Today is All Saints Day for many in the Catholic and Anglican faith traditions. A celebration of the saints who have meant something important to them or their journey.
It is also the Dia de los Muertos in many Spanish-speaking countries (fyi, Dia de los Muertos is not ‘Mexican Halloween;’ it is a holiday all of its own with rich traditions, symbols, and context).
And, of course, last night was Halloween in America, a tradition that was originally about the acceptance of death and the very human desire to flee from it, or to dance with it in the dark.
For me, Halloween also represents the biggest step of the descent into darkness for the circle of the year. I know we are supposed to celebrate the shift into darkness at the Autumnal equinox, but it never feels quite dark enough or cold enough for me. So, yesterday was the doorway into death for this year. This phase is pretty much always the time of year where I learn a life-changing lesson and carry it both down into the depths of my dark heart and then grow up through it into the Spring.
And, in all Life’s wisdom and wit, we were without power for the last 2 days (it finally came back on last night). We have been sitting with pillars of candles on our table, reading and talking (and the kids bored out of their skulls), and noticing the dark and how it seeps in as the sun goes down.
Our electricity- and that of most of our neighborhood- went out with a storm on Sunday, Oct 29. A tree on our property gave its life to one final dance with the electrical wires and an explosive electrical canister. [fwiw, they give off spectacular, blinding blue sparks when hit.]
Yesterday the arborist came to chop up the tree. And while I was glad to have it off the power pole, I also cried as they cut her down, into massive chunks. Her life was truly done and over; the season of death deeply upon us.
I have been thinking about my perspective as an interfaith minister- what ‘interfaith’ means and if it is even a valid idea [I’ll share about that later]- and I don’t want to appropriate any tradition that isn’t mine, but none of the above traditions are mine and I still need a way to honor the darkness of this phase of the year.
Raised Protestant and now living something Tao-Pagan-Buddhist, I’m not sure how to honor this time of year. Samhain (SAH-win) is closest to me genetically (Gaelic…waaaaay back there in the double-helix code) and feels as close as I can get to a Taoist perspective (in harmony with Nature) that feels right with what’s actually happening in Nature.
But, because the veil between worlds is thin at this time of year, I also feel the pull of honoring my dead. And the weight of tradition that comes from honoring saints also appeals. But ‘appealing’ doesn’t mean I can steal it for my own uses.
Can I put these things into the tradition of Samhain? Because it is the end of the year in Nature, can I also give honor to that which as been dead for many seasons- my family, friends, and ‘saints’ of many stripes? If I could, I would expand the definition this way so that the celebration and recognition would encompass all that I need it to. I suppose I need a bigger container for all that I have experienced; perhaps that is why ‘interfaith’ appeals so much.
So today I wanted to honor the end of this year. To remember my dead. To let go of what’s done. And to welcome the dark, cold, fallow time of the year. And to bless those who have blessed me. The list…
My Papa who showed me how to make snapdragons talk and fed me snap peas from the vine.
My great grandma who loved to dress me up and take me out; who also discovered my diabetes.
My islet of Langerhans, dead nearly 36 years.
My great grandpa.
My father-in-law, who never met most of his grandchildren.
The tree from our front yard.
A gaggle of great aunts and uncles who I know watch over all the descendants of Margaret.
Our old house.
I also lay on the altar of death my ideas of who I thought I was.
The part of me who thought she always had to be kind to move ahead.
The belief that some savior is the net for this chaotic world.
My lack of belief in my intuition.
Guessing that I am strong; I know I am, even in my softness and vulnerability.
I name the saints of my life (no one you will recognize, but very important to my journey):
Ms. B who believed in my writing.
Mr. B who opened my mind and showed me symbolism.
Steve B who gave safe boundaries to my budding soul.
Monica and Michelle who told me desire was okay, welcome, gorgeous.
Gabrielle’s son, for showing me how to sweat my prayers.
LMM and William Stafford for the way they wove spells with words.
Jennifer who pioneered self-care for white women.
The town of Exeter, Devonshire for red mud, one-footed ducks, and lessons out the wazzoo.
Seattle- I carry the memories of time that is dead and long gone.
Tonight I will light candles and recognize the dead ones, my own changes, and give thanks to those who have guided me, dead or alive. The end of the year is here and I am ready to lay it down. I will enter the dark with the support of tradition- and the delight of truth.