As I sit here, on Samhain or Halloween, recovering from a wisdom tooth extraction 3 hours ago, it seems fitting to consider the thinning of the veils between the realm of the living and the dead. I underwent anesthesia, which is, in a sense, suspended death. It's the purposeful suspension of consciousness and a willing descent into a realm where there is no dreaming, no pain, and no awareness.
I had hoped that maybe, because of the date, I'd encounter one or more of my family members that have already crossed over. If I did, sadly, I have no memory of it. The surgeon inserted the IV needle (the only painless one ever), and I thought they would do the "Count backward from ten" thing. Nope. Just, "Take a couple of deep breaths” (O2 and laughing gas); I imagine they must have turned on the IV drip too, and I didn't even know I was gone!
Opening my eyes, I was in the room with a nurse. I saw the surgeon for maybe 60 seconds before I went under. Welcome back, cool; I made it through.
Though I didn't commune with my dear departed ones in my unconscious state, I’ll create an offering table later in their memory. We can celebrate the threshold between the realms of the living and the dead by remembering those we love, honor, and have lost.
You can use whatever connects you to LOVE; photos, candles, bits of favorite foods, meaningful tokens, gifts, symbols, flowers, poems, whatever your creativity suggests. You might offer a prayer, a blessing, gratitude, and thanks for all that they gave you, taught you, and the love that remains alive within you. I give thanks even for the difficult memories, the discord, and the heartbreaks, for through resistance, we grow.
You might even ask for guidance. Be sure to celebrate the harvest of the good in-this year- before we settle in and accept the growing night, increasing cold, and stillness of the coming winter.
Whether religious, spiritual, or secular in your beliefs and practices, it's unifying to acknowledge how many cultures and traditions observe these or similar threshold days. Samhain-October 31st, Halloween-October 31, st, All Saints Day-November 1st, Day of the Dead-November 1-2, and All Souls Day-November 3rd are the most familiar to many of us. Around the globe, many cultures celebrate similar traditions, including The Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Poland, and Nigeria, to list a few.
Spiritual celebrations, ceremonies, rituals, and rites of passage are part of the sacred experience of being human. They invite us to create meaning in our lives, in our relationships with each other, and with the natural world. They connect us through our cultural traditions, and our communities, nationwide and across the globe. They are handed down to us through our familial mythologies.
Some mythologies are ancient, and some are current. Personal mythologies are becoming a mixture of the old and new as we pick and choose what celebrations, ceremonies, rituals, and practices work for us at this complex time in human history.
Mythologies point us toward our place in our ever-widening view of the infinite magnificence of the cosmos. They help us define what matters, what works, and what is eternal within the human psyche.
May these liminal threshold days connect you through the power of LOVE to the great cycles of birth, life, death, and rebirth. May this affirmation of the immanence of the divine and the interdependence of all life encourage us to participate in a new mythic vision for the future. This new myth must include the planet, all life on her, all cultures, and all her peoples, living together in peace.