Textual Arachne

A weaver of threads.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What we are given; What we give

Samhain sometimes strikes me as pre-emptive melancholy. The sky is still blue, the leaves are glorious bundles of flame, there's no frost yet, why are we talking and thinking about death? Why are we not still harvesting and laughing, tossing pumpkin guts at each other and preparing pies by the dozen? Why do we celebrate this now, and not at Midwinter?

Because the holidays are heralds, not immersions.

At Midwinter there is still much winter left; we need to know that the return of light is heralded. At Lammas we're not harvesting just yet, there's more to be brought in. At Beltane, spring has only barely begun (especially in the Northeast, where we might have adventurous daffodils, but the last frost might come that night).

The month of dying isn't October, it's November, whose cold grey skies will preside over the disappearance of green and gold. And Samhain heralds this.

Every holiday brings a gift, and every holiday calls a gift from us. In Samhain we are given death.

Not our immediate, physical deaths, but our limitation and finite nature; the knowledge that we will die, that all things will die, that all things decay. That we are incomplete, and our works are incomplete, and will not last. We don't want it--not in the pale form of 'knowledge of death', and certainly not the actual fact of dying. But it is a gift as surely as life itself. Samhain brings this gift to us, the awareness of our mortality, of the loss of those we've loved, of the tomb of all our hopes, and thus it heralds the dying of the year.

But we also have a gift in return. Out of that very finitude, out of that same impermanent life, we give our refusal to be content with limitations. We give our striving and yearning for something beyond death back to Samhain. In our memories and calls to those who have passed on, in our ghouls and ghosts carrying Skittles and Tootsie Pops from house to house, in our stubborn building and rebuilding of works that will decay, in constantly aiming for the things that will last beyond the moment, we make this gift, and give it to the turning year.


At 4:04 PM, Blogger rbarenblat said...

This is lovely. I really like the idea of Pagan festivals as heralds of the seasons to come. We're on the cusp of November; we celebrate now what is coming.

And I like your idea that impermanence gives rise both to the dying of the year, and to our refusal to be content with limitations.

At 9:11 PM, Blogger Erik said...

I just read this out to my wife, and spontaneously ended with "That's *cool*!" I agree with Rachel - you've just cast a whole new light on some things for me. Thank you!


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