Halloween. The word conjures images of caramel apples, jack-o’-lanterns, costumes, and of course all things “spooky.” This is one of those holidays that, try as the Catholic church may have, it never could separate from its Pagan roots. Another name for Halloween is Samhain—usually pronounced “sow-iyn”—and, for many folks who identify as Pagan, like witches and Wiccans, it’s one of the holiest days of the year. And while today’s version may seem all fun and games, behind the masks and piles of candy lie serious traditions paying homage to the forces of life and death.
For ancient people all over the Northern Hemisphere, the waning of the sun’s energy in mid-autumn heralded the end of the bright, warm, abundant part of the year. Most plants and animals stop producing offspring; the days grow shorter, the nights longer. Then rain and snows come, so some peoples refer to this time as “The Feast of the Snow Witch.” It was normal to see not only the land but members of your family and community, as well as livestock, die off during winter. Ancient people struggled with ways to ensure their safety and health through these long months, calling on ancestors to lend their wisdom and foresight as people peered into the
This “shutting down” of Earth was considered the primordial face of Chaos rising and assuming reign over a portion of the year. It was thought the “veil between the worlds” was thinner—the spirits of the dead would walk the earth. In other words, everything was going wrong, backwards, upside down. Even the gods weren’t immune to this disorder, and many of the great underworld journey myths take place at this time of year: The Greek goddess Kore/Persephone journeys to Hades; the Assyrian goddess Ishtar makes her descent; the Egyptian god Osiris is killed by his brother, Set, and resurrected by the great goddess Isis.
One way people observed this was to dress up and wear masks—a practice that goes back at least to ancient Greece—as a way to trick the dead souls and demons that wandered Earth. People hoped that by blending in with the devils, they would be overlooked and spared misfortune in the coming months. Masking was also used to trick one another to prepare for the chaos of winter; placation for the mischief-makers usually came as a coin or a sweet treat, hence the “Trick or Treat” of today. A house that refused to pass out treats might have ended up with piss-pots overturned on their doorsteps and the walls splattered with rotting vegetables—the modern equivalent being a good old-fashioned TP-ing.
Even the tradition of jack-o’-lanterns has a darker side. The pumpkins we carve now are a 150-year-old American addition to a much older custom. For more than 2,000 years, people in Western Europe have been carving goblin and demon faces out of turnips, rutabagas, and small gourds, tucking a light inside, and carrying them on poles or leaving them near their doorsteps to ward off the “evil spirits” floating around. But before people used turnips and gourds, it’s suspected some Pagans, like the Druids, used human heads. They believed the head was the seat of the soul, and Celtic warriors would behead the soldiers they killed and mount their heads on poles outside their village to protect their lands.
Nearly every belief system on Earth has a festival dedicated to the forces of death, chaos, and ultimately rebirth, many of them at this time of year. In Mexico, Catholics celebrate Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, when families party in graveyards with their ancestors, sprucing up the gravesites and having picnics right on them. In India, Kali Puja is dedicated to the Great Destroyer goddess, Kali. Her temples run red with the blood of animals sacrificed to ensure prosperity for all, but just days later Hindus celebrate Diwali, their massive week-long New Year’s festival, by hanging up colorful lights, eating amazing food, and shopping for new clothes.
In astrology, the sign that oversees this season is Scorpio, whose constellation is often described as moving “backwards in the sky,” and the Tarot card connected to it is Death. Both archetypes emphasize sex and death—sex in the sense of a union of opposites, namely order and discord, and death in the sense of deep personal transformation, the kind that often requires a dying-off of the old self before the new self can be reborn.
All of this—the hedonistic celebration of life, the appreciation for the abundance of the Earth, and the powerful reckoning of inevitable death and the transition of our life force into “something else”—are why many Pagans view this time of year as the Holy of Holies. Plus, we can finally wear our cool clothes.
In the modern era, most Pagans don’t have the luxury of endless foggy moors to go searching for elementals or huge tracts of land to build bonfires on. Many witches will carve pumpkins, put on costumes, hold giant, loud parties, and hand out treats to any devils who come knocking because they know to make room for love and chaos—or chaos will make its own room—but also because, as one of my sister witches, Sarah, likes to say, “Life is for the living!” But many witches will also head out to local cemeteries and tidy up graves, volunteer at senior homes, offer divination services to their communities, or hold Dumb Suppers—silent meals at which the table is dressed in black, attendees don’t speak, and a place is set for the spirits of anyone who would like to attend from beyond the veil. Pagans see the good in honoring the generations before them, the deeds and misdeeds that have added up to this moment. We are the accumulation of everything that has ever happened. This is the season of coming to terms with that sacred burden, choosing what to leave behind, and what to carry forward.
So this Halloween—sorry, Samhain—I recommend that you eat your fill of sweet treats, live it up, honor your dead, of which 2016 has provided too many, and pull a few pranks on friends and family. And then head bravely off into The Dark.
