Halloween, Reimagined

Happy Halloween! This time of year–the gorgeously obvious changes in the leaves and the light, the little children dressed up like dragons and heroes, trick or treating in stores and cafes–can be special time to practice.

Halloween is typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-an or sow-in), celebrating the end of the lighter half of the year and the beginning of the darker half.  They called this the thin time. The ancient Celts believe that the border between this world and unknown worlds became very thin at this time of year, allowing presences from other levels and worlds to pass through. In ancient Scotland, people patrolled village borders. Spirits of ancestors were honored and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. Some people put on fearsome costumes and masks, seeking to frighten what they feared away.

We also assume imposing or fearsome postures to protect to protect ourselves, especially at thin or vulnerable times.  But what if we suspended the patrol, practicing an open border policy that welcomed every feeling and persona that wafts up with kindness and self-compassion?  What if we allowed ourselves to know how much we need our own love and acceptance–not in some perfected form but right here and now, especially our pain and shame?

A beautiful rite of Samhain in ancient Scotland was, according to some accounts, the dowsing of household fires, and the lighting them from a common bonfire.  Imagine that warm blaze and a whole community of people dipping torches in to carry a shared light back to their dark homes. Imagine if we sit down together like those long-ago people, reconnecting with our common human warmth, our wish to belong, to love and be loved. Imagine taking that home to meet our darkest fears and hidden hurts and shame. Notice how it feels to notice that there is a light inside you that can meet the darkness with love.

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