Sunday, October 31, 2010

October 31: Halloween Rituals

I began my Book of Days blog last November 1, hoping to maintain the discipline to post a haiku every single day for a year. And I've somehow managed to do it! This posting, my 365th, marks the last day of a full year of haiku, a full year of sitting down each day and trying to write something somewhat poetic. Now that I've accomplished my goal, I don't plan on dropping this ritual altogether--it's become a stimulating writing exercise, as well as a satisfying sort of spiritual practice, to enter this space each day--but my postings will almost certainly decrease in frequency after this one.

It's appropriate that my poetic year comes to a close on Halloween, which for many contemporary pagans is regarded as New Year's Eve in the ancient Celtic tradition of Samhain (pronounced "sow-en"). The holiday kicked off the dark half of the year (Beltane, on May 1, marked the beginning of the light half). I'm intrigued by the concept of a day marking our descent into the bleakest, darkest season as the beginning of a new year, but the concept of embracing that darkness in a celebratory way offers an admirable challenge. I imagine dancing around the ritual bonfire helped.

Now we practice different rituals, though many of these are deeply rooted in the original Samhain tradition. I've carved our pumpkin, a fruit of the season, into a Jack o'lantern--but not to ward off evil spirits so much as to attract friendly ones in the form of our neighborhood's children when they come trick-or-treating tonight. We've got bags of candy ready to appease these costumed "spirits," some of whom will be looking quite scary whether they intend to or not. And as I write, the sinking sun illuminates the red-gold leaves of the back yard maple, creating what will come as close to a bonfire as we're going to get.

It being Sunday, my husband and I are also enjoying another ritual, though not one specifically associated with Halloween: watching football. One might argue, however, that the crazy way some fans dress up for a game, with body makeup, wigs, etc., is indistinguishable from donning a Halloween costume.

Sunset, Halloween.
Light's last blaze before the ghosts
appear at our door.

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