This weekend of the beginning of November, All Souls Day, Halloween, is one which celebrates one of the great yearly cycles of nature. It falls on one of the cross quarter days marking the seasonal interplay between light and dark, and this cyclical interplay has a special resonance in communities across Scandinavia, while All Souls Day and Halloween are very ancient traditions in Ireland.
Lodyn exists to¨ facilitate the ongoing shift to life enhancing and life sustaining communities¨, and ¨ to connect to the cycles of nature¨, and I reflected on these aims during the weekend celebrations. The last posting closed with the sound of¨ footsteps from the future¨, and these phrases have now arisen as November themes in my community in southern Stockholm. As I consider what is happening in nature right now, and how we humans are responding, I would like to include the level of the self and the senses, and those of time and spirit, in relation to deepening human- nature relationships.
Out here the chestnut leaves have fallen last, harvesting is finished on the allotments, and fallen fruit is now composting. The energy of breakdown and destruction has entered the plant kingdom. One senses the life force withdrawing from vegetation, even though temperatures are mild. Owing to this mildness some growth persists, though this may change any day.
We humans return to ¨winter time¨. Neighbors complain of tiredness as they slowly adapt their inner circadian rhythm. When we enter the dark half of the year, daylight hours shorten rapidly, and attention turns to an inner process of letting go, dying, and remembrance of ancestors. This is especially true for relatives of the recently deceased, and those who faced death during the past year while enduring illness in themselves or a loved one. If we allow ourselves the time to attune to our inner biorhythm and to resonate, we may ease out of the angst associated with entering the dark, beginning instead to secure and root ourselves for winter preparations.
The import of Halloween has culturally impacted Stockholm these past years, as commercially touted scary monsters almost eclipse the deeper layers of meaning gleaned from reflecting upon the ebb phase of the yearly cycle. Our older children organized a ghost tours around the garden for smaller kids, who screamed with joy and fear. Their parents visited Skogskyrkogården, to light candles on the graves of their ancestors. Apparently many older people feel that these two aspects of celebration are not in harmony and respectful of each other, while in the Irish festival both aspects were present, in both the pre and post Christian eras.
Integration of ancient and modern approaches occurs in a women’s circle, sitting in the forest storytelling by firelight, while sharing a process oriented space of remembering and reclaiming. Participants seek inner transition by working towards adaptation of ingrained and inherited behavioral patterns, and by opening to a transformative space that is continuously evolving as each one shares her story. There is relief and laughter as suppressed sorrows are shared insights gained, and tears shed.
In ancient Irish tradition, a knowledge paradigm of its own, many dimensions of being were acknowledged, as was the coexistence of different worlds and layers of human consciousness which had evolved in response to these worlds. All elements of matter were viewed as being interconnected and relations between the various life forms were both social and spiritual in kind. Cultural practice reflected and evoked this interwoven multifaceted world, much as it does today for earth centered peoples, this was attested to by the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers who visited Stockholm this summer, inspiring the formation of the woman’ circle.
The Celtic feast was a time when the veil between the worlds became thin, thus enabling contact, especially between this world and ¨the next¨. The year passed into the care of the Hag of Winter, or Wise Elder. Supernatural creatures roamed abroad, and elaborate measures were employed to protect the household, and to ward off evil. Via emigration to the U.S, these aspects have undergone a renaissance in the ¨ cultural melting pot¨, becoming amalgamated with the English tradition of hunting for soul cakes and morphing into ¨ trick or treating¨ as fancy dressed monsters. The hag of winter became a witch figure, while the ¨hosts of the air¨, denizens of the invisible world coexistent with the earthly visible landscape, morphed into fantasy figures who mock the existence of the invisible world from a secular perspective.This hybrid arrived here borne on the wings of commerce, all dressed up and ready to party, and to frighten away nameless fears while encouraging fantasies of horror at ¨what lies beyond the veil¨.
Few are willing to actually sit and sense through the thinness and to commune with the souls of their own dead ancestors, for this is a society where the existence of soul is in question, and where there is only now, and this material world we see before us. Halloween was created in a time where¨ the now¨ contained both the past and the present in a continuum, and the annual thinning of the veil allowed openess to this continuum in a culturally sanctioned manner.
Why dwell upon dimensions beyond the plastic fantastic? It seems important to reclaim meaning obscured by commercial overlay, by engaging in deeper questions of the challenges in sustaining community over generations. The overarching goal of sustainable development, that of¨ handing over the earth intact to generations to come¨, may be hard to reach without genuine opportunity for listening forward and backward along our bloodlines. Perhaps we do fear such whispers, as we fear death itself.
As 2013 ends, and in shaping a future life connected to nature, by daring to open to processes involved in honoring death and returning to spirit, a true shift in perspective can occur. Such a shift would be life affirming for all working for sustainable human communities based on social justice, reconnection to the biosphere, and intergenerational equity.
We have only NOW to act, for those who have gone before, and those who are to come, those whose ¨footsteps from the future¨ echo beyond the veil. A little bird told me that they were us!