Halloween Puzzle

Now what goes there, a ‘b’ or a ‘w’? Or does it really matter?

I remember a movie from long ago about a beautiful witch (played by the beautiful Kim Novak) who fell in love with a slightly stodgy character played by slightly stodgy Jimmy Stewart. The witch began applying her enchanting ways to win the reluctant Stewart. Finally realizing what was happening, a frightened Stewart confided to his jealous soon to be ex-fiancée the unbelievable truth that his pursuer was a real witch. The fiancée cynically retorted that he was always a poor speller.

Come to think of it, it doesn’t make much difference, b or w. Witches were once considered ugly, wicked, dangerous, and definitely uncool. Now, we dress our little dears in cutsey witch costumes and send them out to terrorize the neighbors. Oh, but it’s all in good fun we say, everyone knows there is no such thing as witchcraft. Whether there is demonic power at the disposal of witches is a serious question, but I won’t broach it here. The objects of witchcraft are indisputably real however – power over others that is not freely given, wealth and fame that is not earned, a life set apart from the common herd, not subject to the rules of man or God that apply to others.

When we think about it, that’s just what Harry Potter’s ‘Potions Professor’, Severus Snape, offered his class of young witches and wizards:

“…the delicate power of liquids that creep through the human veins, bewitching the minds, ensnaring the senses… I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, and even stopper death.”

If I’m not mistaken, such practices are illegal in the real world and people who do such things are rightly despised. But, unlike real world drugs, magic spells are not detectable by standard analytical methods, and so are not subject to criminal prosecution. Perhaps that is one reason for the rising popularity of fantasy witchcraft. OK, maybe there are no real witches in the magical sense, but there are plenty of self centered, ruthless, scheming, unprincipled people. If female, we might very well apply the ‘b’ word. If male, we might also apply a ‘b’ word, but relating to illegitimate parentage. Why we would encourage such ‘b’ havior is unfathomable to me; but why we have a holiday celebrating our enemy is equally mystifying – the real Halloween puzzle.

St. Paul, in the Letter to the Philippians, advises us thusly: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

But on Hell’s Holiday we dwell on whatsoever things are false, deceitful, unjust, filthy, whatsoever things are grotesque, scandalous; if there be any iniquity, and if there be any slander – we think on those things. And it seems that every day is becoming more like Halloween. Fancy that.

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