Come for a walk between the worlds this Halloween, or Celtic Samhain (sow-en).
Halloween, the Wiccan sabbat known as Samhain, marks the end of harvest and limits possibility. The growing world is dying. Withered leaves scratch a death knell as the wind drives them over rough pavement. This is the season of the crone, the witch, the woman who lives on the boundaries of the ordinary world and communes with the spirits. I love the witch and want to claim her in myself. She is a woman who has lived long enough to know love and loss, victory and defeat, and how to find meaning within herself. Our society shuns the crone like it shuns death. Yet at Halloween, the Goddess as Hag, she who measures out time and cuts the thread of life calls out, “Here I come, ready or not.”
Daylight savings time lingers this year until November 5, to give trick-or-treaters the safety of twilight as they rush from house to house with their adults sedately in tow. I hug memories of Halloween in the 1950s and 60s to my heart. We waited for the dark. Darkness was essential to the fun of roaming the neighborhood with bands of other children passing on word of ghosts and ghoulish scares in near-by houses. Older kids looked out for younger ones, and adults for the most part took up their stations in doorways passing out cookies, apples, and candy. Halloween with its heady freedom of nighttime of treats and make-believe surpassed all other holidays in the annals of my childhood.
In the ancient Celtic world, October 31 was an intercalary day in a 12 month, 30-day solar calendar. It was a day outside of time. The boundaries that seal the year were opened. Time could be tricked, and fairies traverse the earth and abduct anyone foolish enough to linger outside after dark. Few today believe that malevolent spirits walk the night to create mischief on Halloween, but many are frightened by news stories of freak accidents, abductions, and razor blade laced apples, as well as by suspicious looking neighbors.
Do we overprotect our kids? And maybe ourselves? While the hag, our lady of the yard stick, drops the curtain of darkness earlier and earlier on the denizens of the northern hemisphere, I call on crones to grab a flashlight and go boldly into the darkness to shine light on collective ignorance and to enlarge our understanding of others whose language and culture are different from our own. I do not want to live my life behind walls of self-righteous certitude and mistrust of others. I know that we cannot wall out the alien, the other, who is always the secret sharer cuddled within like an infant at the breast. I would rather be the outsider than pay the price of colluding with those in power to be sheltered within walls of spurious safety.
Beam me up, Scottie. Impart to me a vision in which the walls that divide us turn to dust, and I see all humanity as small pinpoints of light pulsing in time with the heartbeat of Mother Gaia. When one light flickers out, in this world of expanding population, two more are lit. Minute by minute we are all here together. A pastor I know, told me to look for Jesus when I die. A witty friend inquired, “Does that mean I’m supposed to look for a transgendered dude in a long white dress?” Who knows?
Maybe the spirits that walk among us on Halloween do, but they’re not saying. In my mind, the spirit realm has no form. It is up to us in the here and now to be the eyes, ears, mouth, and hands of Jesus and other wisdom teachers, as we reach out to help one another. After death, I hope to encounter an energy field of love strong enough to wash away the sins of my own flawed nature and leave my soul lighter than the feather against which the Egyptian goddess Ma’at weighed the hearts of the dead in her scales of justice.
In the meantime, on this Halloween, let us the living, welcome our dear departed ones to share their presence with us here on earth. Leave a candle burning in a jack-o-lantern or on an altar, set a place for departed loved ones at the dinner table. Let us remember them and ourselves as we once were in Halloweens past as we create memories for Halloweens to come.
Halloween is a great time for divination as the lines outside the local psychic shops in Salem, MA seem to attest. Engage in some form of spirit play. Consult a favorite tarot deck, a set of runes, or a Ouija board. Cleanse your space with sage, incense, or water. Then create sacred space by calling the directions, lighting a chalice, or lighting a candle for the goddess or other spirit presence you wish to invoke. On a clean surface, lay out the tools of your spirit play. See what message comes through from the Other World. When I did my own tarot reading, my spirit guides were most insistent that I exercise caution, but not hold a grudge, when dealing with a certain relative. Hurting another is hurting oneself. In play, the spirits share their wisdom.