Archive for October 31st, 2010

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
–  Scottish children’s prayer

Halloween was always my favorite holiday, and only partly because it is my birthday.  Now, I have nothing against Christmas; in fact I love Christmas, and it runs such a close second to Halloween that I tend to go about in quite a good mood for the last three months of the year unless something really awful happens to disturb that.  Starting around the first day of autumn my spirits begin to lift as the weather cools and the leaves turn; in fact one of the reasons I moved here from New Orleans is that I wanted to enjoy the autumn colors and weather which we simply don’t have in Louisiana.  And  though I don’t farm, this time of the third and final harvest evokes deep feelings of contentment and a heightened perspective of my place in the world; I tend to cook more and worry less, and I find that despite the dying year I often receive the greatest blessings in these months.

Perhaps it’s my autumnal nature; as I’ve said before I was always a strange and moody child, which I suppose is only appropriate for a Halloween baby.  A tradition holds that “They that are born on Halloween shall see more than other folk,” and my life certainly supports that belief (as my readers would probably agree).  As my witch friend (who goes by JustStarshine online) says in her essay below, “the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest” on Halloween (the festival of Samhain in Celtic paganism) and even as a child I felt that; it was a special, magical night not only because of the treats and the opportunity to get up in costume, but also because it was the one time I was allowed to run wild like the little witch I was, my tangled hair streaming behind in the chilly October breeze as I crept from house to house in the dark, always alone, making sure no other children were nearby to interrupt my solo appearance at each door.  I continued trick-or-treating until I was invited to a Halloween party on my 13th birthday and decided that perhaps it was time to move on to a more adult observance of the night of magic; two years later I lost my virginity at another party on this night of nights.

But I loved to costume, and usually worked up a good one for the holiday.  One of my best was the Bride of Frankenstein, complete with teased, streaked hair!  If there was a “haunted house” fund-raiser in the planning I was involved, and while I was with Jack in the early ‘90s we always set up our house as one for the trick-or-treaters.  While I was working I usually costumed on Halloween; since many people in New Orleans do I didn’t even attract any undue attention, and the clients seemed to like it (as I mentioned in my column of August 10th).  Since we live in the country now we don’t get any trick-or-treaters, but we usually celebrate with a Jack o’ Lantern, a Halloween cake and a scary movie, and I read a horror story aloud at some point in the festivities.  Alas, modern American children have no idea what a real Halloween is like; the “bubble-wrap” approach to child-rearing has become the norm, and children are now escorted around in groups in broad daylight rather than allowed to run free in the dark.  Actual trick-or-treating has largely been abandoned in some areas in favor of staged, sanitized, packaged events at schools or shopping malls, and even many of the older children who may go door-to-door do so in dusk rather than dark courtesy of the US Congress’ decision to postpone the end of “daylight savings time” until after Halloween rather than before.  As Robert Kirby put it, “Proof of our society’s decline is that Halloween has become a broad daylight event for many.”  Our ancestors understood that regularly facing death and darkness in a ritualized fashion rob them of their power to frighten us, but modern people prefer instead to hide them from children and cower from them every day as adults.

As is my tradition on sabbats, I’ve asked JustStarshine to write a short essay explaining the spiritual significance of this day for pagans:

The Significance of Samhain

On October 31 Halloween is celebrated – both in the UK and America – as a night of spookiness, when ghosts and hobgoblins walk the world.  Few of those enjoying “Trick or Treating”, apple-bobbing and putting scary pumpkin-face lanterns in the windows know that Halloween is a pale echo of the older pagan festival of Samhain.

For pagans – and particularly witches – October 31 is when the Wheel of Life starts to turn, reaching the end of it’s cycle at the  time of the Autumn Equinox.  For witches it is perhaps the most solemn ritual of the year, when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest and  knowledge and the spiritual powers of magic are therefore able to pass back and forth.  A  time when we remember our dead, invite them to sit with us at the Samhain fire and ask the Goddess and God for inner knowledge to strengthen us as we descend through the darkness into a winter season.  The Goddess brings a Samhain  gift of wisdom and it may be sweet or bitter to receive, according to our circumstances and desires.

We acknowledge that the Wheel of Life must turn, that death is preparation for rebirth and that as darkness holds the seeds of light we shall meet, and know, and remember, and love again.  Although it is a solemn, and sometimes an uncomfortable ritual, it’s also a comforting one, with its emphasis on rebirth and reunion.

For those who walk the Wiccan path it is a time when the Goddess is both pregnant and the Old One, the Wise Hag, and as the Wheel of Life moves through the year we see Her and her Son/Lover in their different aspects during the changing seasons.

I ask that God (however you conceive Him or Her) bless all my readers with wisdom and prosperity, and that all your winters (both literal and figurative) be mild ones.  Blessed Be! 

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