Though Halloween evolved from All Hallows Eve, a Christian holiday honoring the dead saints (hallows), its origins lie in the much older Celtic festival of Samhain. Celebrating the end of the harvest and the earth’s descent into winter’s womb, Samhain was a time of liminality (halfway between the Fall Equinox and the Winter Solstice), when the veil between our world and the Otherworld was thinnest, when the dead were thought to move more easily among the living, when the revelers would set an empty place at the table for the ancestors and leave offerings of food outside as propitiations for the spirits.
Many of the villagers would go door to door in costume performing verse. This “guising” was perhaps a way of hiding (disguising) oneself from the ghosts and fairy folk who meant harm.
In psychology, the mask or guise we present to the world is called our persona. It’s our public face, our way of imposing a certain image of ourselves onto others. I am a writer. I am confident. I am caring. Nations have personas too. America is a democracy. America stands for freedom and equality. The trap in all this, as famed psychoanalyst Carl Jung made clear, is that healthy egos require flexible personas, else we become repressed and our hidden, shadowy parts break free in destructive ways.
Election Day arrives a mere three days after Halloween/Samhain this year – a fateful reminder of that thin and pervious veil between the America we say we are and the America we keep hidden away. These are liminal days, to be sure, and the ghosts of America’s past are haunting us at every turn. No matter what happens November 3rd, these spirits will require our steadfast propitiations.
This post is an excerpt from the monthly museletter – an email filled with insight, inspiration and an invitation to the monthly Full Moon Gathering. The next gathering will be a special Halloween edition this Saturday. Sign up by Friday to learn more. 🌕
* “The Grove”, painting by Aron Wiesenfeld, 2012