All through October, which was the warmest October on record here on the Front Range of Colorado, there were rumors and reports of scary, threatening clowns walking around scaring people. These clowns would be sighted on deserted roads, skulking suspiciously near woods or schools or unlit parts of neighborhoods. Leading up to Hallowe'en, my own kids could not stop chattering away the “creepy clowns,” repeating and embroidering on rumors that kept getting more threatening, more morbid. The clowns were seen close by, hanging around someone else's school, someone else's playground. It got so bad that the school district called the police, then sent letters to every home in town, trying to allay fears: no scary prowlers had been seen or arrested, there was no cause to continue to believe in them. But that did not stop the rumors, did not stop my kids and their friends taking turns scaring the daylights out of each other, with creepy clown stories.

.A quick scan of urban legends reveals that the creepy clown scare, like many other mass hallucinations, has a tendency to pop back up in times of collective societal stress. Kids, picking up vibes and amplifying them, act as both sensors and transmitters. Whether the cry is “creepy clown!” or “witches!” or “Communist!” or “terrorist!,” the dynamic does not shift very much. The pressure of anxiety, fear, and dread rises, is pressed down, but never released, until it bursts out explosively, sometimes even bizarrely. As we approached Hallowe'en and the election soon after, the creepy clown meme kept reasserting itself, no matter how many reassuring letters were mailed out.

The anxiety and dread seemed perfect for the season. With the New Moon in Scorpio on October 30 (colloquially known as “devil's night” or “mischief night”), we seemed to be soaking in Scorpio's dark turbulent waters. As a Fixed water sign, Scorpio represents some of the deepest places of our psyche, the shadow lands of desire and fear, the places were the flow of imagination and dream gives us access to our wounding, our alienation, and all those other parts of ourselves that we do not care to examine too closely. In a season of growing darkness, of accountability and reckoning, the Descent into deeper self-knowledge can be terrifying. Scorpio is the dark mirror in which we see reflected not only our core self, but all those masks, evasions, and tricks we employ to keep safe, to protect our tenderest, most vulnerable core from the slings and arrows of a harsh world.

And there was plenty to be afraid of, as it turns out. My kids were amazed that I was not frightened of the clowns, but how could I be, when the United States seemed to be preparing to put a wildly unqualified, vicious, ignorant bigot into the White House? How could I be frightened of a stupid clown, when every day there was another violent scuffle at a rally, another police shooting, another citizen of color gunned down for no reason, another judge slapping white male criminals lightly on the wrist, another report of ecological devastation.

How could I fear rumors, when my kids were trick-or-treating in their shirtsleeves, no jackets or coats. The chill of the autumn night was mild compared to most years, and unlike most years, none of the kids needed to bundle up. The beautiful weather has continued til today, and in mid-November I am able to rake leaves in shorts and a tank top. And there is something horrifying in beautiful weather—it should be colder, wetter, it should feel like autumn, and it doesn't.

How could I fear an imaginary monster, when there were plenty of real monsters walking around, monsters who had been human not too long ago, but who had succumbed to the rantings of a candidate tailor-made to elicit the WORST in all of us (myself included) and to feel okay when we side with the crueler demons of our nature. “The only creepy clown I'm scared of,” I told my daughters,” is the Republican nominee for president.”

Fast forward a few days, the Crescent Moon winking into view, the costumes put away and the candy half-eaten, and look! No creepy clowns any more, no rumors, no panicked whispering or frantic laughter. The kids turned their attention to devouring their spoils, to slogging thru the next few weeks til Thanksgiving gives them a break from school and they can begin to dream about Christmas all they want. For me the nail-biting continued til election night, and it has not stopped, because the relief of this contentious, contemptuous election cycle finally ending was replaced immediately with an even deeper, sadder, more insistent fear.

The election was, like Scorpio, a dark mirror: we held it up to see the most wounded, angriest, more shameful parts of our national psyche, and in response, almost like a defensive mechanism, we have a chosen a national leader who exemplifies every single thing which my faith, and my identity as a human being with a moral code, instructs me to resist, to dismantle, and to render obsolete.

This is the scary monster, the creepy clown who has been haunting me. And he is no figment, nor are the monsters his words and actions have awoken. No, they are quiet real.

 

In that dark mirror of Scorpio, along with our fears and our failures as a nation to hold ourselves accountable and face the violence at the core of our shared history, I hope all of us can find our strength and our resilience. I hope we can access our mercy, compassion, and courage. These may be the only things that save us.