If 2017 has taught me anything so far, it’s this: anytime you need a new beginning there’s a deep, spiritual anchor right around the corner. My personal new beginning was Easter Morning this year, preceded by an intense observance of the Lenten Fast and daily communion with God about my future. For some close to me it was the recently passed Yom Kippur, preceded by 40 days of intensive care. For even others, it’s tonight. Samhain. This is the end of the harvest, the grand conclusion of the growing cycle. We thank the Earth for her yield, gather the plough shares, and hunker down for the winter. It’s a time to recognize loss, to prepare for an unknown future, but to remain hopeful that Spring will eventually come.
Halloween didn’t mean much to me until three years ago, when I hopped on a flight to Mexico City and met up with my cousin and his friends teaching English for the semester. We spent two days in Mexico City, then spent the rest of the trip out in more traditional areas. From the massive, multi-story ofrenda in the middle of CDMX’s Zócalo to the highly stylized and often political artist’s ofrenda contest, to the rural families sleeping at loved ones’ gravesites… the entire country seemed in a complex state of mourning and celebration. I’d never felt anything quite like it, nor since.
Since then, I’ve attempted to infuse some ritual back into Halloween. Don’t get me wrong, I'll definitely binge on Reese's Peanut Butter Cups tonight… but after the jack-o-lanterns burn low, the last of the little kids are tucked in, and even the teenagers have gone off to some party, I’ll be taking a pause to offer the following prayer:
Tonight is the first of three nights, on which we celebrate Samhain.
It is the end of the harvest, the last days of summer, and the cold nights wait on the other side for us.
The bounty of our labor, the abundance of the harvest, the success of the hunt, all lies before us.
We thank the earth for all it has given us this season, and yet we look forward to winter, a time of sacred darkness.
Summer is gone, winter is coming.
We have planted and we have watched the garden grow, we have weeded,and we have gathered the harvest.
Now it is at its end.*
*Wigington, Patti. "Ritual Honoring the Harvest's End." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/ritual-honoring-the-harvests-end-2562701 (accessed November 1, 2017).