Thursday, October 27, 2011


You know what I mean.  Too much plastic crap, too much plastic crap, and oh yea, too much plastic crap. 

I’m not so much into it—the Jason-esque amputated limb in plastic chains, blood and guts kind of day.  If I’m going to bother to celebrate it, I more prefer a holiday with some real guts.  Some meaningful spiritual historical guts.   Earthy guts. 

What the heck does that mean? 

It means I want to know what I’m celebrating.  Many holidays find their origins in the cycles of the earth, and Halloween is no different.  It was traditionally a day when people believed that the veil between the living and dead stretched thin, allowing the dead to haunt the living.  Treats were left out to pacify evil spirits (origins of trick or treating).  Fearful people carried candles in gourds to ward off lingering souls (the origin of the jack-o-lantern).  

It’s no wonder this day focused on death.  The date marked the end of the Celtic calendar and the end of the harvest.  Life-giving plants withered and died, the leaves, strangled for chlorophyll, lost their green and fell to the ground. 

What of the people who depended on those plants for sustenance?  They must have seen these natural deaths as both a symbolic and a literal foreboding not only of the long winter ahead, but of their own mortality.  I suppose then, that it wasn’t unreasonable for people to let their imaginations run away with the worry that an occasional ghoul, or goblin or even a dead ancestor might come out to snatch them up in the “spirit” of the season!

Of course, I don’t believe in evil spirits, but if we’re going to pretend, I think the idea that one might curl its ghostly fingers around my soul is much creepier than the idea that a guy in a hockey mask might chop me up into bite-sized pieces.  After all, we’ll all meet our deaths eventually—and that’s what’s at the root of this, right? 

The more than vast majority of us will never meet Jason along the way. 

So what’s to celebrate in this? – our inevitable demise?  

Well, there’s always the element of fun in being afraid. In a sense, we mock death by dressing in silly or scary costumes, and ironically, we eat enough candy to kill us. 

In case you’re truly in the dumps about your mortality, the season pacifies us by answering death’s call with an extraordinary show, turning out the warm and comforting brilliances of red, yellow and orange in landscapes of magnificent proportion. 

Didn’t the trees get the word? 

And if the colors aren’t enough to cheer us, an incessant breeze lifts us, the crisp air invigorates us, warm food traditions of soup and chili assure us. 

These changes create a natural rhythm of life that includes death.  The beauty of fall and the fun of Halloween help us observe, accept and even celebrate that cycle. 

So, instead of a commercialized Shalloween, complete with Hollywood inspired gore and petroleum filled plastic decorations (that could never thump like a good squash), we fill our house with colorful gourds (to set the mood), eatable pumpkins (for soup, bread and freezing), drying herbs from the garden (to flavor the long winter), spooky ghosts and jack-o-lanterns (a nod to the wayward spirit).  We make chili.  And yes, we trick-or-treat. 

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