October 31, 2002
Classical Halloweens

I haven't worn a Halloween costume since grade school, except when I was in graduate school. About ten years ago, I wore a couple of classical-themed costumes to departmental parties.

Since I was taking a course on Hesiod the first semester, my first thought was a Geryon costume. However, it would have taken three people to wear it, and finding two more would have been difficult. Geryon was one of the many monsters killed by Heracles. He is described as having three heads, six arms, and six legs, which is difficult to imagine except as 'Siamese triplets'. His dog Orthros had two heads, but apparently only one body. Anyway, a Geryon suit would be easy enough to make. Take three plain T-shirts or sweatshirts, split them down the sides and sew them together side by side, then paint GE, RY, and ON in big letters on the fronts. The three people wearing the suit would have had to enter all doorways sideways, find a whole empty couch whenever they wanted to sit down, and so on. In short, more interesting in theory than it could possibly be in practice.

My second thought was to dump Hesiod for Homer and go as a Lotus-Eater. I knew a Korean grocery store in Arlington that sold genuine lotus root in plastic bags. I figured I could put some sliced lotus on a platter, dress up as an aging hippie, and go around the room saying "Hey, man, you want some lotus? It's good shit, man." Unfortunately, I didn't think of this until a few days before Halloween, and didn't have time to make the four and a half hour round trip to Arlington to pick up the lotus. If you're wondering, lotus is a kind of Egyptian water lily whose root looks rather like a very thick pale carrot with holes in it. What with the holes, the slices look like large vegetal buttons. I never bought any because I couldn't figure out even such basic things as whether I was supposed to cook it or not. In Greek, lotus also means clover and a North African fruit of some sort whose scientific name is 'jujube'. Again, I don't know what it has to do with the kind of jujubes sold in movie theaters, and I'm too lazy to look it up. Details about Orthros and Geryon may also be a bit shaky: it's been a long day. Homer's lotus, though fictional, probably owes more to the jujube than the clover or the water lily. In designing a costume, I also thought of putting jujubes and clover on the platter, but only as a pedantic addition to the Egyptian lotus.

Since I couldn't get the lotus, I ended up returning to Hesiod for inspiration and going as a Hundred-Hander, either Briareos or one of his two brothers. They provided the heavy artillery in the great battle in which Zeus and his brothers defeated their father and his fellow Titans to take power over the world: they could each throw 100 large rocks simultaneously. My costume only had 22 hands, but that was enough. (I didn't even consider aiming for the 50 heads of the Hesiodic monster.) I bought eleven pairs of disposable work gloves for 89 cents each, I think it was, stuffed all but two of them with newspaper for thickness and pipe cleaners in the fingers for stiffness, then pinned them on all over my chest, back, and neck. I wore the other two gloves on my hands. In the end, I had three hands coming out of each sleeve of my sweater, and it was impossible to tell which of the three was real. The costume was a big hit: I wish I had a picture. Someone did take pictures, so I hope to track one down some day and scan it.

There were other Hesiodic costumes that night, but the only one I remember is Night, pregnant with the universe. A classmate dressed all in black, with a pillow under her belt, and plenty of black eyeshadow and lipstick. (She was Greek and already had black hair.) Actually, she said she couldn't find black lipstick, so she used eyeshadow for that, too, and was afraid to lick her lips for fear of poisoning.

The next year I was an even bigger hit as a cardboard herm. Perhaps I will blog that someday. If you don't know what a herm is, you may not want to know.

I don't know which year it was, but one of my classmates once wore a very simple Halloween costume: a fake black eye and a sweatshirt with a large P on it. She was of course a 'black-eyed P'. One of the cleverer professors couldn't figure it out because he assumed that in a classics department the letter must be a capital Rho: he just stood there saying "Black eye, rho, black eye, rho, . . . I don't get it."

Posted by Dr. Weevil at October 31, 2002 10:44 PM

A cardboard herm, eh? I hope nobody tried to do to you what somebody did to the herms in Athens before the Syracuse expedition. Next time you dress in a costume do a Roman theme, go as Priapus.

Posted by: Michael Lonie on November 1, 2002 12:14 AM

Last year, I went to a Christmas party dressed in a T-Shirt with little boxes of cereal glued to it. The cereal boxes all had little knives stuck in them.

I was, of course, a cereal killer.

Posted by: Paul on November 1, 2002 01:17 AM

Was your herm's "appurtenance", um...live or Memorex?

Posted by: Brian Swisher on November 1, 2002 11:17 AM

Lotus root is quite good. I think I had it sauteed with some other vegetables. In China, the stuff is growing everywhere there's a pond. I was unaware of its Egyptian origin; I wonder if it made the trip to China at some point or whether it's one of those things that's everywhere, like tea.

Posted by: David Perron on November 4, 2002 09:06 AM