We live in a time deprived of its magic and wonder, as we’ve substituted our knowledge and observation of the passing seasons with our technological “improvements” on nature. Something as banal as eating strawberries in winter is already a sign that we’re out of contact.
The ancient arts and festivities, born from the observation of life and nature, have become just another product to be consumed making the market richer, but our lives poorer.
Studying Shiatsu, I became aware of the theory of the 5 Chinese elements known as Wu Xing which has its roots in Taoism and is the basis of Chinese medicine. We usually see the 5 elements placed in a pentagonal diagram which describes how each element feeds or suppresses another: Fire – Earth – Metal – Water – Wood. Here’s a diagram I’ve borrowed from Wikipedia to show how on the one had each element feeds the one that follows it and on the other how the elements also destroy or suppress one another.
This theory was born from the years of studying the passage of the seasons, how they influenced our lives and health, what characteristics are more dominant in one period and less in another, they even go so far as to attribute the power of a sound and a color to our health!
From this passage I began to realize how much understanding has been lost. Yes, its empirical knowledge, which we’ve blithely thrown out the window as too relative and irrational. However, luckily for the moment it’s still knowledge which has not been lost, you can study it and observe how brilliant these ancient observers were!
How does this tie in with Halloween? It’s all about the seasons and their passage, and the knowledge which we have lost over the centuries.
Over the centuries as Christianity and the dark ages walked hand in hand throughout the European continent, many of the older practices, faiths, rites and observations were either suppressed or when that wasn’t possible integrated into the new religion in its quest to conquer men’s minds.
Halloween, which means All Hallows Evening, or the Evening before the Catholic festivity of All Hallows Day, or All Saint’s Day (the first of November), which in Catholic countries is still celebrated followed by All Souls Day (the 2nd of November) the remembrance of the dead, is one of these festivities.
Halloween was a harvest festival, probably Samhain in the Gaelic Celtic traditions. It is the passage from a time of abundance and life-giving warmth to the dark dead period of winter. Observing the seasons we realize that with the Harvest, the world has given up its fruits and figuratively speaking is dying.
Samhain was celebrated around the 31st of October or 1st of November right in the middle of the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. In this period, the cattle or sheep were brought home from their summer pastures, the crops had been gathered and stored, special bond fires were lit, as this was also a period when it was believe that the faeries could come into the world more easily and it was a time of purification.
Just allow me to quote the Wikipedea about Samhain:
“Samhain (like Beltane) was seen as a liminal time, when the spirits or fairies (the Aos Sí) could more easily come into our world. Most scholars see the Aos Sí as remnants of the pagan gods and nature spirits. It was believed that the Aos Sí needed to be propitiated to ensure that the people and their livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink were left for them. The souls of the dead were also thought to revisit their homes. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them. Mumming and guising were part of the festival, and involved people going door-to-door in costume (or in disguise), often reciting verses in exchange for food. The costumes may have been a way of imitating, or disguising oneself from, the Aos Sí. Divination rituals were also a big part of the festival and often involved nuts and apples. In the late 19th century, Sir John Rhys and Sir James Frazer suggested that it was the “Celtic New Year”, and this view has been repeated by some other scholars.”
Of course, this is just a little of what remains of that ancient culture. Unlike the Chinese, we prefer to destroy and obliterate what we think is useless superstition (well Mao did his best in this sense too). It suspect it was a lot more complicated than just mumming and guising. During the dark ages, many of the medical practices were lost, because herb lore for example which was a woman’s domain, was considered witchcraft. And witchcraft as we all know, is satanic…or is it?
I’ll conclude my reflection this morning with just this thought. Death is part of Life. We do our best to forget that Death walks hand in hand with life but trying to exorcise the thought of Death, we’ve given it more power than it ever had in the past. We’ve become a phobic society, seeking immortality through our technology and often feel offended and cheated when Death in the end knocks on our door. Halloween, the ancient passage from life to death, as observed just by watching the seasons passing, the honoring of our dead and who’s passed before us is reduced to a commercial extravaganza which exoricises death with a cult for horror. It’s really sad if you think about it.
The seasons passing
in endless singing cycles
speak of death and life.
Both still walking hand in hand
though our fearful age
would sunder their tie,
life, refuses the divorce!
Oh, faithful lovers
your eternal embracing
creates samara’s turning.
For more information about Halloween read HERE!
Have a great day! Ciao Bastet!