Masks are everywhere these days... and not just because Halloween is just around the corner. Sometimes we don't even realize the masks that we've been wearing -- the patterns and themes and synchronicities that have been lurking behind the mask of random chance in our lives -- until someone else points them out to us. That's sort of what happened to me when, by sheer coincidence (or was it?), a curiously thematic bunch of my poems all were accepted for publication during the month of October.
Pagans like to say, "What is remembered, lives." Memory is re-membering, the act of giving life to the past through rituals of witness.
Some modern Druids and Celtic polytheists celebrate Samhain on the day of the first frost. And so the first morning in autumn that I wake up to find the land crisp with crystallized mist clinging to each blade of grass, edging each fallen leaf... that is a sacred morning.
I'm usually somewhat solemn around this time of year, sitting quietly at my desk listening to the quiet rain and even quieter fog outside my window, enjoying the damp quiet day in my own little way as my not-at-all-damp-thank-you cat quietly looks on.... But not this year. This year, something's gotten into me. A bit of trickster spirit, maybe. A bit of fire. Since March, which is when Sir Terry Pratchett died, a part of me has become really, really angry. Another part of me can't stop praying.
A couple years ago I wrote 7 Ways to Enjoy a Sex-Free Beltane, in honor of all those single and/or disinterested folks out there who were looking to celebrate the reason for the season without necessarily having to "get down," "jump on it" or "funk it up." Weirdly, that post did not become the runaway viral sensation I was anticipating. This year, though, things will be different. If there's one thing people like more than having sex, it's avoiding death and thoughts thereof...
It's not the idealists that bother me. I like idealists. The world desperately needs idealists...
In my last post, "Honor for the Dead," I mentioned that this year as part of our family Samhain celebration, we crafted prayer bead bracelets to help us connect more deeply with our ancestors. A bunch of you have asked for more details on how to make prayer beads of your own, so I put together this handy-dandy step-by-step tutorial. Let's do some magic!
There is always pressure to either romanticize or demonize the past. As it recedes into the distance of memory, its complexities are all too easily lost in the mists. The veils of time fall across our vision and we glimpse only vague impressions of a landscape, a culture, a handful of faces on the edge of our perception that seem to change and fade when we turn to look again. What does it mean to part this veil, to honor the ancestors?
Why should our communion with the beloved dead depend on the coincidental turning of the Earth on its axis? Why should we not always be in touch with those who have crossed the threshold, in touch with our own mortality and death? One might as well ask why the angle of the sun should sometimes grace the crocuses and wet new buds of spring and at other times drop down heavy and hot into the deepest reaches of summer lakes, why childhood should burst with curiosity and buzzing movement and adulthood settle into the long, gentle pull of days one after another beneath a bright, cool sky. The truth is, I suspect, that there is no Other-world. That we live in this one world, together with the dead and the long-departed, drinking in the same gulps of breath as they once drank.