Halloween is a time for pumpkins, dressing up and scary stories. But there is a much older folk tradition that continues to this day. Halloween is the first in a three day period when it is believed that the veil between this world and the spirit world is very thin. This season of allhallowstide begins on Allhallows Eve and continues through All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Sometimes these days are called “The Day of the Dead”
It comes after Harvest season as all of nature is preparing for winter and as the trees cast off their leaves and appear to die, our focus turns to our own mortality.
In both Christian and pagan traditions, there are stories about beings coming from other dimensions on these days – sometimes angels, færies, sometimes vampires or werewolves, sometimes the souls of family members.
This year, many of us have lost loved ones, and it has not always been possible to grieve in the usual way and many of the churches and other services which are often the custodians of grieving are closed right now.
On these three days, I am offering three therapeutic events to turn our attention towards death, mourning and healing. The trio of events may be attended as a serries or as three stand alone events.
This services will be open to people from any faith tradition. Many of the customs of this time are rooted in the Christian tradition but many also have older pre-Christian origins and some therapeutic rituals have been created or adapted especially for these events.
Halloween Story Telling Circle – Sat 31 October, 19:30 – 21:00
For Christians, Allhallows eve is a time of preparation, fasting and lighting candles. It was thought that the light from the candles would guide the souls of the recently deceased on their path to heaven. Christians would remember and pray for the Saints, the martyrs and their departed loved ones.
On the Celtic festival of Samhain (beginning at sunset on 31st Oct), it was believed that spirits or fairies could appear, and souls of loved ones could visit their previous homes. It marked the end of the Harvest season and the approaching winter. Fires were lit for their protective quality.
On this night, when there can be no trick or treating and no large parties, you are invited to come, to bring a candle and to join our Halloween story circle.
We will invite three rounds of stories.
- Stories about death – here you may tell your best scary stories about ghosts and ghouls.
- Stories about saints and fairies – here we will invite stories about legendary heroes who may or may not be real but who have important messages for us at this time when the spirit world feels closer.
- Stories about loved ones – we will finish by inviting stories about loved ones who have passed away and remain on our hearts.
The circle will end with a ritual and blessing of protection for all of us.
All Saints’ Day Memorial Service – Sun 1 Nov 2020, 19:30-21:00
On this day, Christians remember the Saints and martyrs who have gone before them. Many also use this time to remember departed loved ones.
Many of us have lost loved ones this year especially with Covid and the difficulties which lockdown brought. Many of us have also not been able to grieve in the usual way this year, with restrictions on attending funerals and travelling.
This memorial service will use some of the traditions from around the world to create a special memorial service.
You are invited to come and to bring a photo of your loved one and a candle to light in their memory.
During this service you will be invited to join in three creative rituals:
Draw a flower in memory of your loved one and imagine laying the flower on their grave.
Make a kite, a Guatemalan tradition to get closer to the spirit world.
Create a ball out of the melted wax, a tradition from the Philippines to remember that as our bodies return to ash, and the melted wax returns to a ball, so the circle of life continues.
All Souls’ Day Cleansing Intergenerational Trauma – Mon 2 Nov, 19:30-21:00
Traditionally on this day prayers are said for the dead and their tombs are anointed. This was thought to cleanse the souls to allow them to leave purgatory (the waiting room for souls) and to enter heaven. Food is left out for the souls who visit on their way.
Visiting graves may not be possible this year due to Covid and lockdown, many of our usual grieving practices have been disrupted.
The ancient Irish believed the dead were repositories of wisdom and lore and that during this blessed period they would return to speak to their descendants. During these visits, the ancestors would bestow two gifts – the ability to remember old days and traditions and to hold a deeper understanding of how we are forever linked to our bloodline
We will begin by ringing bells, a custom which some believe can summon the souls of those we care for.
You will be invited to imagine a conversation with someone who is no longer with you but who has left an imprint on your life.
You are invited to bring yourself, a bowl of water and a photo of a departed loved one. Those we love touch us, so with our bodies we will offer a ritual cleansing as we remember our loved ones.
Current research on intergenerational trauma suggests that when we experience something shocking or troubling, the impact is held in our bodies and passed down, encoded in our genes to our children, grandchildren and several generations. The imprint of those who go before us is here, inside of us, now. As we direct the ritual cleansing onto our own skin, we will think about how we can also release what we have inherited.
You are invited to finish by eating something sweet, traditionally this might be a cake or sweets. Nourishing ourselves as we move away from the spiritual realm to ground back in this reality.