You will probably have noticed that this weekend is Halloween! A time of dressing up, scary stories and lots of sugar. As one friend would say when opening the door to trick and treaters with his bucket of candy on offer, ‘Hello, happy diabetes-promotion day!’
Halloween takes it name from ‘All Hallow’s Eve’, the day before All Hallows Day, known in the Christian cosmology as All Saints Day and in the many other cultures as the Day of the Dead.
In the Celtic tradition, October 31st is the last day of the year, a New Year’s Eve festival to celebrate the ending of the season of Lammas (Autumn) and the beginning of Samhain (Winter). You could very much confuse people by opening the door to Trick and Treaters and shouting, ‘Happy New Year!’
Samhain, beginning November 1 and ending January 31st, with the Winter Solstice in its centre, holds a specific energy to it and has many sacred correspondences of its own - it is associated with the element of Air, the sacred direction of the North, and the building of foundations. As such it invites us to travel internally, into the knowledge of our deep Yin, the dark places within of wisdom and clarity.
But what of the energies of Halloween? Why do we dress up, eat sweets and celebrate the scary? There are certain points in the year where the cosmological energies lend themselves to more fluidity than at other times. Sometimes this is referred to as a ‘thinning of the veil’. This was recognised throughout the world and was non-culture specific, lending validity to the understanding that this lack of solidity between the worlds of the living and the non-living, between the physical and the non-physical is a cosmological energetic reality. It was understood by the ancients that this was the day that the dead walked. And no, not in any kind of dastardly way, but simply that it was a time when spirits returned to their homes, to their descendants, to the familiarity of their physical life. In order to ensure that only the spirits of your beloved entered your homes, masks were painted on the door, or lanterns patterned with faces were placed at the threshold. This later became the pumpkin ‘Jack o’lanterns’ that we are so familiar with in our current cultural expression of this ancient festival of honouring the ancestors. They were the messengers that said to the spirits, ‘No, wrong house, keep on moving’, or ‘Yes, you are our beloved, come in, we are waiting.’
For me, it still didn’t explain the sugar!
Why do we give sweets out at Halloween? I wasn’t cynical enough to believe it had all been a giant marketing success on behalf of the sweet producers…their marketing had to based on something historical, just as our modern Halloween is based on the older tradition of the Christian All Saints Day which, in the vast geographical area that was once the Celtic Empire, is based on the ancient tradition of Samhain. So why the sugar? A book on Chinese ancestral festivities perhaps provides the answer. In the Chinese cosmology, reincarnation was an established precept. Therefore, In order to honour the ancestors, sweet treats (which would have only been available at celebrations) were offered to children in celebration of their lineage. I thought this was a beautiful concept as it was not looking specifically to honour familial ancestry, but rather our common ancestry. Sweets were offered to the children to honour whatever spirit that had chosen to reincarnate, from whatever country, family, or social strata, thus honouring the cosmic web of connection and our relation to it. Imagine how the energy of all of those sweets would transform if the children eating them on Friday night were doing so in conscious honouring of our common ancestors!
So what about energy medicine approaches to Halloween/Samhain?
Check your groundedness: For those of you who are conscious of being sensitive to changing energy, being grounded can be deeply stabilising. Read more information on being grounded here.
Pay attention to your dreams: The energy of Samhain is thick for the day before, during and after November 1st. As my shamanic teacher would remind me, ‘The ancestors don’t need to sleep’, and often some of their wisdom is shared in our sleeping hours. Keeping a dream diary or jotting them down when you are still able to remember them can be a wonderful way to garner wisdom from these deep dream times.
Tend to Spleen: The spleen stretch in this video helps the spleen meridian get ready to metabolise both the shifting energy at this time of year, and any extra sugar consumption!
Samhain, and any of the turnings of the Celtic calendar, are wonderful times to pause for a moment of reflection and gratitude. This may be personal, with a simple meditation ceremony, or it may be a time for a family meal, an honouring of your own ancestors through sharing memories and stories of their life and character. This weaves the web of connection between the generations, providing each of us with the comfort and nourishment of personal story. Think of it as the enlivening of one of your strands of DNA; the ancestors are happy to be talked about and honoured, and as their cells are part of you, then it is an honouring and enlivening of your cells too.
Enjoy this deeply magical time of year,