Samhain

It’s another liminal time, tonight and tomorrow. A corner of the year. Careful of portals. 

I’ve ended up starting it with a holiday into rush hour. That miserable morningtime where we are nothing but cattle, but cattle that don’t even moo. I’m packed into a carriage with everyone staring at a fixed point, up and to the left, trying not to bite their neighbour. I’m off to look at Shakespeare again.

This evening everyone will dress up as zombies and bloodsuckers and get drunk, immune to the irony that most of them are zombies or bloodsuckers all day anyway so it’s hardly a holiday. Particularly as most of them get drunk every night as well. I can’t help but think they’re missing the point with these safe ghoulies and ghosties. At least the Day of the Dead has got a better handle on what this festival should be about to my mind, although if I were to nod to that iconography I’d get hauled out for cultural appropriation.

But this is Samhain, and I can say that because I grew up in the Isle of Man. We are eliding with whatever other worlds are out there. The barrier is cobweb thin. It’s a time to remember and honour our loved dead and maybe set a place at table for them tonight. If there is a world of the dead, if there’s another place, then tonight it’s coterminous. We might slip across if we don’t anchor here, they might slip here, whatever they are, and they might be hungry. I guess that’s where the costumes come about. If the hungry dead are wandering around you should probably dress up like them or they’ll focus on you.


I made a place at table for my mother tonight, just in case.

We are examining Macbeth again today. We might have a show soon, building on the scratches at The Willow Globe this summer. Banquo has a place at table after his death, and since that’s my part it’s perhaps unsurprising that I’m thinking in these terms.

It’s a good time for doing Macbeth. Three witches. Maiden, Mother and Crone (not in our version, but…). Now the year goes to the crone until she’s reborn maiden in Spring. The cold is coming – it’s mostly here already. Time to start taking care of ourselves and keeping ourselves warm. I like these notional change points, these markers. And this one, in particular, is important to me. Life is definitely richer with the knowledge of mortality. We are all going to die. When and how are out of our hands, despite our attempts to influence it by eating Kale and going on the treadmill. What we CAN influence is what we do with our lives now, and how we affect the lives of others here. But here. Upon this bank and shoal of time. 

I used to think of myself as some sort of mortality nurse, having seen a lot of loved ones die earlier in my life than is considered standard. People would seek me for perspective. It’s valuable in grief to have someone who doesn’t just look a bit uncomfortable before telling you how sorry they are… Now people are catching up. Discussion is richer, which is depressing. I know full well that one of the next games is the one when suddenly all your mates start dying either before, during or after you do. But I reckon there’s a good few years of fun first, and babies and weddings, so I’m getting stuck into that whilst reminding myself and you (sorry) that it’s all just a flash in the pan and suddenly… Or not so suddenly… Splat.

Meantime we’ve got this ridiculously beautiful world where we can flaunt our virtually infinite capacity for inventiveness and joy, surrounded by casual beauty and vast technical creativity, and somehow blessed with this trick of consciousness that carries an understanding of mortality in one hand, and a capacity to seize the moment in the other. How did we happen? What strange chance allowed this awareness of self, and of time despite – mostly – being confined in both illusions?

I’m heading to sleep and to dreams, where we can spin free a little. It’ll be All Hallows tomorrow, so we’ll likely be flooded with xenophobic saints chasing the dead things off. For tonight though I’m happy that I’m protected from the dark, while missing the lost. My flat’s full of life, my room is thoroughly smudged, I’ve had a beer, and Pickle is keeping watch at the foot of my bed. Night all. Let’s enjoy the dark, and pray for the light’s return.Halloween-and-Samhain-Celebrating-the-Harvest-Honoring-the-Dead-Praying-for-Light_s-Return-featured-image

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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