Yesterday, I participated in the novel, engaging, and pleasantly pagan festivities at Toronto’s Night of Dread. Put on by the Clay and Paper Theatre Company (whose work I have photographed before), the evening involved both small and gigantic representations of fears including ‘corruption’, ‘nuclear war’, ‘selfish leadership’, and ‘lack of stability’.
Accompanied by drummers and brass instruments, a parade marched out from Dufferin Grove Park and out around the neighbourhood before people assembled to see some of the fears burned atop a massive bonfire, followed by more music and special bread. I can’t explain exactly why, but seeing families and children at the event was comforting and encouraging. It may have something to do with the act of physically coming together within a community, making art, and participating in a non-commercial spectacle together.
The sense of history that accompanies gathering around a fire is also a comforting reminder that humanity has always had troubles. It is easy to look at woes from nuclear meltdowns and tsunamis to wars and currency crises and think that we are living in the worst of times, or even the end of times. Gathering in a manner that would have been recognizable to people from thousands of years ago drives one to think about all the fears, misfortunes, and tragedies that have afflicted the world across that span, and it kindles a hope that we might overcome (or at least continue to contain) the dangers and sorrows that exist now.
The symbolism may not be sophisticated, but it is rather satisfying to see enormous representations of fears marched around and eventually burned. The pyrotechnic element reminded me of Luminox.