Sunday, October 31, 2010

Samhain: When the Summer Goes

My Beautiful House Ghost Constance Chauncey
Previously Incarnated as
Victorine of 814 and Priscilla of Pine

In The Book of the Year: A Brief History of our Seasonal Holidays, author and anthropologist Athony Aveni writes that "Halloween is the modern day version of Celtic Samhain, literally when the summer goes" (127). What a lovely translation! -- "When the summer goes." How perfectly those words capture the tone of All Hallows, All Saints, All Souls, and all the time-honored festive customs that have become our collective psyche's way of tuning into the cosmos, turning with the sun, bidding farewell to the summer, and greeting the Wiccan New Year (called Samhain, pronounced "sow - en).


Just last week, in connection with the ginkgo light (click or scroll down), I was quoting from one of the best children's Halloween books ever -- The Witch Family -- a clever little story of two clever little girls, Amy and Clarissa, whose drawings can shape the reality of their choosing. If they want the Halloween sky to look a certain way, well, then, they just draw it that way! If they want to befriend Little Witch Girl and fly wildly through the sky with Old Witch on Halloween night, they just insert themselves into that picture, and away they go!

Here are a couple more favorite Halloween passages from The Witch Family by Eleanor Estes:

"Amy sat back and thought, 'Yes,' she said. 'It has to be dark, very dark. And the sky must be the Halloween sky. And the moon must be the Halloween moon. And the clouds, the Halloween clouds. Everything will be scary and spooky and windy "' (137).

"Halloween shadows played upon the walls of the houses. In the sky the Halloween moon raced in and out of clouds. The Halloween wind was blowing, not a blasting of wind but a right-sized swelling, falling, and gushing of wind. It was a lovely and exciting night, exactly the kind of night Halloween should be. Amy's rapture was complete. She looked up at the sky" (144).

"What a Halloween it had been! How could she wait a whole year for the next one?" (177).

Or, as Barry Manilow sings:

"Oh how I hate to see October go . . .
It doesn't matter much
How old I grow
I hate to see October go"

(nice slide show).

Also by Anthony Aveni, Stairways to the Stars: Skywatching in Three Great Ancient Cultures [Stonehenge, Mayas, Incas], recommended by a tour guide on one of the bus trips I took on the Yucatan Peninsula a few years ago.

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