Monday, October 31, 2016

My Samhain

Hallowe'en is from Samhain, the Celtic pagan holiday that commemorated the dark half of the year. On October 31st, the veil between the living and the dead was weak, the living could visit the dead and the dead could visit the living The original jack o'lanterns were turnips in Ireland to ward off the less savoury dead characters, the troublesome ghosts and demons. And  trick or treating is from mumming, when villagers would dress as the demons and the less savoury dead, and get treats in exchange for leaving homeowners in peace. Trick or treat: children echoing ancients pretending to be demons.

I have my dead on this Samhain, but my Samhain is Halloween, it's Timewarp, and Snickers bars. My Samhain is hitting Sixth Street even though I lived on Fourth to get as much candy as possible. Tonight my daughter was invited to a White Party at a church because some people now think that the demons may be knocking, but I invited her to come trick-or-treating instead, to walk in darkness and befriend the demons.  The anarchy of walking in the dark and knocking on stranger's doors, the homespun panic of putting up braids so that Princess Buttercup was just right, the using up of my best eyeliner on cat whiskers and bat noses, that is my Samhain. I honoured my dead with the chaos of Ghostbusters and doorbells and tails falling off seven-year-old cats. I gave myself over to the ritual I knew and went deep. I smelled leaves and watched toddlers hustling for Maltesers and immersed myself in this thin moment.

I don't know where the dead are. I know they can't be  ignored. I know there is no point in a white party that pretends the darkness isn't there. It is there. I made my peace with the darkness tonight with small Mars bars and streetlights and individual packets of Haribos. It is enough. Goodnight, my dead. Goodnight Nick. Goodnight Francesca. Goodnight Mark. Goodnight Taid. If the veil was thin enough, I would have offered you a drink and invited you along. I would have given you Twix and M&Ms not to leave but to stay. I would have handed them out of my £5.99 plastic cauldron. I would have been grateful for Samhain.