I am not a religious person, much to my parents’ chagrin. Anything I choose to believe is based on what makes sense to me. Most of it, as it turns out, relates to New Year, or the idea thereof.
With “Western” New Year (and the lead up to it) I find myself thinking of the dead a lot more than I usually do. After Deb died, on December 22nd, I had almost no time to process it: busy schedule, houseguests, no time to myself. I had a bit of time alone on Christmas Eve (I pretty much bolted from church-with-the-parents), and I started talking to her. I wrote her a letter, then took it outside on a beautiful, clear night, and burned it (fire is also very important in what passes for religion with me). A symbolic release, of sorts, and sealing what I had to say between us. I talked to her a bit more on New Year’s Eve, some things I’d forgotten in the turmoil of trying to empty my head a week prior.
And thirdly, we have Hallowe’en, probably the most thinly disguised of the ancient pagan holidays. Here is a good description of Samhain. Particularly, the following passage speaks to what I find magical about this time of year:
This was the most magical time of the year; Samhain was the day which did not exist. During the night the great shield of Skathach was lowered, allowing the barriers between the worlds to fade and the forces of chaos to invade the realms of order, the material world conjoining with the world of the dead. At this time the spirits of the dead and those yet to be born walked amongst the living. The dead could return to the places where they had lived and food and entertainment were provided in their honour. In this way the tribes were at one with its past, present and future. This aspect of the festival was never totally subdued by Christianity.
I remember, too, an exchange from a Hallowe’en episode of the tv show Beauty and the Beast. (I loved that show: mock to your heart’s content.)
Bridget: The night has a special magic to it, don’t you think? This night, especially.
Bridget: In the Old Religion they call it Samhain. It’s a night when the walls between the worlds grow thin, and spirits of the Underworld walk the earth. A night of masks and balefires, when anything is possible and nothing is quite as it seems.
I love the idea of the mingling of the past, present, and future. The dead, the living, and the not-yet-born. Who knows who you could meet? Who knows what you could learn? Who knows what you could see?
And so tonight our jack o’ lantern sits on the front porch, aglow with his merry rictus. A bowl of candy, which will mostly be eaten by us (our neighbourhood is a dead zone between several with many more children), waits near the front door. And in my room the candles are lit. In multiples of three, of course, for my superstitious soul, and all are welcome to visit. Trick or treat.