Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Today is Halloween, the Eve of All Hallows, the evening before the Christian Feast of All Saints. It has become a mish-mash of many contrasting and competing ceremonies dating all the way back to the pre-Christian eras, but all surrounding beliefs in life after death. In some, the souls come back asking for prayers and, often, food. In others, evil spirits descend to the earth seeking to harm the living. In others dead relatives come back to offer advice or warnings. In yet others the living dress in costumes to a) fool the dead spirits into leaving them alone or b) fool other living people into giving them food or money. And there are lots of curious customs, such as telling scary stories by candle light, and doing divination (for example, peeling an apple in one long spiral then dropping it over a shoulder where it will form itself into the initial of a future true love), or visiting cemeteries to leave food for deceased ancestors, or going trick or treating. And that’s just skimming the surface of a thousand examples. It’s a brief time when a great many people believe this world and the next come so close there is a chance for one to get a glimpse of the other. Do you believe in ghosts? I’ve had a couple of ghostly experiences, so yes, I do. But I don’t think ghosts can harm me. I will drink a glass of cider, light the jack-o-lantern, have a pleasant shiver or two, and be glad to wake tomorrow safe in my own bed.
And wouldn't it be interesting to write a story about what Halloween might look like to the denizens of the other world? All those warm, fleshy, ignorant, pushy people poking and prying . . .