Halloween should have a whole month of rituals and build-up—just like we do for Christmas. Why relegate this rich holiday to just one weekend of yard decorating, pumpkin carving, costume decking, and candy scarfing? I’m excited to attend a webinar this week sponsored by a favorite online forum of mine, Spirituality and Practice, called “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) https://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/ecourses/course/filter/current, led by Ernesto Hernandez Olmos, who will explain how to use this similar-yet-very-different holiday from the Aztec traditions to deepen our spirituality and relationship to the essential dying and birthing that life is. America’s Halloween has much to learn, I believe, from these spiritual roots of our even earlier American ancestors.
As I’m preparing to lead All Saints Sunday soon (the only religious dimension closely related to Halloween in the mainstream U.S.), I’m reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:1-4: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up, a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…
This poetry is always so comforting to me when I hear it at a funeral, but I’m going to begin to use it in my everyday moments of letting go and moving on to newness in the name of wholeness or salvation (whichever word you prefer).
Tonight, a pastor friend of mine is hosting a bonfire at her home, inviting her congregation and friends to bring a personal letter to God, sharing whatever is on their hearts and asking for healing, if they wish. Placing these letters in the flames is a way to remember that Letting-Go-While-Held-in-Love helps to purify our hearts for the work of moving on to new choices, new relationships, and new understandings of what forgiveness and acceptance mean in our lives of faith. This is a powerful ritual worth doing every year as part of this season of honoring death, even as we laugh (through our other Halloween traditions) at death often seeming to have the last word. This line from Rumi pops into my head:
“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the boughs of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrows shake from your heart, far better things will take their place.”
Today I’m also discovering another Day of the Dead/Halloween ritual. I’m cooking a pie pumpkin to make some sweet nutmeg-seasoned custard for breakfast tomorrow. As I began scooping out the pumpkin guts and separating out the seeds to roast, I realized that this is a lot like my spiritual life. I carry a lot of mucky-looking, confusing stuff around inside of me sometimes—like a pumpkin.
Through the practices of my faith, a supportive community, and good one-to-one listening care sometimes by a professional, I’m able to pluck hundreds of seeds of wisdom out of all that muck! Seeds that have been birthed from what originally seemed like just a mess to mindlessly throw away. In the photo above, I am struck with how much the pumpkin guts looks like a placenta! Sorry if that grosses you out, but such is the nature of birthing in all its forms. Placentas are invaluable! Who or what have been your “placentas” at times?
Later, as I savor the salty, buttery roasted seeds, I am going to read Ecclesiastes and ponder the muckiness of life that the author points to—as well as the many ways that God has created “placentas” of one kind or another to nourish the confusing and painful stuff of life into a feast of wisdom.