At this time of year, we blow the dust off memento mori, rewatch gruesome horror movies, and encourage children to disguise themselves as creatures of the dark. Halloween and El Dia de los Muertos make light of death, the former with candy to avert diabolical mischief, the latter with picnics and piňatas amid gravestones.
Are we fortifying ourselves against fear, or simply whistling past the graveyard? Have we liberated our imaginations, or merely suppressed our darkest dreams with foolery?
William Blake engraved his elaborate and haunting visions which later inspired surrealist artists and mystical poets as well as psychologists, like Freud and Jung, when they probed the unconscious and mapped the symbols of dreams. His works were fervid, but today they remind us of nothing so much as the lurid art of graphic novels and tattoo parlors.
Pestilence:Death of the Firstborn, 1805. Click on the picture for a closer look.