Samhain and the dead

There were a couple of witches on the towpath last night, off to a Halloween party. It’s the time of year to play with macabre images, pretend to be a zombie, make a game out of death. In some ways I see how this works – it’s a way of making some alarming stuff a bit more manageable, and of course plenty of people like their creepy thrills. We have a culture in which real death is kept out of sight, while pretend death is ever more present. From violent movies to shoot em up computer games, fictional horror can be a feature of daily life. It’s an odd juxtaposition to say the least. For me there is no supernatural. Everything, by definition, is within nature. I have thoughts about our degree of understanding of ‘nature’ and that for a long time anything we can’t explain has been ‘supernatural’. These days we tend to go for whichever buzz term around the wilder ends of physics is in vogue. These days, if we can’t explain it, we make noises about quantum. In folklore this is the time of year when the veil between the worlds is thin, the dead walk, the wild hunt rides, the faerie courts move from their summer to their winter halls. Tam Lin’s climax is set around Halloween. It is a good time to think about people we’ve lost, and our ancestors as well. Most of our ancestors are not known to us, but we wouldn’t be here without them, after all. My ancestors have been in my thoughts a lot this last year, both immediate and distant ones. How much of who we are owes something to where we came from? I don’t think background can ever be used to excuse or justify, but it so often helps in the making sense. Understanding is a good thing, you can’t have too much of it. I’m hoping to get an actual ritual in some time soon. Time to stand in the darkness and honour the darkening days, the shift towards winter, the bright colours of the leaves and the bare branches to come. Time to think of those I’ve lost. There have been no funerals in this last year for me, but death is a constant presence. Death constantly in the news, acknowledged on the radio. This is also a good time to think about what dies within us as part of our own cycles of growing and stripping back. Inner deaths can be a gift as much as a loss and either way they create the room for new starts and fresh opportunities. Without the dying, there could be no new things. I’ve watched a whole facet of my personality dying over this last year. An aspect created defensively, so survive external pressures and make sense of impossible things. Now that those pressures have receded and there is nothing incomprehensible to rationalise, I don’t need to be that person any more. The letting go is a slow process, one day to the next. Eventually I may even be able to forget some of it, which would be a huge blessing. That part of me should never have been, and it is good to let it die. It’s like pulling a giant leech off my psyche. There are things that should be allowed to die. Things that need to die. Recognising them, and allowing them to pass is a very important process. Hanging on to that which should be declared dead, only increases the pain. Trying to force life into any dead thing seldom works and as all the traditional stories tell us, things that come back from the dead often aren’t very good for us. Not everything can be healed, not everything should be continued. Time to pause and contemplate what now needs releasing.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

3 responses to “Samhain and the dead

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