There is actually a very deep and positive magic in costume: by choosing to embody certain qualities, we call them forth from our inner selves and invite them into our lives in a very real way. A costume can become the gateway to greater self-understanding and empowerment. And besides, it’s just plain fun to dress up! Our ancestors did it: mummers, costumed dancers, masques and masks, and German Fasching rites were all manifestations of the human love of disguise, of taking on the appearance of something other than the self, expanding the limits of the personality.
Here are some great tips for deciding which costume will help you to stretch and grow, forging a deep bond between the self you display to the world and the qualities of Self you want to strengthen and invite more fully into your life.
For our costume to take on any real significance, we need to feel an inner connection with the character or quality we decide to portray–the costume needs to have “soul” or spirit. We can give ourselves (and our children) a rich vocabulary of characters and images to draw upon, and encourage self-exploration in the form of inner journeys. The process of costuming with a sense of spirit is so much more deeply satisfying than just following the latest fad or trend.
So ask yourself: what are the qualities that you want to embody or strengthen in your life now? What characters from myth, fairy tale, films, or books resonate with you now? Check out Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run with the Wolves, Grimm’s fairy tales, or the myths of ancient civilizations. Archetypal stories are often so juicy that they speak to something in us that demands expression. Another way to go is to imagine what power animals, colors, or historical periods carry a charge or significance for you now. What does this information tell you about yourself?
Costume-making (or choosing) gains great depth from guided meditation; it is not surprising that this valuable technique for contacting the inner self is such a help to us at this inward-turning time of year. Relax and ground yourself and imagine walking in a beautiful place in nature until you come face to face with a character with whom you have a special connection, who has something to teach you, show you. Gradually return to ordinary reality. What did you learn?
One friend reports that, after a lifetime of being oh-so-quiet and well-behaved, she was suddenly called to embody Crow for a masked costumed event. Cawing raucously, she took great delight in being forceful, direct, and free: crows, after all, are social and seem to delight in fun. She has never been quite as quiet or well-behaved since!