I have developed what has become a very complicated relationship with Halloween and Samhain. But first, let’s talk about the Full Moon. I love watching the Moon change over time. There is something so quietly sacred about this simple process, which we watch and are part of. Month after month, year after year, it is a natural process, it is a spiritual process.
When I was a kid, I couldn’t understand why Halloween didn’t occur on a Full Moon each year; I thought that only made sense, because of Easter and its connection to the Full Moon. But all the grown-ups would say was, “Halloween has always been October 31st.” I grew up in a Unitarian-Universalist household, and we didn’t celebrate All Saints Day or All Souls Day on November 1st. But I had friends who were Catholics, and they did. But all they could say was, “it’s all in Latin…” so they didn’t understand it, either. We were just kids, of course. Yet, on a basic level, I knew the whole time frame of the end of October and the beginning of November was somehow special, sacred even. At least to some people.
Halloween was special to me as a kid, because I got to design and dress up in a costume, and go outside walking around outside at night, and get candy. Each of these features was a rare opportunity in my childhood. I think Halloween should be kept as an event for children, as a right-of-passage.
As I grew a little older, I went through the phase where I felt I was too “grown up” to go trick-or-treating. And then, I grew a little older and began to find Halloween parties and other occasions where I could dress up in costume. Since Halloween wasn’t tied into the cycle of the Full Moon, it gradually became all about dressing up and partying to me. The partying was mostly indoors, so the connection to nature at night, was severed. And I watched as Halloween became just another over-commercialized consumer–oriented event in our economy, one where in 2014, it was “estimated that Americans will spend $350 million just on pet Halloween costumes…” And as the costumes for adults became more and more sexy/provocative or violent. And I gradually quit celebrating Halloween.
As a kid growing up, my connection to my Ancestors was an on-going lesson in History, since my Mom spent so much time researching our genealogy. Yet, it wasn’t presented as, ‘these are your beloved dead.’ Due to circumstances in my family, the deaths of my grandparents was treated in a somewhat remote fashion. I collected mementos of my grandparents to maintain connections to them, small objects that I carry with me to this day.
In my on-going spiritual path, I met some Native Americans. One was an Algonquin, and he shared with me the concept of Great Spirit, and how we were connected to all beings, and these were, “all my relations,” and I liked that, because I felt connected to all the animals and plants and rocks and trees and the Moon and the Stars. And also in my Spiritual path, I learned to SEE the energies of the fey and connected with the spirits of the animals.
And then I met my Wiccan and Druid friends, and was invited to my first Samhain. These rituals were celebrated outside and that was wonderful, to be outside at night time. And I liked the connection to the Spirits and the acknowledgement of our Ancestors and our Beloved Dead. I liked the idea that the “veil is thin at this time of year,” where we could make contact with our Ancestors and Beloved Dead.
After a year with that coven, I gradually felt that it was important to me to identify the holidays of my place here in Southwest Florida and to celebrate those holidays. So I left the Wiccan coven and went off on my own. I developed the Earthways Shamanic Path, and in Southwest Florida that is expressed as Rainy Season, Hurricane Season, Dry Season, and, Fire Season. Those holidays have “spiritual meanings,” and accompanying rituals, to be sure. But none of these holidays as yet address the deep spiritual need people have to connect to our Ancestors and Beloved Dead, and to do it in community.
In my Shamanic practices, I readily connect with my Animal helpers and guides, spirits. And with the Fey. And I can certainly connect with my Ancestors and Beloved Dead, at my Altar space. And as we are all getting older, and my Parents are now across the veil, I feel deeply, the need to honor them, to connect with them. This morning, I rearranged the things on my altar, the feathers, rocks, special objects and photographs of my parents and departed cousins. I lit candles and I lit some rosemary, to remember…
But what about that shared community experience? I belong to several spiritual communities. The Wiccans and Druids I met years ago are still my friends, and they have open Samhain gatherings. These are spiritual gatherings outside and at night, which satisfies my Earth-based needs, too, I’ll go to that tonight. And then tomorrow morning at my Unitarian Universalist Church, we have a ceremony honoring our Ancestors and our Beloved Dead. I’ll go to that, too.
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