. My obsession with this album also led me to investigate David Bowie (who was clearly Manson’s biggest inspiration for Mechanical Animals), and I ended up buying a copy of Ziggy Stardust. These albums had a huge influence on my Halloween costume for that year: I decided to be “the archangel Lucifer before his fall from heaven.” This involved wearing an old wedding dress, an electric blue wig, white makeup, and blue lipstick. I intentionally went against the conventional idea of Lucifer as a guy in red pajamas with horns and a pitchfork; I wanted him to look all androgynous and pretty, like a peacock. I wish I had a photograph of myself from that night, as I was extremely proud of that costume. It was a real big hit at the Halloween party I attended, that’s for sure!
Marilyn Manson during the Mechanical Animals period.
The other music I discovered at this period was Helloween, the German power metal band. I found a copy of their debut album, Walls of Jericho (1986), which totally blew me away when I heard it. That was my first taste of extreme metal; prior to that, I was only familiar with Marilyn Manson, Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne. I went on several long walks throughout my neighborhood, listening to Jericho on my headphones over and over again. Even today, after all these years, I still feel a primitive urge to listen to that album during the autumn, when the trees turn red and gold and that lovely fireplace smell spreads through my neighborhood at twilight.
The album art for Helloween’s Walls of Jericho (1986).
I was in my high school marching band, and it was one of the other band students who threw the Halloween party I attended that year. (And since Halloween was on a Saturday, this meant the party could be on Halloween itself. Score!) Her name was Beth, and she and her parents set up their entire basement for the party. I went to the party with another band member named Jake, who soon became my very best friend in high school. This was the first night that Jake and I would ever bond outside of marching band. He took a deep interest in my costume and asked me where I got the idea for it from. Explaining the polytheist origins of the Lucifer story led to a conversation about my spirituality, and since Jake was a Presbyterian who attended a youth group at his church, the ways of Set were totally beyond him at the time. But he never reacted to this stuff with fear or derision; he was always really respectful about it, and he was genuinely interested in learning more of what real life Pagans were like. (He even ended up dating a mutual friend of ours named Wendy, who was a Wiccan.) To this very day, I’m indebted to Jake for teaching me that not all Christians are close-minded bigots, which was an attitude I struggled with prior to becoming friends with him. He and I ended up spending most of our time outside of school together, catching movies at the theater and going to ska shows in Philadelphia every Saturday night.
The Halloween party ended pretty late that night, and by the time Jake dropped me off at my house, my family were all asleep. I had total control of the living room that night, so I stayed up to watch Pumpkinhead (1988) and one of the Amityville movies on TV. The Amityville movie was pretty stupid, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.