How is it November 1st already?
The official start of winter. In pagan times, people marked it with the Samhain festival. A time to welcome in the harvest and usher in the darker half of the year with gratitude.
At Samhain, the division between the two worlds, of light and dark was at its thinnest. The veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was penetrable. We welcomed our ancestors back into the fold and harmful spirits were warded off. Costumes kept the bad spirits away. Bonfires were lit and the bones of livestock were cast into this communal fire too. This was a time to clear your home, to make space for the energy of the long winter ahead.
Today, November 1st is All Saints Day and tomorrow is All Souls. As Christianity overtook Celtic traditions, there was a continuity in respect for the dead. We still light candles in our homes and churches, to remember those who have gone. The flickering flame of a candle, reminding us of the fragility and power of light and life.
Celebrations around the World
Tomorrow, November 2nd is also Día de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead across Latin America It is a day of celebration where people show love and respect for deceased family members. It is a day of celebrating, not mourning. In two weeks’ time, the Hindu festival, Diwali falls. This occurs between mid-October and mid-November. Diwali is the Indian festival of lights and lasts for five days. It celebrates the conclusion of the summer harvest. And it symbolises the spiritual victory of light over dark, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. It is associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity.
Dancing with Sainthood
When I was eight years old, I had a book about female saints. I obsessed over it, reading it constantly. Amazed by the feats of these women, I decided that I too wanted to be a saint. I was certain that an exception could be made. I wouldn’t need to join a convent or be a nun. I’d live a life exciting enough to be called a living saint. My Granny used to bring me to visit her cousin, a nun, in a convent. The building was silent and the air felt heavy. My eyes were rarely met even though I’d do my best to get into the downcast gaze of these women. As I coloured on a page while Granny and her cousin had tea, I felt a palpable sadness in the room. So much unsaid. I knew that a monastic life wouldn’t suit me so I shelved the idea of living sainthood. Six years later, I’d stop going to mass.
In my twenties, I did rediscover a sense of spirituality, which has deepened in recent years. I loved reading about celebrations like Samhain, Day of the Dead, and Diwali. Wherever I travelled, I visited religious buildings, mosques and temples. I wish I had learned about the philosophy of religion when I was younger. Learned the stories from a perspective where they were life lessons to help me live better. Instead, I felt at the mercy of the prayers I had to recite by heart. I felt shame where I should have felt hope.
Spirituality for me comes when I look up at the night sky and sense the power of all that is above me. It is when I notice the pattern on a fern. I find steadiness through meditation and mindfulness. This gives me space to question the stories and lessons I have taken with me from my past. It gives me a buffer from absorbing the deluge of bad news and reconceptualise it for myself. It reminds me to Be Here Now.
The Golden Rule
Spiritual teachers and philosophers I admire reference the Bible, the Vedas, Buddhist scriptures, the Stoics, and poetry when conveying lessons. And my interpretation of that is that our personal power is our human spirit. The Golden Rule – Treat Others as You want to be Treated – underlies many religions and tribal cultures. This reminder on how to approach this one life we have instills a sense of community. A reminder that we are nothing without each other.
As we begin this long winter, reach out to others, remind them that they are not alone. This might remind you that the world has more good than bad, more love than hate, and light even in these dark moments.
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