A quick lesson from one of the Weekly’s resident witches on the autumnal ‘thinning of the veil.’
I’ve been thoroughly mulling over the concept of intimacy, in preparation for this post. Not “intimacy” in a relational or even sexual sense – rather, self-intimacy. That raw, private place where we’re at our barest, forced to acknowledge our true motives and desires, where our innermost memories dwell and keep on affecting us, where we can dance with both the light and darkness in our psyche. Self-intimacy as the meter through which a mindful interaction with the world at large can be measured, and as the prerequisite for a successful, Soul-level intimacy with another human being as well.
Self-intimacy is a primal, archaic dimension of being, yet through the knowledge of this vast personal substrate, we can move beyond blind, pre-wired reactions and attain existential balance. Introspection and familiarity with our truth is essential in bringing us back to our own center, and thus, helping us establish a healthier relationships with others and with the environment. And yet, our alienation from this viscerous realm – and, therefore, from the beauty of the depth of conscious relationships – it’s an unquestionable hallmark of our postmodern era. Most of us are disconnected from our sense of intimacy with the Self, and instead engage in suppressing emotions, memories, trauma and unwanted feelings, pushing them out of conscious awareness. We do it to avoid shame, suffering, to cope with the pace set by capitalism and neoliberism (which requires relentless and robotic standards of productivity that are not to be disrupted by existential crises), to preserve the sense of safety provided by our Ego-based delusions. An avoidance that only causes the unacknowledged, unintegrated layers of our being to grow in strength, becoming more compelling, magnetic (while we, in turn, become strangers to ourselves, fragmented, unable to find satisfaction and fulfillment).
This is the realm of Scorpio, Pluto and the 8th House. Having rulership over the primal processes of birth, death and sexuality as well as psychoanalysis, unconscious layers of the mind and complex energetic currencies, Scorpio gets to bottom-line reality through penetrating inquiry of the hidden, innermost realms – a level of depth where the creative, unbridled dynamism of what is untamed constitutes a proper fertilizer for radical processes of creation, destruction and renewal. This is the territory that will be stirred by the New Moon that occurs on October 30, at 5:38 PM UTC (07°43’ Scorpio): operating at such intimate depth, this provocative New Moon can feel almost intrusive, with her enquiring, introspective invite to recoil in our innermost Universe and unpack the inhibited energy that lies there. A New Moon in itself is an energetic doorway that allows us to break ground for new cycles from within, a time for spiritual and emotional reboot.
The energy of a Scorpio New Moon is therefore the equivalent of a shortcut to our core vibration, serving the higher purpose of a soul-driven purification; it’s like a torrential cosmic flush that helps us to sanitize toxic emotional waters and shift parts of our existence that felt blocked. A confidential encounter with the Jungian shadow, and a chance to use the latter as the formless prima materia that can make us whole.
Depending on your level of self-intimacy and self-honesty, you might find this experience unsettling or challenging – even though the trine between the Sun/Moon conjunction and transcendental, compassionate Neptune ensures some degree of ease and support through the process.
The Sun and Moon also make a conjunction to Mercury, signifying that much of the healing and transformation we initiate under this New Moon will be verbalized, put into words, or generally involve speech, thinking patterns, self-talk. Profound conversations with another individual might turn out to be powerful catalysts for our healing and empowerment, allowing us to draw our power back from bad energy investments and get right with our Soul. But our inner monologue will require attention as well: whenever we speak (Mercury), our subconscious (Scorpio) is listening, so this conjunction is also to be interpreted as a clear signal that we need to carefully discern the types of communication, and thought patterns that must be purged/transformed.
Most importantly, using our intellect to tap into our instinctual inner pulse and navigate its tides is key for regaining control on our life, subtracting power to our unconscious drives. Sure, plummeting beneath the surface to explore our personal Hades requires a leap of courage – but there, we might find the most fertile soils where to plant our most treasured seeds of radical, empowering transformation.
I do not always find happiness in commitment or until death do us part — I leave when my heart is beckoned elsewhere. The need to grow and find new adventures is sometimes greater than my will to stay. Although I have given pieces of myself to others throughout my journey, my heart beats loudly against my chest — yearning for faraway places and strangers I have yet to meet.
I no longer hold on tightly with both hands — clinging with white knuckles and calloused hands to whomever or whatever sets my soul on fire — I learned that to love is to let go.
Having once confused permanence, attachment, and the fear of loss with love and passion, I learned the beauty of the ephemeral and the fleeting. To stay in a moment and revel at what is before you, without dwelling on the past or anticipating the future, is an act of beauty that is taken for granted.
There is an unhealthy tendency among the romantics to fall in love with forever — to romanticize what is to come and develop an attachment to the future. Some rush the relationship by hurrying toward the next milestone rather than savoring each day. Prior to any talk of engagement, the eager lover has planned the entire wedding on Pinterest and handpicked items for the registry at Crate and Barrel.
