Hallowe’en: a moveable feast
I say a moveable feast, not that it moves from day to day–it’s always October 31–but that its meaning changes.
I had a conversation this morning with my pharmacist about this, a man a little younger than my venerable self, probably retired and subbing at my pharmacy. We talked about what Hallowe’en was like when we were kids. His big memory, apart from trick-or-treating, was that it was a day to carry UNICEF boxes and collect money for the poor children of the world, of which of course we had very little understanding. He also said he didn’t like the macabre dimensions of Hallowe’en as presented in the skeleton and witch costumes. I debated whether I should tell him about how Hallowe’en was originally All Hallows’ Eve, the eve of All saints day; and that it was a day for Christian folk to poke fun at the evil spirits of whom, because of the resurrection of Jesus and the prayers of the saints, they were in no need to be afraid. You will be glad to know that I restrained myself–TMI. I paid my bill and departed in peace.
Then this afternoon I read the Oct 31 reading in a wonderful book, one I read every day: The Long View–An Elderwoman’s Book of Wisdom (Kelowna, BC: Northstone, 2011). Why “elderwoman”? Why not “elderman” (note the similarity to the now increasingly obsolete “alderman”)? Because no man hath yet written it, I presume.
Anyway, it’s a great book. The author, Donna Sinclair, is a retired journalist, and an active member of the United Church of Canada. Her reflections are quirky, sassy, pertinent, provocative, sometimes profound. I look forward every day to reading what she has to say. And here’s what she had to say about today, Hallowe’en, in poetic form.
God of little children wearing masks / Remind me of the masks I wear each day. / Help me know that I am not my costume, not my role.
God of little children dressed as ghosts / Remind me of the Holy Ghost you are. Help me know your Spirit as my guide.
God of the small costumed child, witch, devil, vampire, cowboy, princess … / Teach me to fear no thing within my soul. / Help me bring all darkness into light.
I am your faithful pagan, Mother-Father God, / Your faithful child who loves your sacred earth. / I trust in you. / Amen.
I’m sure you noted the word “pagan.” Originally it just meant “rural” (as opposed to “urban”), someone who lived in the countryside, and therefore could be assumed to have a close relationship with and reverence for the earth. I am sure that in her sassy way, she used that word to indicate that it didn’t need to be a contradiction to her identity as a Christian. In fact, I sometimes say to myself (and occasionally to trusted others!) that I am a Christian-Jewish-Unitarian-Pagan. I don’t mean by this that I am lacking in respect for the fact that my pension comes in via the Anglican Church of Canada. I mean something similar to what Gandhi said when he told people he was a Hindu-Muslim-Jewish-Christian. Again, there was no doubt that he was a Hindu, but a Hindu with an appreciation for traditions other than his own tradition of origin. Here he was akin to whatever Thomas Merton meant when he said he was “a Jew under his Catholic skin.”
So with all these provisos, qualifications and nuances, a happy Hallow’en to all!