Friday, November 12, 2010

All Hallowed Eve. The important festival at the beginning of winter

This autumn festival is the one time of year when we put aside our civilized veneer and step into an ancient European mind set. The night of witches and goblins and visits of the dead. Remarkable in our modern world, and yet obviously necessary or people would not go to such trouble. What was not so long ago simply a children`s dress-up evening is now full of adults in full Halloween garb. Scary, when you think about it, but perhaps as we all become more domesticated in our normal lives we need more extreme expressions of wildness and this old Celtic festival provides for that.

At the end of a dark rainy trail through the woods, lit fitfully by jack-o-lanterns and populated by ghouls and goblins that scream and grab at us as we pass, (with our little grandchildren in tow, this must be worth a few nightmares at least), is a bright bonfire with crowds of costumed lost souls drinking hot chocolate to fortify their ephemeral bodies against the Autumn chill. Leaves blow past with the raindrops, the flames flicker and sparks fly in the smoke.

In this little Vancouver Island community of Errington a lot of folks have worked hard to organize this yearly event and, judging from the many cars and people, many more have arrived to participate in it. This may be a clue to the popularity of this modern Halloween and of the original festivals held at the beginning of winter in Europe long ago. Before the darkness, cold, and snow arrives, before the ice demons stick their frozen fingers into us, our communities come together, gather around a big fire and prance around in the guise of those demons that inhabit hot places. One really good night of heat and light and banshee wails should last us until the midwinter festival when the nights will have already begun to shorten and the sun`s warmth is promised to return.

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