Sunday, November 6, 2011
How do you remember?
Do you like the holidays? Are you one who dreams of Halloween decorations, Thanksgiving plumage and Christmas lights in September? Do you dream up creative costumes in June and wear Santa Hats as soon as they appear on store shelves? If so, that's great, really is, we need people like you, I'm sure of it. It's just that I never got it. I never understood the holidays, and the equations I was observing were so unsatisfactory to me :
ghosts+candy = Halloween,
turkey+ family+ gratitude = Thanksgiving
Champagne+high heels=New Year
I'm sure this is some lack in me that doesn't allow the magic of all these Holidays to penetrate, but, so it is. Until now.
This year, having dome some searching and re-discoviering the power of ritual, I wanted in on the magic. After all, that is what these Holy Days are, celebrations honoring our mystical humanity expressed in ritual magic. How did I not see this before?
So, with the Holidaze coming, I set out to reclaim the ancient meanings behind these popularized Holidays. It was almost Halloween and that felt like a good place to start.
Halloween or Samhain as it was known in the Gaelic tradition, celebrated the end of summer and the beginning of the dark season. Because darkness is often associated with death, it was also called the Day of the Dead, and was known as the night when the veil between the worlds (light/dark, life/death/ real/imaginary) was very thin. Candles were lit in the night to guide the passing spirits, and turnips or pumpkins were carved to scare the more unsavory characters.
In ancient Egypt the time was celebrated as the Festival of Isia, and celebrated the return of the God Osiris who was magically resurrected from the dead by his wife Isis, becoming the King of the Dead.
The Greeks celebrated a festival called Thesmophoria, which related to the myth of Persephony, who was kidnapped by Hades and taken to the underworld, becoming the Goddess of Death.
In Mexico the day is celebrated as Dia de los Muertos (Day of the dead) and the Hindu tradition celebrates Divali or a festival of related to Rebirth or New Year.
In the early Christian church the day was known as All Souls Day, and honored those who have passed.
So what does it all mean? How to put it all together and honor that which desires to be remembered at this time? The answer, I think, lies in the symbolic language of ritual. The symbolism of Halloween, Death, Rebirth, Change, Harvest, Spirit Connection/Communication can all translate into meaningful actions (ritual) that can help us to reconnect ourselves to that part of us which desires ritual in the first place. Tricky? Not really. I found that keeping in mind the symbolism of Halloween, allowed me to deeply appreciate actions such as lighting a candle or carving an owl in a pumpkin (in honor of inner sight). Even though I passed on the Ouija board, grave cleaning, and costumes, I feel my Halloween experience to have been richer then ever before. Next on the horizon... Thanksgiving, or maybe even Veterans Day?