Halloween, Thresholds and a Liminal Year
In-between places. Liminal spaces….. 2020, for many of us, is one long year of being ‘on hold’.
No longer in the ‘what was’ of our old lives, but not yet able to begin the ‘what will be’ of whatever the future looks like when the threat of coronavirus has passed. Somewhere in the middle – trying to carry on remnants of our lives, but often with a strange sense of ‘waiting’… as though we’re treading water doing an imitation of our old lives until the new season comes and we can begin the next version, whatever that looks like. It’s all very…. ‘In-between’.
We’re used to waiting and in-between moments when it comes to less-important matters than our entire lives, of course. Airports and waiting-rooms are good ‘minor’ examples of leaving one place and waiting for the ‘not yet’. Meanwhile pregnancy and wedding-engagements are far more significant events, but again – they fit within our understood pattern of life. The changing seasons create a beautiful yearly rhythm of leaving-and-arrivalif we pay attention, and I’m wondering if one of these can focus our minds a little this week.
Halloween, All Hallows Eve, All Souls Day, All Saints Day, the Gaelic festival Samhain… all of these all located around the time of the year when Autumn passes into Winter. As we say farewell to the last of the golden leaves from the trees and watch as the world slips slowly into the darkness of the next few months… bare branches waving across the sky and the ground cold and hard underfoot. Over the next few days this change will happen, as October becomes November, and so we pass – traditionally – a liminal space, a time where the boundary between this world and the ‘otherworld’ grew thinner and could be crossed, a time to remember and honour the dead. Pagan, Gaelic and other communiites were in an in-between time, and made sense of it through rituals together.
Of course, customs have changed and traditions have evolved significantly, and I hope that whatever you’re doing to mark your Halloween weekend it will be fun (and naturally tier 3 appropriate!) However, the similarity between traditional communities and ours remains that in the liminal, in-between times there are somethings we can do to help ourselves mark time in an otherwise weird and confusing world…
First, look to the outside world. In our ever-lit world-on-hold, life out there keeps changing. Leaves are crisping and curling. The colours are fading and seeping into the milky skies and watercolour blues and greys of winter.
Second, be with your people. Those ancient communities, marking the end of harvest and waiting for the winter to come, didn’t do it alone. Likewise, when things are hard – or even when they’re just really strange, as waiting often is – it might help us to be with people who see us and hear us. Find a place where you can find these people.
Lastly, create rituals. Yes – there are witches hats to wear, and soon the skies will light with dynamite jewels to remember Guy Fawkes, but maybe you could create a ritual of your own? Something that says ‘I was here in in-between’. The Celtic poet John O’Donoghue spoke about ‘blessing’ the limininal space – or drawing a circle of light, love and protection around it. I wonder if we could even go that far with our rituals…? Not rushing to move onto the ‘what comes next’ but accepting the ‘what is’…?
I wonder if it’s true? I wonder if there is a ‘thin’ time this Saturday between this world and the otherworld….? If so, I wonder what the souls from the otherworld will make of our strange and in-between world right now? However, you pass this threshold on Saturday – and I’ll be spending mine as a Witches cat making toffee-apple cookies – let’s send a circle of light, love and protection around us and all those we love through this liminal year.