Saturday, October 29, 2016

Samhain celebration

I remember from my schooldays Washington Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Somehow, though, I never thought to wonder about the origin of Jack O'Lanterns. I may have been told the story by one or more of my Irish relatives, which would explain my subsequent lack of curiosity. If so, it was long enough ago that I heard about Jack that I've forgotten both the original hearing and the story itself.

Jack O'Lanterns lit
Jack O'Lanterns lit
Photo by J. Harrington

Does anyone bob for apples anymore? I know caramel apples are still around. The history of Halloween as I knew it didn't go back as far as it could or should, nor did I ever associate Halloween with future events. Once again I've been caught on the "It's not what we don't know that gets us in trouble..." hook. I thought I knew the "important stuff" about Halloween when I could carve a pumpkin myself, go trick or treating myself, and decide for myself how quickly to eat my treats. I missed much of the history and community aspects.

Trick? or Treat?
Trick? or Treat?
Photo by J. Harrington
Where I grew up, Boston and its suburbs, there were few out houses to tip over. The tricks usually involved soaping windows or mischievous door-bell ringing and, sometimes, TP'ing. As more of us become more aware of our food sources and the seasons of the year through urban agriculture, community supported agriculture and the like, I wonder if we'll also start to return to the natural origins of many of our holidays. That could be another way to build the community spirit we all so desperately need.

Samhain


By Annie Finch


(The Celtic Halloween) 
In the season leaves should love,
since it gives them leave to move
through the wind, towards the ground
they were watching while they hung,
legend says there is a seam
stitching darkness like a name.

Now when dying grasses veil
earth from the sky in one last pale
wave, as autumn dies to bring
winter back, and then the spring,
we who die ourselves can peel
back another kind of veil

that hangs among us like thick smoke.
Tonight at last I feel it shake.
I feel the nights stretching away
thousands long behind the days
till they reach the darkness where
all of me is ancestor.

I move my hand and feel a touch
move with me, and when I brush
my own mind across another,
I am with my mother's mother.
Sure as footsteps in my waiting
self, I find her, and she brings

arms that carry answers for me,
intimate, a waiting bounty.
"Carry me." She leaves this trail
through a shudder of the veil,
and leaves, like amber where she stays,
a gift for her perpetual gaze.


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