It’s October 31st today. Halloween.
I spent the weekend celebrating in a mad orgy of sex, drugs and ritual practices.
(Some of the above statements are not entirely accurate and arise more from wishful thinking than actual experience.)
I did attend two gatherings over the weekend. One was outside and involved fire. The other was indoors and involved dancing and ceremonial costumes. They were very different events yet what they shared in common is most interesting.
The first gathering on Friday evening was a Sacred Fire event. These events happen each month. Two of my friends that live locally are Firekeepers – which means that they have undertaken to light a community fire in their garden once a month. For the rest of their lives. As part of the evening, guests are invited to make offerings to the Fire – as a way of saying thank you to the Natural World and acknowledging all that it provides for us. The offerings are simple: tobacco, chocolate, tree resin, a stick. But the effects are profound. I have been to many of these Sacred Fires now and I can say without hesitation that they change things. The Fire gets things moving. It is the nature of Fire to transform. And I have come away from some Fires feeling burned – in a good way. Nothing particularly unusual goes on at the Fires. Ok, there is the ritual of making the offerings which is done in a specific ways in order to open up the space around the fire, make it special, make it sacred. But, after that, there is no specific series of actions that follows. Sometimes there are jokes. Sometimes stories. Music. Songs. Observations. Sharing. There are no drugs or alcohol involved …. but there does tend to be a lot of chocolate consumed. It’s all very gentle. Usually. But sometimes it can get pretty heavy. Sometimes people will share things around the fire that they need to deal with. The Fire and the people around the fire help them figure out how to do that.
I have met many good people around the Fires. People I now think of as friends. People who are important to me. People with whom I share. Share of myself. Of my Time. My support. My Love. Fire has, over Time, created Community.
The Fire on Friday night seemed a perfect way to celebrate Halloween.
On Saturday night I went to a Fancy Dress Party at the house of some different friends. It was a very different evening. It was all indoors. There was lots of loud music, lots of alcohol, lots of food. There was less chocolate, less talking. It was light and frivolous. There was an emphasis on appearance. People dressed up. There were no offerings. No ritual spaces opened up. It did not pretend to be sacred. It was just a bit of fun. It, too, was a great way to celebrate Halloween. Because, for me, there was much of the same stuff going on as on the night before. Important stuff. Done in a different way. But still important.
The couple who host the party take it very seriously. They host it every year. They spend the whole year preparing for it – buying costumes, finding props, decorations. They are as committed to their event as the Firekeepers are to theirs. They insist that others take it seriously too. Demand that people make an effort. And people do – the costumes were amazing. And so the party becomes a sort of ritual. It is part of the flow of the year. It marks the passing of Time. Just as the Fires do. And the host couple carefully document the event. Photographs are taken. Everything is recorded. To be published on Facebook. And shown as a background slideshow at the following year’s party. So, there is a sense of Continuity, of Tradition.
Tradition and Continuity are important because they are the main means by which we create a sense of Belonging. A sense of Community. And that is how you change the World. You change the World by changing the Traditions. By creating new Continuities. New Expectations. People used to accept slavery because it had simply been around a while – it had become normalised – traditional. It took a few people to invest their energy in creating some new traditions – traditions that did not involve enslaving other human beings – those people changed the world. They created new communities with new traditions. Communities that people wanted to belong to.
Communities are all about sharing. About Generosity. About Giving. At both the events I attended, people brought food. Shared food. That’s important. To share the stuff that sustains Life.
You cannot buy Community. You create it by Giving. People brought wood to feed the Fire. Shared their stories to feed the People. People brought their Creativity to the Party in the form of their Costumes. The Effort that had made showed their Commitment and granted them access to the Community. One friend, my neighbour, is a DJ – he brought his equipment and shared his music so we could dance. And we danced to celebrate his music. Our effort celebrating his effort.
Halloween, for me, is about marking the year. It is not really about pumpkins or vampires or trick-or-treat. It is about recognising the nature of Time. Honouring Time as essentially cyclical. Acknowledging that Darkness is falling upon us. That we are entering a particular phase of Nature’s cycle when the days grow short and the nights long. A Time for drawing in. Conserving energy. Taking stock. Resting. A necessary Time. Essential. The Darkness is not something to fear. We need it. Now is the Dark Time. We should enjoy it. And, in order to do so, in order not to be consumed by fear, we remind ourselves that it will not last forever – that it is all a cycle and the Light will return. We remind ourselves by lighting Fires, by putting candles in pumpkins, by filling the dark skies with fireworks, by dancing and singing and sharing what we have, by gathering in communities, by having fun.
So, Thanks to the Firekeepers. Thanks to the Party People. Bring on the Dark and remember the Light.