The advent of October is always thrilling to me, and that’s not just because October 1st is my birthday. This is the day when it’s officially “acceptable” (for those who care about that sort of thing) to start going crazy with Halloween decorations and pumpkins, to cover everything in colored leaves, to fill jars with candy, and cut out cookies in the shapes of bats and witches’ hats and cauldrons.
This, if you believe the old, old stories, is the time of year when the whispering veil between the mortal and immortal worlds is at its thinnest. Many have postulated that astral travel and ghost sightings are most common in people when they are between sleeping and waking, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that, when the Earth is tilting towards its own long sleep, ghosts roam more freely through its woods and lonely places.
The creatures that go bump in the night change their shapes depending on who’s looking. Sometimes they’re familiar, someone we’ve known and lost, and certain traditions are meant to keep their memory alive within the living. An extra place is set at the table, their favorite foods are prepared, and small offerings are made at their graves, either to honor or placate.
Sometimes the figures are stranger and older, figures from long past that remain and wander restlessly, searching. For what, who can say? Revenge, perhaps. Or justice. Or peace. Only the dead will ever know.
And then, in the hollows of the hills and the darkness of bogs and woods, are those creatures whose natures are mischievous and malevolent by turns, the goblins and faeries and sneaking little sprites that wreak havoc on unsuspecting folk. These are the ones for whom those leering Jack-O-Lanterns are carved, set out on front steps to frighten away those that seek to tease or torment. And in a last-ditch effort, if those glowing orange grins aren’t enough to keep the beasties away, we hand out candy to satisfy them and hope they continue onto some other hapless soul.
I love this season. Redolent with fantastic dangers, hair-raising stories, and an unsettling scent of earth and dead leaves in the air, October is the harbinger of darkness and the unseen. There is nothing quite so as enjoyable to me as letting a little of that chilly darkness in, and then pushing it back again with the candlelight and warmth of hearth and home.
Do you have any Halloween traditions? What is on your ‘To-Do List’ this October?