Beyond getting my plastic pumpkin filled with candy I never saw the point of Halloween. Our carefully chosen costumes were always severely compromised by the galoshes, hats, mittens, and heavy overcoats required for the cold winds and even snows of eastern Washington. And the whole scary thing never did anything for me. Gypsy was always my favorite costume.
Only in recent years have I come to appreciate this holy-day as one of the most important of the year. And for my Irish ancestors it was indeed a holy day. Not unlike celebrations of other cultures, including the Day of the Dead, it was a time for celebrating those who had died. The veils between worlds are thin and ancestral communion was both expected and anticipated.
But to appreciate this anticipation requires a very different cultural context than the one I grew up with. It requires an appreciation for the continuum of life through birth, life, and death – and many lives. It welcomes a knowing that when we exit this earthly plane we return to a spiritual realm. This is the genesis of the Irish wake tradition for it was truly a celebration of one leaving the travails of this world and going home to Tír na nÓg, the land of eternal youth, a supernatural realm of everlasting youth, beauty, health, abundance and joy. Who wouldn’t celebrate that? And who wouldn’t invite communion with folks from such a place?
This time of Halloween, or Samhain (sow-in) as is the Irish holiday, is an opening to all things that live in the thin veils and shadows of this reality. It is intense and it can be daunting. But it’s beyond scary.