Time is fluid at Halloween. It is the old Celtic new year, when past, present and future merge. On this night, all borders dissolve and we can commune with our ancestors or see our future. Summer has ended and the sun will slumber until spring. It is the time of Hecate, the crone goddess who both guides us to the land of the dead and is ready to act as midwife to the rebirth of the sun at the winter solstice. This is the gateway between the old and the new year, when the wheel turns and the cycle begins again.
It is appropriate that the world is unsettled leading up to Halloween. Rain, gales and thunder have assailed us in the past week. A storm is making its way across the country and the sky is full of a luminous darkness. Now and then, I hear the squawks of geese, as they pass over on their migration from the arctic. The trees have begun to turn: the small sycamores and the horse chestnuts are the first to show their colours and the ground already crackles with leaves. There is a hint of smoke in the air and the clatter of fireworks leading up to Bonfire Night. Fittingly, it is the crows that now seem to colonise the green spaces, tricksters and harbingers of death and magic that they are.
This is a time to celebrate the wisdom of age and experience. On Halloween night, our ancestors may choose to visit us, so we might set a place at the dinner table for them or leave offerings of food outside or on their graves. The pumpkin lanterns now traditional at Halloween have evolved from the candles that were left in the window all night to guide the dead home. It is a tradition at Halloween to create an altar to your ancestors, containing photos and mementoes that honour them and trigger memories. It is a good time to consider the gifts your ancestors have given you, both genetically and through the lives they lived. But you might also recognise the strangers that have gone before – the writers and artists that have inspired you and stoked your creativity.
Halloween signals the death of summer and the old year, for which we mourn, but we also look into the future. This is the best time of year for divination, when we use the old arts, such as scrying and Tarot, to gain guidance about what is to come. Winter is the still, dark time of the year, when the earth retreats and we have space to delve into the hidden places within us. This is where the cycle of our creativity begins. Time to ponder our dreams and hopes for the year to come. The hushed repose of winter is when our vision for what this year could be is dreamed into being. That spark of creativity is always there, though it may not seem so in the dark, cold months, until the winter solstice, when it will be symbolically reborn.
Halloween is a time of deep thinking and remembrance, but it is, of course, also the season of mischief. The chaos and unpredictability of winter will last for many months. For our ancestors, it was a time of great tension as they worried if the harvest would help them survive the winter. The mischief of Halloween is both a challenge to and a light-hearted acceptance of the uncertainty to come. The costumes are disguises to protect us against malevolent influences. The traditions, such as bobbing for apples, an affirmation of life. Creativity is often kindled out of chaos. So before the introspection of winter, why not indulge in a little mischief and see where it leads you?