If the lovers part ways, the romantic is left to grieve the loss of the relationship as well as the end of forever.
Both living and loving in the future can create anxiety and unhealthy, fearful attachments that make leaving feel unbearable. In abandoning the F-word, I learned to walk away from what no longer serves me without guilt or fear. I now give myself permission to live for myself, and live freely without being responsible for the happiness of others despite future plans.
Most importantly, I found there is a way to love another while letting them go.
Love is not defined by forever or holding another hostage. Love is not unwavering devotion to a lost cause or going down with a sinking ship — love is finding someone who evokes passion in the core of your being even if for just a moment. Love is choosing to be with someone because they add purpose to an already meaningful life.
Attachment, however, is needing to be with someone because they are the only source of purpose in an otherwise unfulfilling life. The identity and future goals of one partner can become enmeshed with the other’s, causing separation to feel earth-shattering. While losing someone whom you love is challenging, losing someone whom you have an unhealthy attachment to is devastating.
One must remember that love does not always mean staying. Sometimes, love is leaving.
Throughout my journey, I have learned that the key to a healthy relationship is not eternal love, but rather learning to let go of forever. The dark-haired, blue-eyed Prince Charming who was supposed to get down on bended knee, but instead galloped away with the gorgeous, blonde Yoga teacher, decided to take a different path. Rather than chasing what could have been, appreciate what was and keep walking.
A change in direction gives one an opportunity for exploration and adventure.
In the past, I had to make the difficult decision to leave another in order to pursue happiness. I had found my Prince Charming, moved into a beautiful home, bought lavish decorations, and gave cooking a solid effort before failing miserably — but I was not happy. We spent endless hours discussing wedding plans and future vacations as we walked along a path toward marriage with our hands entwined.
Although I was content, my heart was sometimes heavy, and I exhaled in exasperation and defeat. But why?
I was living the fairy tale that I had dreamt of as a little girl: a house, a car, a career, and a man who was convinced that I was a deity when in reality, I was a deserter. And so I made the difficult decision to leave love and security for freedom. I began untangling my hand from his, and retreating from the path we paved together toward one I would walk alone.
I took a deep breath of courage, and laid to rest the white picket fence and the ring, the white dress and the family game nights. I buried the future plans alongside the guilt and regret that I felt after destroying another with promises I could not keep. I mourned what could have been and made amends to forever — and I left.
My iron heart pulled me in the direction of the unknown, and I followed without hesitation. There is a storm inside that resents comfort and stability, a chaos that must go without question when my soul calls for it. I am a wanderer, and sometimes I must travel alone.
Others whom I meet along the way are welcome to walk beside me, but only if they are able to keep pace. I have learned that I must not shorten my stride to accommodate others. I place one foot in front of the other toward happiness and peace. Others may walk along the same path for a short while, but then come to find that they have a different destination and so our journey together ends.
There is no shame in parting ways with others in your personal pursuit of happiness. I have experienced heartbreaking goodbyes and soul-shaking hellos with lovers and strangers alike. Do not commit to a path to simply follow another’s, pave your own. There is nothing romantic about sacrificing your growth or staying with the wrong person out of comfort or promises of forever.
Moreover, if your partner decides to leave in order to pursue a different path, wish them a safe journey.
To love someone does not mean to hold on in spite of unhappiness. Love is not attachment or possession, it is not a place to cloak your insecurity in the acceptance and affection of another. Most importantly, love — in and of itself — is simply not enough to live happily ever after. Sometimes, the most loving act for both yourself and others is to leave.
Monica Torres is a recovering cynic and world traveler, scouring the earth for meaning, purpose, and fine wines. You could contact her via her website, Facebook or Instagram.
Do you remember your first feelings of attraction for someone, the passion, the lust, the hunger. These feelings are often recognised when being projected towards another individual. Im inviting you to jog back to a memory when you last felt such feelings y towards yourself? Do you have one? Many people associate feelings of unfulfillment and dis-satisfaction when asked to how then truly feel about themselves. The latest self help book can be great to motivate you towards "becoming a better person" but what tools are out there facilitating us to love ourselves exactly the way we are now, to accept ourselves exactly the way we are now. I love a bit of self development as much as the next person. However it's easy to get caught in a web of constantly trying to measure up to our ego ideal in our head. Those fictional characters of the " better you". Who really isn't you at all. Who's standards are we measuring our selves up when we are striving to be this better person. Where has the drive for re-conditioning came from? The latest "Eckhart Tolle or Lousie Hay book perhaps? Our true selfs can get bogged down in all the new age self help crap until we no longer recognise the value and validity in our present self. The self that has been present from the moment you born. Self acceptance is key for growth. I for one have found myself going round in circles from not acknowledging that who and where i am right now is divine. Self acceptance and appreciation have become principles of my daily life.
This self acceptance and appreciation has assisted in removing sigmas that i never knew i had. Self acceptance and appreciated has re awakened the sensual self that always been here within me waiting to be acknowledged.