Tell Me Why / I Don’t Like…

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Nature art in Coole Park

… Halloween.

Before you start throwing things: I think it’s completely fine to enjoy Halloween, and all the dressing up and decorating and whatnot. I’m not one of those people who think something should be banned just because I don’t like it! I know a lot of people, including many pagan friends, who love this time of the year, and I love seeing my friends happy so I’m not going to complain.

What I am going to say is that the way old customs are watered down beyond recognition these days, doesn’t sit well with me. I feel the same discomfort around the way “goddess” seems to have become a general term for femininity and the names of ancient goddesses are thrown around carelessly by just about any unicorn-dust and fairy-wands wielding New Age enthusiast. I like the fact it empowers women, and people in general. I don’t like how most of them are clueless as to what powerful entities they are dealing with, and that magic isn’t just a word or a fun idea.

There is so much more to this. And to get back to the subject of Halloween, it’s essentially the christianised version of the old Samhain, one of the two times of the year when the veil between the worlds is particularly thin (the other being the eve of Bealtaine). We’re talking about a time when having your child stolen by the fairies and replaced by a soulless changeling was a very real fear. People put scary disguises on their kids to fool the fairies.

The transparency of the veil was also used to contact and commune with the dead. It’s a great night to honour our ancestors and to tell our beloved dead what we never got to tell them while they were still alive. It is this association with death which has been adopted by Christianity in the shape of All Hallows (31st October) and All Souls (1st of November). My Catholic mum used to take us to visit the graves of departed family members on the 1st of November, and one of my earliest childhood memories is the sight of a graveyard with “wind lights” (as they are called in German) on every grave, candles in red plastic cups to keep the wind from extinguishing them.

It was a cosy, quiet time, full of contemplation and mystery. Maybe that’s one reason why I dislike the loud, in-yer-face dressing up and partying on Halloween. Don’t get me wrong, I have on occasion participated and enjoyed myself too. Two years ago I dressed up as a pirate for my then workplace and I had fun, but I remember the tons of decorations we pulled down weeks later, most of which were too damaged or worn out to be saved and reused. My costume has been in a box ever since. There is so much unnecessary waste produced and sold in the commercialisation of this holiday, it makes me no less uncomfortable than the overload of plastic Christmas decorations in the shops a few weeks later.

But enough with the grumpy hag now. I have stocked up on conventional chocolate for the trick-or-treaters tomorrow evening, and after that quietens down, I’ll have my Samhain ritual. I’ll be feasting on mead and apple pie, as this is one of two occasions in the year when I eat sugar. Come to think of it, a lot of things happen on Samhain and Bealtaine respectively for me, as they are also the two times of the year when I thoroughly clean my house (I try to keep it reasonably clean at all times, but on these two occasions I do the corners I never usually touch, like the insides of kitchen cupboards and the blinds on the windows).

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And I’ll prepare for the “dark weeks”, the time between now and the Winter Solstice when the light returns. That’s probably the main reason why I feel a little gloomy: I look ahead to the cold season and the discomfort I always feel then, and just wish I could fast-forward to spring. Ah well, all things in balance, right? At least I’ll celebrate and make the most of it.

To top it all off, I’ll go up to Massbrook on my day off Tuesday for some archery, complete with lunch at my favourite cafe in Ballinrobe along the way. And whatever you may get up to, I wish you a blessed Samhain!

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9 thoughts on “Tell Me Why / I Don’t Like…

  1. I agree with a lot of this. 20 years or so ago, there was no such thing as Halloween here in Norway. It was imported by the commercial interests, I believe. We used to celebrate All Hallow’s by lighting candles and laying down flowers on graves to remember our dead.

    1. Sounds very similar to what it was like in Germany back then 🙂 I believe things like the internet have helped to spread customs all over the world too.

      1. I think we have some traditions in common in Europe 🙂 I do decorate a bit, so Lilith can have some fun. This year, I’m doing my own ritual late at night, because we’re volunteering at an event organized by the local volunteer organization. On this street, there are no trick or treaters because it would be dangerous for kids to walk around on the road in the dark. No street lights and people drive fast.

      2. Yes, there are definitely similarites across Europe. Some places also held the belief that anything harvested after this date, would rot. Often, the pre-winter slaughter was done around this time as well, and the meat used for feasting.
        And yes, trick or treating would be more dangerous in Norway where it gets dark so much earlier at this time of the year!

  2. Yes same here… yesterday I read there is a shortage of pumpkins in Holland. A few years ago no one ever bought pumpkins or celebrated Halloween! I had to buy the pumpkins at a farm! Positive point is that I can now buy pumpkins everywhere! But I dislike the commercial side of all the holidays. The mystique and respect is gone. But I do enjoy dressing up. Just not this so much anymore, same with horrorfilms, used to love them, can’t watch them anymore. I have become so much more sensitive the past years. Also I am not in the mood and I am also sort of resisting the Winter. I so dislike the dark days. Even though I am now loving all the colours of nature. But Winter is so cold and barren.

    Happy Samhain everyone! Happy cleaning 😉

    1. Yes, I really get what you mean! All seasons are necessary, and all have their beauty, but I’m just not very well adapted to the cold and dark of winter. I’m uncomfortable in the cold outside even when I’m dressed appropriately, and so I tend to stay indoors where I get claustrophobic after a while.
      All we can do is make the most of the season by celebrating the highlights, and I intend to do that, though not in the commercialised way 🙂
      Happy Samhain to you too!

  3. Traditions have always been in flux, always changing and evolving. I like Halloween, though I don’t like how some shops start selling merchandise several months early (though it does seem to curb the crazy early Christmas-displays).

    The calm, quiet reverence for the dead you describe was lovely, but is in itself a fairly new tradition. It’s not that long ago when “remembering the dead” was, in some places, synonymous with tempting fate and inviting evil spirits into your life. Go back further and sacrifices had to be made to appease the spirits of the dead.

    In Scandinavian tradition, Halloween, or Samhain, hasn’t traditionally had much of a meaning, no connection with the dead (I’ve never heard or read about it at least, please correct me if I’m wrong). That’s more of a catholic tradition that was adopted and adapted by the protestants. According to the pagan traditions of the area it was more a light festival, a time to strengthen the sun and help it along during the dark time of year.

    To me, the modern day celebration is a combination of the catholic tradition (seen in more extreme versions in Mexico And Latin America, though you can get a taste of it in Spain too), and a hail to the Wild Hunt. It’s a step away from the Christian tendency of making death something unnatural and “apart”, and instead embracing pagan hedonism and joy, where celebrating death means celebrating life, as it’s just another aspect of the same thing! Another face of the same coin.

    And no holiday that brings joy to children can be wrong, in my view. 😉

    1. It does depend on where you’re going, that’s very true. In Ireland, it’s very old indeed and death wasn’t always seen as evil, but a lot of traditions have only evolved in the last hundred years or so.

      I know what you mean and agree on making it fun for the children! That’s my favourite part of the holiday, in fact, although it looks like I’m getting stood up this year – no trick-or-treaters seem to make their way into our little cul-de-sac :-/

      You are one of those people I love to see enjoying yourself around this time of the year. You have a real knack for it!
      Hugs!!

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