This is my favorite holiday–not entirely surprising for a girl who kills pretend people for a living, no? But I’ve always loved ghost stories and the fall, full moons and things that go bump in the night…
Halloween used to be a sacred holiday for many folks. The last of the three harvest holidays, it was the time for bringing in the remnants of the crops, storing them up against the winter–a time for celebrating the harvest and fattening oneself up. “Winter is coming” wasn’t just a saying in Winterfell, my darlings, and one wasn’t truly prepared for the coming hardships unless there were apples drying on the hearth, the hay baled, and the corn reaped. It was a time for dancing and divination, when one’s true love might be revealed in a bowl of dark water or the curl of an apple peel thrown over one’s shoulder. It was a time when people gathered at bonfires and crackling hearths, warming themselves and telling stories.
It was also a time for honoring the dead. The Celts believed that on this night, the veil between worlds was the thinnest, and those we love can come back to visit for just a little while. Want to show a Samhain welcome to those you have loved and lost? Light a candle next to their picture and leave an offering of something sweet. But scatter salt across your threshold to keep others away! Light a jack-o-lantern to illuminate the way for those who wander, and when you gaze up at the harvest moon–two days full and ripe as an ear of corn–wish them peacefully on their way.
On a more prosaic note–in our house, Halloween means chili, queso, and chocolate cake with classic horror movies. But we always spare a thought for those we have loved and honor their memory. It is also a perfect night to banish old habits and resentments. We usually observe the burning bowl on New Year’s Eve, but it is an old Samhain tradition as this night used to mark the turning from the old year to the new. Get a fireproof bowl or use a firepit. Write secretly whatever you wish to banish from your life. Hold the paper close to your heart and breathe out your resentments, your anger, your pain. Then drop the paper into the bowl and set it alight. When it has burned and dropped to cold ash, scatter the ashes on the wind. Time to make a fresh start–time for the Danse Macabre to call all ghosts home.