Dr. Durrell’s Spiritual Prescriptions
Keeping the Hallow in Halloween
A “hallow” is an archaic noun for someone or something considered holy. So, Halloween (a shortened version of All Hallows Eve) is the night before the celebration of All Saints (“All Hallows”) Day in the western Christian tradition.
Of course, the evening before All Saints Day is hallowed in its own right. In Celtic traditions, Samhain (October 31) is about the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. It marks the end of the harvest season as people prepare for the upcoming winter. Festivals would include bon fires as a reminder that the warmth and renewal of spring would follow the dark, cold winter.
Samhain (pronounced “Sow-en”) was also a time when the barrier between this world and whatever might lie beyond this life was porous, so spirits could cross from the other world into ours (or so suggested the legends).
Since disembodied spirits could slip through the barrier between worlds on Samhain, people would have feasts and invite the spirits to attend (buttering them up perhaps so they wouldn’t be too mischievous), costumes became part of the celebrations as well (to hide one’s true identity from the spirits in order to prevent future haunting). It was a time of preparing for the harshness of winter, remembering that the abundant life of spring would follow, building community, celebrating life, and even remembering the dearly departed. It was a special, even sacred time.
There are spiritual communities today that still think of Samhain/Halloween as a sacred, hallowed night.
Of course, from a secular viewpoint, Halloween is a time to play, to wear costumes and give candy to children, to enjoy block parties and “haunted houses” and scary movies. It’s become a time of revelry and imagination.
But for me, there is one more reason that Halloween is a special time, an empowering time, a hallowed occasion. Halloween is for many an LBGT Holy Day!
Halloween for Queer folk is a time of theatrically, performance, gender-bending, political expression, overt sexuality, and community revelry. From Dallas to San Francisco to New York to Wilton Manors, I’ve seen some of the most joyous, creative, and life-affirming demonstrations imaginable on Halloween.
Halloween has for decades now brought LBGT people “out” to show the world our flair, our energy, our zest for life. Before National Coming Out Day and LBGT History Month and Gay Pride celebrations in cities of every size, Halloween provided LBGT people an opportunity to laugh, to gather, to create something over the top and utterly fabulous, and to invite the world to watch us celebrate the sacred energy we release into the world.
There is something magical about Halloween. It isn’t that mysterious really, or even scary in my view; it is an opportunity to celebrate life, to express appreciation for gifts of creativity and joy, and even to remember those who no longer occupy physical space but who are very much alive in our blessed memories. Halloween is hallowed indeed, not only because it helps us face darkness and uncertainty with flair and glee, but because it reminds us that in this moment we are very much alive and that is something worth celebrating indeed.