We are approaching Whiringanuku, Beltane, Flowering and Sap-Rise, (on October 31): the festival of regeneration.
However, there’s no regeneration in the death imagery of Halloween, which spills out of the shops in the form of skeletons, black costumes and ghoul-like masks. The children are getting right into it, but because you are tuned into the seasons, you may want to shriek: ‘It’s spring here, not the season of dying!’ You may be aware of tension and dissonance.
Dissonance can be painful. So what can be done?
When I was ten years old I found myself gripping a thick rope at the primary school picnic. When burly Mr Matthews shouted ‘Go!’ we all tugged as hard as we could, desperately wanting to win the tug-o-war. For a while our team gained ground, but then the others yanked us back. We applied more muscle and pulled them towards us. My hands were burning. Then suddenly we tumbled backwards, jolting and bruising ourselves on the hard ground.
When I saw the other team standing up unhurt and looking relieved, I realised there was no such thing as a win in a tug-o-war. Sometimes the pull between joining the kids in their masquerade and wanting to turn them towards a different reality, against the flow of their peers, can feel like a no-win situation.
However, there’s a way out of this conflict.
Changes in technology have brought us into a bigger world: one earth. Television and the internet beam the world into your home every day, and the influence of Hollywood impacts particularly on the young, who spend much of their imaginative time in the USA.
I remember how offended I felt when a young friend started saying ‘zero’ instead of the English ‘nought’ that I grew up with, and how startled I was when I first heard an eight-year-old speaking in the American accent of her favourite TV programme.
If conflict arises for you on October 31, you might like to think about these three alternatives:
You can protest about the craziness of acting out northern hemisphere death rituals in a southern hemisphere land that is rejoicing in high spring. I know someone who is so outraged that he wants to write to all shops and schools to tell them to stop.
I used to feel the same, but I found that this approach just fed the conflict.
2. Create a rival event
You could cancel Halloween and do your own thing. Oppose it by creating a spring festival on October 31, with a colour theme, not of black, but green. Use ferns and leaves as decoration and offer fresh spring food.
But again, it can be hard to do this without reinforcing a sense of division.
3. Embrace the polarity
You’ve probably guessed that this is the one I favour. Let the kids get Halloween out of their system. Then a few days later, when all the dark debris has been packed away, hold a spring picnic, party or festival.
In the cycles of nature, rebirth follows death. When you embrace the polarity you include all of life. When you embrace the whole picture, everyone benefits.
You don’t have to pull yourself apart in an internal tug-o-war. You can drop the rope and welcome both teams to your party—but on different days!
If we can stay with the tension of opposites long enough—sustain it, be true to it—we can sometimes become vessels within which the divine opposites come together and give birth to a new reality—Marie-Louise von Franz