Christopher grabowski





Vancouver’s Parade of Lost Souls is a creative mix of play, tribute and reflection. Such an event occasionally opens a window that lets us see ourselves as creatures swimming in a cultural ocean. A space with no past or present where old rituals and mysteries endure in our collective subconscious.


The ancient, pagan cults of death were still celebrated in the Middle Ages in various forms, something not appreciated by the Catholic Church which tried to assimilate them into a Christian holiday called Allhallowtide. In different countries, celebrations of it took forms ranging from the Mexican Dia de Muertos to the Polish Zaduszki.


Once official celebrations were sanctioned, the carnival element begun mixing in and become more prominent over time. That’s how the societal tension between sacred and profane revealed itself.


As writer and director Steven Hill puts it: “The official order cracks and for a moment the shadow life engulfs us as the tide of nature floods the civilized manner. It is the sanctioned inversion of the social order, the day when man becomes woman, low is held high, the fool becomes king and death comes to life”.


Parade of Lost Souls originated in 1991 when Paula Jardine and friends enacted for their children the archetypical Baba Jaga fable in an East Vancouver park. The following year there was a procession based on the Russian folktale Vasilisa’s Journey. Within a few years the event mushroomed to include thousands of participants, proving that she tapped into a deep running cultural undercurrent.


Photos from the parade highlight archetypes spanning the whole of civilization as we know it. The costumes range from animalistic and tribal, through medieval “dance macabre”, to characters populating the  iconosphere of modern media. More creatures are invented and brought to life for just that one night.


Some of these archetypes were born of cultures that perished and as our own society is fast approaching a number of critical thresholds, perhaps a carnival is the way we occasionally need to remind ourself and the powers that be that the existing order is not the only one possible. There is still a potential for a decisive change or even a revolution.




 — Chris Grabowski, 2018