Since the beginning of human history, people have come up with strange and interesting ways to explain the unknown: anything from gods to witches to demons to ghosts. Essentially, they let their fears get the best of them and, probably, created things worse than what was actually waiting in the dark. Halloween was a celebration of a “bountiful” harvest, kind of like our modern, American Thanksgiving. At the same time, though, the harvest celebration occurred on the same night that the people believed the veil between worlds was thinnest, i.e., the night of transition between the season of life and the season of death. So, in addition to feasts and bonfires, they dressed themselves in animals skins.
Why, though? Why did they wear dead animals and prance around? More importantly, why do we still do it? From a psychological point of view, it creates balance. As I mentioned, people, most likely, worked themselves into a virtual frenzy over what might be lurking in the darkened woods, or at the foot of the bed when the moon is covered in clouds, or still yet, what waits on the other side of death. The mind reels, even now.
Dressing up as whatever frightens us is… freeing. See, according to the stories, our ancestors did it to blend in, to avoid being seen as humans, i.e., weaker creatures, by wandering spirits and monsters. Basically, it was the closest they could come to being invisible, but there was more to it than that. They did fear being dragged to the afterlife by some thing. So, to combat that fear, they dressed up as the very things in their imaginations, or however close they could come. There is a certain power in it, that is, dressing up like the demons that haunt your dreams.
What if you were the creature that everyone in the village feared? Would you need to be afraid? Assuming the guise of whatever monster or creature that hunts in the night gives us some security. Why would a monster hunt its own kind? The weak creature underneath the costume can’t be seen. So, we feel safer. From a psychological standpoint, it’s our way of fighting the frightening things we’ve created in the first place, even our personification of Death. Would you be afraid if you were the one going about, collecting frightened souls? Neither would I.