Costumes have always been fun for me. As a child, to step into a new character, to disguise myself in new skin, to be artistically expressed in the most outward embodied way, had me hopping around on a pre-cognitive candy high the second October 1st came around. In fact, one of my earliest toddling memories is a flash scene of my house on the east coast where I was born. The nip of Fall sent the sun to bed early and the wonder of the changing leaves framed the sliding glass door to the warm light of the kitchen. I watched my mom tape up paper pumpkins with funny faces that articulated expressions on little hinges, from the porch, each one different than the last. It smelled like roasting pumpkin seeds and the distant smoke from a fireplace. I remember the decorations so vividly because we re-used them year after year – the foam pumpkin, the sticky faux spider webbing, the candles on the table…
Even now, an adult in San Francisco, with no leaves to change, no first snow to fall, no decorations to carefully place, my internal guidance system, perhaps out of the comfort of habit and tradition, switches the usual espresso to spiced chai, pasta to sweet potatoes and pepper to Worcestershire sauce. Tis the season of bath times and candles, early nights to bed (hopefully) and a turning in to reflect on the incredible effort of outward blooming that the summer so easily provokes.
And Halloween is the last big hurrah of that external expansion until Spring. But for me, it’s not so much Halloween as we know it – the current holiday of kitch, waste and cavities (see Jocelyn’s article – so true), but the Fall season that I welcome in with long sighs and sheep’s wool slippers. Without a doubt, my favorite time of year.
Halloween or All Hallows Eve traces it’s roots back to the Celtic festival of Samhain, translated literally as ‘Summer’s End.’ Samhain marks one of the two great doorways of the Celtic year – the light (Beltane) and the dark of Winter which began on November 1st. The ancient Celts followed a Lunar calendar, so the celebrations of that darkness began the night before, on October 31st. The event marked a new beginning and a new year for it was understood that in dark silence comes whisperings of what’s-next, and the honoring of the seed, the roots, below the ground. Like the impulse to ‘spring clean’ many sources describe a similar tradition on this day – the preparation for long Winter nights indoors, which included Harvesting the crop and honoring the Spirits with sacred bonfires and communion.
On a small-scale, these have been my activities since returning home to Fall from season-less Hawaii last week. The insistent urge to nest and clean beckoned sharply without rest. Before I could say ‘Boo’ I switched up my hodge-podge room to the deep, rich colors of purple and bronze, my clutter swept to storage and thrift piles. My pantry, (if I weren’t leaving tomorrow for 2 weeks), begs to be stocked with the hearty, spicy foodstuffs of Thanksgiving. House gatherings with friends fill my evenings in sweet community and I’ve watched more movies this week than the whole summer combined.
What’s even more prevalent than the nest of hearth and home is a newfound dedication to my internal practices – regular meditations, self-guided readings on soul-hungry topics, intention setting for the year to come, and women’s circles. For these are the things that keep an active mind balanced in the heart, what brings real meaning to all the ‘doings’ we get caught up in.
It’s a shame most of us have forgotten. But I’d argue that past the party paper, the crappy candy, the tawdry, misguided consumerism that benchmarks any U.S. holiday, the freshness of Fall beckons. That cool, crisp invitation to a new beginning – the undertone of our ancient roots.