Thursday, October 27, 2011
Who doesn’t love Halloween? For most people it’s about children, costumes, nightmares and candy. It’s meant to be a lot of fun. In the last decade I’ve noticed a growing interest in Halloween amongst young adults. I know my grown children who are 20 and 21 years old have celebrated Halloween their whole lives and don’t plan to stop now. Every year, they give a lot of attention to the characters they plan to embody for Halloween night and literally take the whole ritual of creating it quite seriously. Coming from a family of traditional dreamers they both understand how shape shifting into “dream characters” not only speaks about them as individuals; but also shapes the rest of their year.
As Westerners we celebrate the start of a New Year on January 1st. I’ve always told my children that birthdays are basically the 1st day of a brand new year for anyone and everyone. According to the Medicine Wheel the 1st of the year occurs on the Blue Moon and keeps spinning for three years. But for millenniums pagans have celebrated the start of a New Year on Samhain. It’s believed that on this day the veil is thinner between the World of Spirit and the World of Man. Halloween introduces the end of Summer; but also brings forth the dark phase of Winter. It’s almost as if we are delivered onto death so that we may come to life again in Spring. Our pagan ancestors certainly didn’t see themselves as separate to nature; but more so as part of it.
We are certainly no different than the trees, the snakes or bears who loose their leaves, shed their skins and hibernate. I often take a moment to imagine how it must have been for the humans of yesterday. We have easy access to electricity hence lighting and heat. We don’t understand the “dark nights of winter” in the same manner as our ancestors. Samhain or Halloween is somewhat more of a joke for us, Westerner rather than being a profound exploration of the power of shadow, darkness as well as the birth of faith and hope.
JZ, an initiate and student of ours has been staying with us since August. He often mentions how blessed he feels for having had the opportunity of living with us for a little while. He gets access to shamanic ways and shamanic teachings 24/7. He often tells us “how he finds it priceless.” So recently to scare him a little I told him that we still obey traditional ways and go to the cemetery every year to dig up an ancestor and clean off his or her bones. At first he acted suspicious; but when we continued talking about the ritual he started getting worried. Finally after a good hour he bluntly asked: “Are you guys serious.”
We did have a good laugh over this one.
Nevertheless I told JZ that in Cuba and many South American countries this ritual is their way to contribute to the continuing journey of their departed loved ones. I personally find it unfortunate how we Westerners no longer play an active role in the death process of our ancestors. Perhaps, we wouldn’t get so caught up in never ending mourning if we understood better the journey we all eventually take towards the after life. KT had trouble believing that Cubans washed the hair of their departed loved ones a year after their passing. As a hairdresser she cringed at the idea. I had a good laugh over the expressions I got from everyone who participated in the conversation. It was clear not too many of these people were ready to dig up a body any time soon. JZ mentioned how horrible it must smell…
Personally I can’t get enough from learning and experiencing death rituals. I find it incredible how much I’ve received from the education. Almost a decade ago I lost my bladder to autonomic neuropathy and had to get a urinary stoma. I was frantic to find other solutions and was scared of the surgery; but most of all I was scared of dying. I remember trying to reason things out by telling myself that “it made no sense that ME who speaks to spirit and ghosts suddenly can’t handle death.” It was with the help of EC (Passamaquody friend, teacher and elder) that I was able to transform my fear into a huge lesson in my life.
She told me: “Everyone gets a moment in life where they are shown the way into the realms of the after life; but there’s no way through without death.”
She sold my predicament to me as a blessing and a huge opportunity. She told me that “although I understood ghosts and spirit, I didn’t understand death itself and how it feels.” She was right. It took for me to accept death and to see it as a friend guiding me to my wheel of fortune before I could surrender to what life was throwing me. Samhain is this same process spiralling our way every year; but at a smaller degree. It’s a chance for each of us to touch death and interact with it.
In the presence of Passamaquody and Mic Mac elders I was always humbled by their tradition of feeding spirit at every meal. They add an extra plate for the dead and each member of the family gives a small portion of their meal to feed spirit. This acknowledgment of dead family members and ancestors is wonderful. It reminds everyone that even after death – we are still loved, guided and protected by our own. There’s obviously so much more behind this small ritual. I have noticed how it teaches children to stay open to the World of non-ordinary. It’s a fact that children are more aware of the World of Spirit and it’s usually how we treat the subject that decides whether or not they retain the ability to see.
Lots of past Halloween stories come to mind as I write this blog entry. All of them are about how we face death; accept to walk in darkness; connect to the dead; and contribute to the journey we all take to the stars… There’s a beauty to this celebration that I can’t convey through words only – it takes YOU to surrender to the experience to see what I mean!! Samhain is that moment during the year where YOU can say “YES” to Spirit and to whatever you need to be seeing and exploring to move forward on your after life journey.
Why not make a commitment this year to your personal journey to the stars?