This month we celebrate Halloween. Many people will dress up in costumes, go to parties, eat candy. Many also will celebrate the dark, mysterious, and otherwordly.
But what’s it all for? Why do we even have Halloween?
Pagan Roots and Christian Makeover
As you may know, the origins of Halloween trace back to an ancient Celtic holiday called Samhain. Celebrated around November 1st, Samhain marked the completion of the harvest and the end of summer. It was also considered the boundary between the light half of the year and the dark, when the veil between this world and the Otherworld was thin. Because of this, it was a time for propitiating spirits and honoring the dead.
In Christian times, the pagan festival of Samhain evolved into our Halloween. October 31st became All Hallows Eve, also known as “All Souls Day,” and November 1st, All Hallows Day or All Saints’ Day. These days were dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints, martyrs, and all the faithful departed. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween
The Honored Dead
In modern Wiccan traditions, Samhain is often considered the most sacred holiday. in the wheel of the year. It is a time both to mark the turning of the year and to honor our ancestors.
Many believe that our ancestors bequeathed to us more than the DNA residing in our physical bodies. There is a growing body of scientific belief (albeit controversial) that emotions and experiences can be passed down to us from our forebears. For an introduction to this topic, see this Wikipedia article on transgenerational trauma.
In any case, we can say with certainty that we are here because of the lives our ancestors lived. And, to some degree at least, their lives shaped us. If, like me, you are of a poetic turn of mind, you might even say that the spirits of our ancestors dwell in the depths of our psyches, and that they may continue to influence us in ways we are hardly aware of.
So in your celebrations this month, you might want to remember your honored dead, and contemplate how their legacies have resulted in who you are now, and how they might be influencing you still.
Abby Renshaw Meets her Dad
As a fictional illustration, here is a scene from Ghosts of Bliss Bayou. Late in the story, Abby Renshaw is undergoing a series of rituals to gain magical power. To make room for the infusions of energy, these rites require her to release her complexes and fears, which are obstacles to growth.
Here, in a psychic vision, Abby encounters the ghost of her father, who self-destructed and died when Abby was a young child.
After a while, I don’t know how long, I’m back in front of the gray fountain, leaning on my hands and knees. I stand up. Annie is gone, replaced by…
I suck in my breath. I can’t believe it.
The luminous gray ghost of my father stands before me—wide shouldered, curly haired, and with a worn, sad face.
I want to hug him, but I’m afraid he’ll vanish into nothing. Like when he died.
“Dad. I’ve missed you so much.” I’m on the verge of sobbing, and so is he.
“I know, Abby. I’m so sorry. I screwed up.”
“Why did you leave us?”
“Because I was weak. I couldn’t face living. Living is hard…but it’s even harder to be dead and have so much regret.”
I stare at him, trying not to cry.
“I know I can’t make it up to you,” he says. “But I want to give you what little help I can. It’s only this: don’t run away, like I did. Once you start running away, it gets harder and harder not to run. Pretty soon, running away becomes who you are.”
As I listen to this, I realize how desperately I’ve wanted to run away these past two days, ever since Grandma fell. I didn’t let myself think about it much, but now I do. I could call Mom tomorrow, get her to book me a flight. Leave all the terror behind. It might work…or I might go completely insane.
But there’s another way out. I could just give up, let Raspis have his way, drown myself in Bliss Bayou. The temptation is surprisingly strong—pain for a few minutes, then peace forever. Living is hard.
But it’s even harder to be dead and have so much regret.
“I understand, Dad.”
“One other thing,” he says. “Be kind to your mother. She’s a good, strong person, much better than I was. You’re sensitive like me, but you have her strength. You must thank her for that and not resent what she is.”
He’s right again. I have resented Mom for being so tough and driven, for caring more about her career than me, for leaving my senior year to go to England. I need to let that go.
“Abby,” Dad says. “I love you. It would mean so much if you could forgive me.”
I see a tear sliding down his cheek. “Yes, Daddy, I forgive you. I love you too.”
The ghost of my father steps close and wraps his arms around me. He does not feel like a ghost at all, but a solid, living man—the one I’ve loved and missed for so long.
I clutch him, shaking, until I lose all track of time, of who and where I am.
When awareness comes back, I’m lying on the floor in my bedroom. The candle and incense have gone out. My face is wet from crying.
In Abby’s case, meeting the ghost of her father helps her face her fears in preparation for the trials to come. And forgiving her father unblocks psychic energy to free her inner power.
Happy Halloween, Blessed Samhain, and may all your ghostly encounters be good ones.