All Hallows marks the beginning of the darkest three months of the year. In the Gaelic tradition it is the time of the final harvest, the time when the beasts are brought in from the fields to the shelter of byre and fold, the completion of the inward gathering, the beginning of winter.
As I contemplate the idea of the thinning of the veil, it seems to me that we look not outward into another world, but inward. The souls who have gone before us, some that we loved, some that we feared, some we never forgave, leave their mark within us, become part of us, characters in our inner council that we still love, fear, or cannot forgive.
In our current American culture, All Hallows is primarily about costumes, masks. Often, consciously or unconsciously, we burst forth with a character that has hidden dormant within us. We turn ourselves inside out in a way—and for a night allow what we could not otherwise acknowledge. And it is safe, because we are masked, even if it is a different or opposite mask from the one we present to the world in our everyday life.
Long ago when my children were young and my marriage was challenging, I cut loose on Hallowe’en from my carefully controlled image of good Christian wife and mother, and dressed up as a witch. All in black. Evil cackle and claw hands. Unfortunately, such was the power of that inner witch that I terrified the neighbor children and some of them never quite trusted me again.
My favorite character was a licentious pig, dressed in pink sweat pants and shirt with a curly tail on her bottom, a snout and perky ears. She danced in many a long dance, clowning outrageously and creating waves of laughter all around her. Her most recent episode was at a tango dance when she emerged replete with eight baby-bottle nipples sticking through her shirt, causing her partners to blush when she went into close embrace with them. A relief from my proper old-lady mask.
Looking through the veil is also looking into the face of Death, intimate partner of incarnation, both friend and foe. Hence the skeletons, the ghosts, reminding us of our inevitable fate. At one of our All Hallows long dances, we created a crypt. When we crawled in, we found at the far end a candle illuminating a mirror in which we saw our own faces.
As we come into the dark time, how do we meet the hidden parts of ourselves, how dance our demons into allies, how embrace the skeleton under the flesh, how befriend the dark?
We can begin with acceptance of all that is within us. We can choose what characters of our inner council we manifest in the world. Some are only appropriate to bring forth on Hallowe’en, but we can embrace them all. We are human, multifaceted. Therein lies our beauty and our power.