|Image from the beautiful book, Haunted Air by Ossian Brown|
Mrs. Homegrown here:
I celebrate Samhain on November 1st because I enjoy marking the changing seasons of the year by making these old festivals my own. It’s so easy to lose track of time in an electronic culture. It’s even easier to lose track when you live in Los Angeles, land of the perpetual sunshine.
Samhain marks the last harvest of the year. The weather is cold enough to keep meat, so it is also the time when all non-breeding livestock was slaughtered and cured–otherwise they’d have to be fed through the winter. It also is the start of the dark half of the year, a time of long nights and introspection.
This is a time of transition, and the air is alive with the excitement of it. The leaves are bright, the branches bare and stark against the sky. The days are blue, but the nights are cold and black. The wind kicks up. Dead leaves skitter and bolt across the asphalt. The crows come back to our neighborhood around this time of year and caw in the palms: southern California Gothic. It’s my favorite season here.
The Celts believed places and times of transition–dawn, dusk, midnight, crossroads, lakes and streams, caves, etc.–held supernatural energy. These were places and times where the boundaries between our world and the other world was very thin. Samhain was one of those transition periods, and coming as it did at the last harvest, at the beginning of winter, it was associated with the dead.
And of course, within the Catholic Church November 1st is also marked as All Saint’s Day and the 2nd as All Soul’s Day, both of which honor the dead, the sainted dead and the faithful departed, respectively. And All Soul’s Day is better known around here as Dia de los Muertos (and celebrated in style).
Face it, this is the time of year to deal with mortality and memory.
Halloween is lots of fun. (I love the genial anarchy of both Halloween and Fourth of July–they’re my favorite holidays.) So I save Oct. 31st for trick o’ treaters and parties and celebrate Samhain on the 1st, quietly, with a just a few simple gestures. I don’t plan on slaughtering any animals (Did I just hear our chickens breath a sigh of relief?) so I clean the house instead, and attack one drawer or closet, and shed things I don’t need anymore, both as sort of a psychological purge and in preparation for the busy holiday season to come. I like to make a nice meal, too, something celebratory, and burn candles on the table against the darkness. Then I round up Erik and we toast our dead.
Do you do anything special this time of year?