The view through my window tonight as the sun sets.
This Halloween has been an interesting one for me. For some reason, it has given me cause to stop and think a little more about the holiday. For most recent years I have pretty much ignored Halloween. No longer having young children, there was no need for costumes and candy. In the last few years in which I handed out candy, it was mostly to older youth who mostly did not even bother to dress up in any way. Along with the handful of neighborhood children who came to the door, there were those who came into the neighborhood from other neighborhoods. Those from out of the neighborhood were often distinguishable by the fact that they were being driven around.
Unless you live in a small town, this tradition of going from house to house for a handout of candy doesn’t seem to fit our society. I recall those years when people were placing pins and razors into the treats that they were handing out. Since then, there are more and more community-based activities to which children wear their costumes and get treats. This seems to be a reasonable solution to the problem of members of our society who find some amusement or some other self-fulfilling reason for hurting children.
No longer having a young child or being actively involved in groups with young children, or even living in a neighborhood with children within walking distance, I have been able to opt out of participation in the costumes and candy scene.
Maybe this is why I have had the time and inclination to think about Halloween more than I have in the past.
I will not go into the whole history behind Halloween – a quick Google search can enlighten one desiring this information – instead, I will look to my own recent history. Across cultures, Halloween is about death. In the last 18-24 months, death has been very present in my life. Although I, myself, have not been called to come face-to-face with my own death, it has been around me. Many around me have have found it to be their turn to become acquainted with this experience from which none of us is exempt — as much as we and our culture may try to deny that it is so.
So this Halloween, I have given much thought to death, to those who have gone before me. Some I have known intimately, others were acquaintances. With each passing of a life, I have had to come to terms with my own understanding of death.
At Easter, Christians celebrate the “Triduum” — the three days from Jesus’ death to his resurrection.
I think from now on, I will celebrate a Soul Triduum from Oct. 31- Nov. 2.
In 2012 I attended a 3 day memorial celebration for one of the founders of the school at which I have studied for my PhD degree. The idea of the three days was taken from cultures (unfortunately I don’t remember which ones). It was explained that the first day was a day of remembering — a time to come together to share stories of the recently deceased. The second day was one of recognition — a day in which the deeds of the person were recounted, the accomplishments of their lifetime, the legacy that they leave those of us who remain. The third day was the day to send the deceased on their way into what lies ahead for them. During this memorial of one of our school founders, it was explained that the person who died had been, in his later years, an elder of our particular academic society. We were taught a a chant reported to be a lament for the dead from the Zulu people. It was explained that with this chant, we were chanting our dearly departed from elderhood into ancestorhood.
I was particularly struck by this idea.
So, for me, I am going to look at Halloween as the time to remember the people I have known who have gone on before me. Our society focusses on the “ghoulishness” of spirits. This certainly has developed even further with our fascination with zombies. The whole idea behind costumes was to evade spirits who would do us harm. I, however, choose to look upon spirits still attached to this realm with compassion rather than fear. I will focus on remembering all I know who have died and hold all the dead with compassion.
November 1st is All Saints day in Christianity. In Catholicism it is a day to venerate those who have died and have been officially recognized as saints by the Church. I, however, believe that the communion of saints includes all who have died and have successfully moved “into the light”. On November 1st I will recall the accomplishments of those I know who have passed and I will hold a compassionate intention for all who have died and honor the presence they once were in this world.
November 2nd is All Souls Day. I don’t know if I am accurate in this or not, but it has always felt as if “Saints” were more important than “Souls”. Souls were all of those who who had died, but were not recognized by the church as “holy”. I adhere to no sense of hierarchy here. I imagine that there are many unrecognized saints. On this third I will recognize all who have passed as ancestors be they personal or communal, known or unknown. I will hold the intent that those of us still here in this realm will learn from those who have gone before us, show gratitude and sing each one into ancestorhood.
And through this all, I shall hold the thought that I will also move into ancestorhood one day and today I need to tend to the legacy I will leave behind.
May all be well.