So here we are, friends. It’s Halloween again. And my personal fave holiday, Día(s) de los Muertos. I love this time of year in this hemisphere, at the boundary between fall and winter, when the harvests are coming in and the earth digs its feet into November like an animal settling in for a long nap.
I’ve heard that there are still people in the British Isles who light bonfires in accordance with old, perhaps primal, Celtic traditions of Samhain (pronounced “sow-inn”). Legends tell us that Samhain marked the end of one cycle and the beginning of another, the shift in seasons an allegory for life, death, and birth/rebirth. It was a time of divination, as the border between spirit and non-spirit worlds diminished. Among pagans, Samhain is the Feast of the Dead, and it marks a time when the dead and the living are able to mingle, if only temporarily.
Like Día de los Muertos, the Feast of the Dead isn’t setting the dead up to be feared or reviled. Rather, it’s a celebration of life cycles, and the recognition that death is a part of life — as much a part of it as birth. And because death symbolizes all kinds of endings, Samhain brings reflection on the end of other things in our lives, like relationships, jobs, and other big changes we may have experienced over the past year. It’s a chance to come to terms with those things, so that we can move on to other things. It is, in a sense, a cosmic housecleaning.
Later Christians adopted some aspects of Samhain, and celebrated it as All Hallow’s Eve, October 31 (All Saints’ Day). Funny, how those old, old habits humans had refuse to die. An indication, perhaps, that the boundaries between past and present are always thinly veiled.
Interested in learning a bit more about Samhain and this time of year? Smashwords offers a pagan writers anthology featuring stories, poems, and articles by 40 pagan writers who will tell you what Samhain means to them and how they commemorate it.
This is a good time of year, my friends, to tear down a few of your own boundaries and see what lies on the other side.
So with that in mind, happy reading, happy writing, and happy Samhain.