Weaving the way to Ragnarok

The Norns spin a tale of ominous portent at this year’s Barebones Halloween show

by Niels Strandskov

Ignoring the equinoxes is one of the ways Western society tries to hide its pagan past.

Long ago, the people of Europe lived closer to the earth. They honored the soil, gazed lovingly at the moon, and saw heroes and gods in the patterns of the stars. They paid special attention to the days that separated one season from another.

Today, our society, ruled by transplanted Europeans, sees those special days as an opportunity for consumerism, if it notices them at all. Luckily, here in the Twin Cities, we have two opportunities to mark the boundaries of warmth and cold. The first, Heart of the Beast’s Mayday Parade, is attended by thousands of people who joyously welcome the sun each May at Powderhorn Park. The second, Barebones Productions’ annual Halloween show, draws a smaller crowd, though it is no less amazing.

The Barebones show incorporates puppetry, theater and audience participation in a bid to honor the dead, mourn the passing of summer’s light and warmth, and welcome the pleasures of winter nights.

This year’s production is titled “Warped: A story of loom and doom.” Its focus is the mythology of the Norns, the Norse goddesses of fate, who spin and weave destiny from the yarn of reality.

Barebones founder Maren Ward said in an interview with the Daily that the show will break down into three parts: past, present and possible future.

“The theme is our situation as human beings,” she said, “and about looking at how we are connected through an ever-evolving past-present-future.”

Ward said spiders also appear throughout the play, which will start with Norse frost giants battling fire and conclude with a vision of possible apocalypse.

As usual, the evening will include an opportunity for the performers and the audience to honor the dead, especially those who have departed this life over the past year. There will also be a final procession to the Mississippi River and the launch of a swan boat, Ward said.

Barebones’ themes are always entrancing, but what really draws the viewer into the experience is the puppetry. Because the production occurs outside, only the logistics of construction and transportation limit the size of the puppets.

Sitting on a hay bale on a hill, wrapped against the chill and watching gigantic puppets battle and romp on a dark autumn night, we can almost remember how our long-forgotten ancestors saw this miraculous world. The magic that can transform cardboard, fabric, foam and paint into gods, demons, monsters and heroes just might be a magic that can transform society as well.