by Arjuna da Silva
From Samhain (the season that includes Halloween—“hallowed evening” on October 31st and the Day of the Dead on November 2nd) to New Year’s, the season of holy days and celebrations helps buffer the shift to increasingly cold weather.
Now in early December, many of us are still recovering from the indulgent joys of Thanksgiving, we’re already preparing for more of these special days—including Chanukah which begins on the 11th, the annual Bizarre Holiday Bazaar on the 12th, our Winter Solstice celebration on the 20th, the annual White Elephant party on Christmas Eve, Kwanzaa, which begins on the 26th, and the changing of the year itself that ends with our annual New Year’s Day parade and Lucky Local Lunch on New Year’s Day! Since most of that’s still ahead of us, I thought I’d just give you a taste of my favorite event so far.
For the second year in a row, Kaitlin Heitzner (in photo) and River Otter organized an Ancestor’s Feast in the Council Hall the night before Halloween. Attendance seemed to be double last year’s turnout, and I had the best celebratory experience in recent memory. Besides the care and beauty with which our ceremonial goddesses prepared the space, the smudging, songs and silences along with the turkey, tales and toasts to the ancestors helped create deep and abiding memories of both the sacred and the sumptuous.
After calling in the directions (in song), we formed our ceremonial circle and followed along with a beautiful chant for the beautiful changing season:
Spiral is turning,
Season is changing,
Old One is waiting,
Blessed is She…
Altar tables had been set with seasonal and sacred objects and photos of our beloved departed family and friends (and pets), and we took some time in silence to gaze at them and feel the love that goes on and on, regardless of anyone’s presence. (Of course, some of us would swear a lot of spirit presence showed up in response to our rousing welcomes.)
Samhain (pronounced saw-wane) is the Pagan New Year. (New years begin at so many time of the year, such as July 27th in the Mayan calendar, the last new moon of late summer in the Jewish calendar, January 1st in our Gregorian calendar, and yet another Lunar New Year—the Winter new moon celebrated by the peoples of the Far East—that we can practically go from one beginning to another all year round!) To honor the changing of this particular “year,” a ritual for letting go of the past was shared. We each took a handful of dry, brightly colored autumn leaves from a basket passed around the circle, then turned to face outward to privately contemplate any changes we each felt ready for. Letting go of the old, and inviting the new, we tossed the leaves away from us, turned back to the center, and sang:
Come to the very edge
Where the old world ends
And something new begins
Something new begins…
We sang the same four lines over and over to the beat of the prayer drum, and our harmonies began to soar. Then, with the many sorts of brooms folks brought, we swept-danced the Hall clear of leaves and prepared to enjoy an amazing feast of homegrown turkey with stuffing, freshly harvested vegetables, and marvelous pumpkin-squash pies.
As we sat together and ate, the festive food and some glasses of wine mellowed and brought us to the moment of toasts. One after the other told a story or shared a memory about an ancestor or dear friend whose life had special meaning for us, and whom we toasted with great cheer at the end of each tale. When the toasts were done, the images and energies of those who’ve gone before seemed to fill the room with their good vibrations. And then spiraled around as we sang:
We will never, never lose our way
To the well of their memory.
And the power of their living flame
It will rise—it will rise again!
December 5, in a “mixed-media” event in the Council Hall, we enjoyed performances by the Forest Children, an introduction to the meaning and significance for communities like ours of the Kwanzaa holiday, followed by homegrown entertainment from the infamous Another Way Players.
Next week the eight days of Chanukah begins, so I’m rooting around for the Menorah and the special candles that honor the power of the Unseen. Soon after, we can look forward to another SpiritWalker delight at Solstice. It’s the season of celebrations—a time to honor what we have, who we are, where we’ve come from, and what is yet possible for us all.
Happy Hallow-Chanu-Solsti-Christma-Kwanza-New Year (or just plain Holivillage Ecodays) to all!
Arjuna da Silva is an Earthaven founder and the Airspinner.