All Hallows Eve
Halloween. Samhain (say SOW – en) in Gaelic. Among the pagans, this holiday is year’s end, the witches’ New Year. It’s the time when the veil between our world and the world of the dead is thinnest. Spirits walk among the living. It’s a time to honor one’s ancestors. If there’s divination to be done, the timing is right at All Hallows.
It is the beginning of The Dark Time – in the northern hemisphere. It’s the time on the Wiccan calendar when the God resides in the Underworld, not to be seen again until Solstice.
Bonfires are lit and the cares (and bad habits) of the passing year are fed into the flames – these are the things we want to leave behind in the old year. The point is to identify anything holding you back and to give that to the flames (without scorching yourself or your clothing…the whole magic thing takes a real hit if you have to call 911). Naturally, you can’t sacrifice the negatives without having something positive to fill the whole left behind. So, resolutions are made and bound into some kind of focus – a bracelet or a charm bottle – some token you take back with you into your daily life to remind you of the qualities you want to embody.
Then, after all of the solemn stuff is over, there’s costumes and trick or treating, eating too much and laughing with friends. The only difference is that at the dinner table that night, an extra place will be set and the plate filled. The ancestors and everyone you’ve loved who has gone to the next life are invited to join the meal. At the end of the evening, the plate and the food are put outside (far enough from the door so that you needn’t worry about what sort of wildlife might come to claim it). This is where the custom of putting a bowl of milk and bread on the doorstep comes from – it’s now about keeping the spirits out of the house – but it originated as a way of bringing the spirits of your loved ones back *into* the home with the notion that your ancestors would have a vested interest in helping protect you and your home for the coming year.
This is my favorite holiday of the year. I love fall – the colors, the frosty weather and the occassionally crystal clear days where the sky is an unbelievable color of blue. It’s so much a favorite that 19 years ago, my husband and I were married on Halloween. Yes. We hung up spiders, ghosts, and bats for wedding decorations. The wedding party members all carved jack o’ lanterns at rehearsal dinner which then lined the drive up to the venue. On our honeymoon that evening, when we showed up in our wedding clothes, we had to answer the obvious question: Costumes?? Or for real??