Beneath the Sugar-Coating
Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Have a seat! I'll see if there's any pie left in the pantry.
If any of you are wondering why I'm not attending Saturday's March for Sanity, when it's just a little Amtrak hop from Philly, let me just say this: My application was denied.
That's okay. I don't want to be away from home on Samhain. Let's not sugar-coat things. There's a reason for the "spooky" traditions associated with Halloween.
Somewhere I read a snarky remark about the "superstitious Celts," who lit bonfires on Samhain because they were afraid of ghosts.
Just goes to show you that the way you word something can either make it sound brilliant or ridiculous.
So let's re-phrase.
Samhain marks the moment when the veil between the living and the dead grows thin. We wish to commune with Spirits, if those Spirits are loved ones or friends on the other side of the veil. But the existence of those Spirits presupposes that there are other, far less benign Spirits who we'd rather not have crashing around in the spare room.
You can call it superstition if you like, but I would prefer to say that we ought to be frightened of some energy. Not everyone goes peaceful into that long night. So at this time of the year, in addition to feeling my dear friend Tom in my kitchen, helping me tease the parrot, I also protect my home from the evil dead.
(Stop whistling Stevie Wonder! If you don't take Spirits seriously, you deserve their misguided wrath.)
You might ask: How does one protect a home from the evil dead? Well, what do you think that jack-o-lantern is for? And the funny thing is, the Celts didn't have pumpkins! Pumpkins are a New World food. The Celts carved turnips and hung them outside the door. They would have loved pumpkins!
Samhain is a good evening on which to smudge your home with a sage stick. Light the fragrant incense outside for your Ancestors and smudge the interior to keep unwelcome Guests out. There's a darker side to Samhain, under all that sugar-coating. It's the eerie awareness of death, the acceptance of a long tunnel of winter, a submission to the bored God Cernunnos -- He who knows both the bounty and the savagery of the forest. It's time to dance, but choose your partners carefully.
If any of this sounds "backward," then I have a question for you: How is it different from being told, by a guy in a long fancy robe, that some deity is going to come out of the sky and call your loved one up out of the grave ... but only if your loved one followed that deity while alive?
When you get right down to it, any engagement with death can be called "superstitious." None of it is, though. None of it.