The urban druid looks around and realizes she has something new to confess.
If I had any reliable pagan cred, I would hesitate to say what I’m about to say because it would endanger said cred, seriously. But having been Anglican/Buddhist/Neopagan/too creative for religion/a Trekkie humanist, I might as well confess it:
I’m not a fan of Halloween.
I hear so many pagans, from many different traditions, say that this is their absolute favorite time of year. I hear them gush about the way they’ve decorated–and then when I get offline, I walk around my neighborhood and see how enthusiastically folks who go to the Presbyterian church or the Episcopal church or the nice synagogue that moved out to the suburbs have decorated. I live just a few blocks from a fine arts college, and the pumpkinification can be fierce in my neighborhood. I even saw a pumpkin inscribed with the name of the carver’s choice for President next Tuesday.
I love autumn and autumn weather. I love to watch the leaves turn color, and to collect horse chestnuts, honey locust seed-pods, and osage-oranges, all of which populate my streets this time of year. I like feeling the humidity fade away, having dinner while the sun sets, and buying new bedroom slippers to keep my feet warm.
I also think much of the ancestors this time of year. My mother died in late November, over twenty years ago now, but I think of her, and of our still tangled relationship, of my husband’s father, who passed just last year, of many who are gone. I am often involved in Eucharists for All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day and have sung my share of Requiem Masses, both for those I knew well and those I hardly knew at all. This coming Monday, I will be singing a splendid contemporary Requiem based on traditional Irish music, composed by a friend of mine. In my own peculiar Anglican Druid way, I will be opening and closing the gates for those who have passed beyond, welcoming them to visit and reassuring them they are loved.
But the spooky, scary, witchy aspect of Halloween plays very little part in my celebrations. My decorations consist of a small pumpkin and some smaller gourds, leaves and pods brought in from outdoors, a bundle of “Indian corn” my husband bought. I will burn a candle for the dead, starting tomorrow before sundown. I plan to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and some other seasonal children’s fare, and through the month of November I’ll probably indulge as much in horror movies as I ever do, favoring things that are heavy on suspense and ambiguity and light on gore.
I won’t string up lights in the shape of jack o’lanterns or prop up scarecrow-like figures at my windows. (I don’t want to scare the starlings, or my pet birds, for that matter.) I won’t paste up creepy cutouts of bats and zombies or hang black and orange crepe paper streamers. I won’t wear a costume to work (which would probably be tolerated, if I chose to do so). Living in a third-floor apartment, we don’t buy treats and we don’t answer the door on All Hallows’ Eve; in fact, we probably won’t even be home.
But my candle will burn in the dark, and my memories will burn in my thoughts. My parents and grandparents, my great-aunts M. and A., my music teacher M.H., my husband’s father, and others will be in my thoughts and prayers, and with the old words and new music, we will open the doors for them at this turning of the wheel.
Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna,
in die illa tremenda,
quando coeli movendi sunt et terra.
Dum venerit judicare saeculum per ignem.
Tremens factus sum ego, et timeo,
dum discussio venerit atque ventura ira.
Dies illa, dies irae, calamitatis et misariae,
dies magna et amara valde.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Deliver me, Lord, from death eternal
in that tremendous day
when the heavens and the earth shall be moved
and thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.
I am trembling and afraid
as I await the day of reckoning and the wrath to come.
That day, day of wrath, of calamity and misery,
a great and intensely bitter day.
Rest eternal grant unto them, Lord,
and let light perpetual shine upon them.
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