Hallows is unique among Atheopagan Sabbaths.
For one thing, it’s a week long: it extends from Halloween through the actual midpoint between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice, which falls around the 7th of November. A whole week of observances, of rituals, of spooky-eerie awareness of Death, of Ancestry, of the Dark.
As it happens, where I live, the transition from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time happens on the first weekend in November, so there is a sudden plunge into night as the clocks roll back an hour and sunset is suddenly an hour earlier. It doesn’t take imagination to realize that the Darkness has arrived.
And let’s just say up front: if you like a gothic aesthetic, Hallows is spooky cool. Hallows is jack o’lanterns flickering, cobwebs and skulls and bones and graveyards. And witches, let us not forget.
We’re both fascinated and appalled by the prospect of our deaths, and Hallows is the time when we live in that state: with the knowledge that It Is Coming, with coming to grips with that reality, with reflecting on those who are gone, and with contemplating the deep history of ancestry.
Death is the price of the ticket to this glorious ride on Planet Earth. As such, it must be honored. The names of the Beloved Dead must be spoken. The Ancestors—human and non- — must be remembered, and their contributions to the fact of our existence celebrated.
In the secular world, Halloween in particular is a time when we are allowed to play in ways we are not otherwise indulged throughout the remainder of the year. We can dress up silly, or scary, or sexy, and enjoy the thrill of fear and empowerment that comes with each of these qualities. As a costuming geek myself, I love a chance to roll something out from my closet—or make something new— and be Someone/Something Else in public, just for one day. We can play with identity, and gender, and actually get away with it in the homophobic United States. It is no surprise that Halloween is an important and beloved event in the LGBTQ community.
I see Hallows as a week of Pagan celebration that begins with Halloween itself, with its costumes and parties and spooky decorations, and extends through the following week into my circle’s annual Samhain ritual, which takes place on the first weekend in November each year.
During the intervening week, I update my Death Document: my funeral wishes, farewell letter, will, medical directives, important passwords and other information that my loved ones will need when it’s my time to go.
This will be Dark Sun circle’s 27th annual gathering for Samhain. Our ritual includes a hushed circle of remembrance around the unlit fire, a silent walk into the woods to visit the Land of the Dead, and, once there, we speak their names, tell them what we would have liked them to have known about our feelings, our memories, our wishes and our love.
Upon return from the Land of the Dead, we light the fire and the candles and jack o’lanterns on the Focus and celebrate, singing “We Are Alive!”, sharing goblets of blood-red wine and chocolate. And then, when it is time, we go indoors and break our fast with a sumptuous meal.
By the time our ritual and feast are complete, I feel we have turned the Wheel of the Year again. I feel prepared for the arrival of the Darkness as the year ages. And I feel connected with my circle kin, with my broader Pagan community, and with the great cycle of Life coming and going on this magnificent planet. I feel more accepting of the losses that Death has dealt me, and of the fact that one day, it will be my turn.
I feel like an Atheopagan, celebrating his life in the world.