“Scary, scary, Halloween! Am I the scariest thing you’ve ever seen?” so go the opening lines of one of my children’s favorite picture books. As a crone, I am more interested in the hallowedness of this season than its fear factor. Halloween derives from the ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain (SOW-in), “summer’s end.” For the ancient Celts, October 31 was a day outside of ordinary time. It was the extra day built into the thirty day, twelve-month Celtic calendar and marked a pause between the end of one annual cycle and the beginning of the next. The Celts believed that on this day, the spirits of the dead could walk among the living. Sometimes these other worldly presences got up to mischief. Placing jack-o-lanterns in the window helps to discourage supernatural trickery.
At Samhain, we remember those with whom our lives have been deeply intertwined and who have died before us. As crones, we are particularly called to remember past generations and to tell their stories to the young. We are the gatekeepers of time—time remembered and time to come.
In the present-day goddess tradition, Samhain is also associated with Hekate, the Greek and Roman triple goddess of the crossroads and the new moon. Like Samhain the new moon, or dark of the moon, is a day between cycles, a pause at the end of one lunar cycle before the beginning of the next. Hekate is a goddess of liminal, or in-between spaces. She is associated with ghosts and magic. She stands between the worlds and can influence both the world within and the world outside of space and time. Offerings of food were left for her at the crossroads at the new moon. This was a gesture to ward off malign spirits and to seek her blessing during the coming cycle.
My own life is betwixt and between. I have sold my house and am living in an apartment while I determine where I will settle next. At this moment, my bed is an explosion of bubble wrap and half emptied boxes because I could not write about Samhain without my Hekate statue in view. She calls me to the crossroads of life and death. There I must leave behind the smashed crockery of my efforts to mold life into my own image of perfection and accept the sweetness of life as it is. As I said farewell to the house of my marriage and active years of motherhood, the last yellow rose was in bloom. October’s roses have the sweetest scent. They are an affirmation of life amid fallen leaves.
This year at Samhain we come to a double pause in both the lunar and solar cycles with a new moon on October 30 followed by Halloween on the 31st. We pause for a day or two between the worlds to acknowledge that life and death are equally formidable forces directing our fate. Their eternal coupledom creates the boundaries of our existence. At Samhain, the infinite expansiveness of the universe enters our hearts in the guise of our beloved dead, and we walk heart to heart with those who have passed beyond the veil.
Help us Hekate. We come to you with our failings and our longings. We bring them all to your crossroads this night. We are grateful to have arrived at this crone stage of life where we can serve as a bridge between the worlds. We know that each cycle brings us closer to our own death but are grateful for whatever suffering we can relieve, love we can share, and order and beauty we can bring into the world throughout the duration of our precious lives.
Give us the courage to take up the staff of life, our crone staff, and usher a new cycle into being as we sow seeds for tomorrow with hope and blessing. We come not only to an end this night, but also, feeling the tide of life in motion deep beneath our feet, to a new beginning.
With love and blessings,
Place pictures of your beloved departed, human and/or animal on an altar or table. Invoke the divine presence in whatever form it calls to you. Light a candle and call the names of each of your beloved dead and invite them to share some time with you on the evening of Oct 31. Remember something you love about each of them, and something they gave to you. Honor their lives and express gratitude for their love. When you are ready bid them farewell and release their spirits once again into the ether with love. Give thanks for your own life and feel the power of your connections with others both in physical form and spirit essence.