It is Halloween…a favorite holiday because I was always able to hide, not only behind a mask, but in a costume where I could become another character altogether. It is one of the gifts of childhood…trying on different roles, believing we can be anything we want to be. For a chubby little girl such as I was, I frequently chose to dress up as a princess, Snow White, a ballerina, and one year, even a sleek black witch. Pretending was always easier than trying to BECOME the person I was meant to be.
But that has all changed with age. Being in the sixth decade, I have arrived at a time to simply be ME and remarkably, it doesn’t feel all that bad. The mask has been replaced and I am finally getting to know and accept myself, warts and all.
These Halloween thoughts stem from my recent retreat to Iona, Scotland…a Celtic island where the people herald Old Hallows Eve as the most significant festival of the year. Hundreds of years ago, Halloween (or All Saints Day) was a three day affair where bonfires were lit, rules were abandoned, and the revelers would call on their ancestors for new instructions. What wishes would those who had passed on want to be reborn within us? It was a time of acceptance of our roots…our mothers and fathers, grandparents and great grandparents.
Instead of ignoring their ancestral attributes the Celtic peoples learned to embrace that from which they came and manifest those things their relatives did not have a chance to fulfill.
I asked my husband this morning which ancestor he revered. “My grandmother and grandfather,” he answered quickly, momentarily choked up at the vivid memory of both of them. “They were pioneers,” he continued, “a quality I should try harder to incur.”
I hold a service in an ancient chapel on Iona whereby each woman retreater lights a candle to an ancestor that she would like to emulate. More than half the women lit a candle to their grandmother and nearly every woman described their “nana” as loving unconditionally.
Old Hallows Eve or Old Saints Day has become a reminder for me to have gratitude for the miracle of knowing from whence I came and therefore what I am next meant to do or be.