It’s the end of October. Popularly, these last few days are all about Halloween, costumes, candy and jack-o-lanterns. Pull into traditional Christian churches, and the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls will be observed and celebrated. These are days to remember those in our lives who have left this earth. It is a communal response to loss and a communal offering of honor and gratitude for their lives. It is a communion with the dead.
And Christian churches observe these days because they took on as their own very powerful, ancient Pagan observances. There are several examples: Celtic, Roman, Greek Pagan observances are the ones that inform Christian ones. The general pattern is this: that once or twice a year, families gathered around the burial place of the deceased with food, wine and other offerings. They had a family feast there and believed themselves to be entering into communion with the departed. Celtic traditions taught that the veil that normally separated this world from the Otherworld thinned and opened at this time of the year allowing us to commune with the dead and the dead to cross over and commune with us.
These traditions can be turned into scary stories, if we want them to be. They can be turned into fun and frivolity, if we want them to be. They can also be turned into an intimate, deeply personal communion.
Loss, if nothing else, is deeply connected to our memory. As October 31, November 1 and November 2 approach, perhaps we can find a quiet space, light a candle and do this. Let us make use of our memory and call on those whom we have lost, whom we long for, whom we cherish and allow them to infuse our memories of their wonder. Let us take space to enjoy time with these memories. Let us be open to their touch, their effect, their presence. And then, after offering them gratitude, bid them farewell until next year and ask for their blessing as we continue to traverse this earthly path. We owe this kind of time to ourselves, and to them.