I was surprised. She didn’t want to be Persephone in the school play.
I thought all the girls would have lusted after the part of the maiden, dancing with her friends amidst the spring flowers, her head crowned with a ring of blossoms.
But not 11-year-old Mira. She wanted to be Hades.
Each year, at the height of Spring, I make a new attempt to reconcile what I’ve seen as a jarring clash. Southern hemisphere Beltane, Whiringa-ā-nuku, Flowering and Sap Rise has been invaded, it seems, by the northern hemisphere festival of Halloween. At dusk, children form excited clusters, clad in black cloaks and spooky gear, and giggle their way down the streets to trick and treat.
Once upon a spring
This was unheard of when I was a child. Spring stood supreme, showering us with pollen and petals as we walked to school, raining its bounty over our heads and into the eager warm soil. The idea of death remained aloof.
We launched ourselves into outdoor games, swimming, and running freely once more over the hills. The cows came back into milk, hens were clucking and laying again, and calves were ready to be groomed for Calf Club Day.
Our mothers baked their soft airy sponges, dusted with icing sugar, our fathers cut their best cabbages, and we kids pushed pansies and daisies into sand saucers, ready for the flower show.
Spring was simple then: a season of awakening and enthusiasm as we shook off the shackles of winter.
“Why Hades?” I asked my granddaughter.
‘Because he’s much more interesting than Persephone. I like the sound of him. He’s a tiny bit evil and powerful too.’
Have you noticed how children are drawn to the bad characters? Maybe that’s the attraction of Halloween, imported into our southern hemisphere season of peak spring from America.
Spring is full of the brightness of newly awakened oak leaves, lush grass, and a sea of rain lilies, the white crocus-like blooms that spring up like mushrooms after warm rain.
But then, spring in all her innocence, is abducted. The earth opens and Hades charges up from the underworld in his chariot, grabs Persephone and takes her down to the realm of death.
The dark realm is the current season of the northern hemisphere, on the brink of Samhain. In this Festival of the Dead, chaos rules and the usual social order is turned upside down. The importing of this festival to the southern hemisphere threatens to disrupt any spring celebrations.
But I have a fantasy. In it, two seasons live in one day. That day is October 31, the midpoint between spring equinox and summer solstice and a time of peak greening.
I imagine clusters of Persephones tripping down the streets, laying flowers on people’s doorsteps at dawn. Then at dusk, gaggles of ghosts and goblins prowling the darkening streets with their bags of tricks and treats. Not just the Halloween takeover, but space for flowers, maypoles, and maidenhood as well. Two hemispheres in one day, a kind of reconciliation.
Is there a way for the young ones to flirt with the shadow without being abducted by it?
What do you think? I welcome your thoughts.
Blessings of the season to you,
PS And if you are in the northern hemisphere, this link will take you into your season, to help you prepare for winter.
Three books for the seasons
For guidance in aligning with the season you are in, my Seasons books are there to help you.
Sun, Moon, and Stars will inspire you to celebrate with your family or whānau.
Celebrating the Southern Seasons is a classic resource book to take you through Māori, Christian and European traditions for every season.
Dancing with the Seasons is a personal guide to the seasonal flow. It will guide you through three ‘tasks’ for each season, on the physical, psychological and spiritual levels.