Inviting In The Dead

31Oct15

witch

indigo-signature-bannerThis is my favourite day of the year.

I am sorry we have both been so quiet. Last week was a week a lot of people have off work  and so they think to themelves – where is wonderful? London – they say.  And then they say – ‘We have not seen DJ and Indigo since the wedding’ and suddenly we have knocks on the door, flowers in the vase and wine on the table.

People come for a night, a few days, a meal and then, before we have noticed, a whole week has gone by without us having really talked or connected. We have done those drunken snatches of chats, whispers in the dark so as not to be overheard before falling asleep in puddles of red wine and cheese.

But finally we are alone. We made it that way and wrote in the calendar ‘S’ so it seemed we had plans. And we so have plans – we have Samhain*.

All the guests have gone now, I am sitting here tap, tap tapping on my lap top – there are pumpkins in the kitchen and a fire built in the grate. I have great plans a foot for the day. Writing now (the first new writing in a very long time), then pumpkin carving, a bath and candles, food and quiet, darkness and flickering flame.

I love this day more than any other holiday, more than birthdays, Christmas or the first day waking up on holiday in a hotel with suitcases and adventures sprawling about half unpacked on the floor.

This is why I love it so much.

This day or rather these days- as this event was a season of many days in pre-Christian times has an inescapable look about it. The nights have spread their skirts out just as the trees have given theirs all up and thrown them petulantly on the floor.   The colours we choose can’t help but be flattering; dark browns, dark greens, blacks and deep reds as though the whole world has become a gothic boudoir.

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And confronted by the ageless nature of earth, by the quiet pattern of his little deaths we become aware that we are all just children. Everything becomes a toy as we decorate and twist the everyday objects into something darker and prepare ourselves for the whispers. These are stories we tell one another, facing the fire with our backs to the darkness.  This world spreads gossamer thin as we cuddle up to one another with only belief to protect us from the dark fingers pulling us away from the fire.

This is a quiet season best celebrated in near darkness – a soothing romance between ourselves and the earth. We let its colours and textures in, acknowledging what we always knew – that we rest in the little nook between birth and death.

The meal we shall eat tonight will be just the two of us, but three places are set. The third is for the dead.

I think we set a place for the dead at every meal, whether we are eating a sandwich on a train or with twenty others at a party. We each of us carry our dead.

We have the elderly relatives whose pictures make us sigh and smile as pass them, to the too-soon-taken whose memory makes us question whatever meaning we have found. We have old hurts, from childhood, from those who hurt us, from lovers both old and new whose words or actions cut into us and we pick at the scar to keep it from ever healing. We have our dead selves -the old versions of ourselves that we outgrew or were taken from us, the selves who we taunt ourselves with long after they have rotted away to wisps of bone so light that a breeze would carry them away if only we would let it.  But we carry our dead every day.

If you stop now – just for a moment you will find yours. When you feel its haunting it will make you sick with the realisation that it has been here with you all along. Its bones pushed so close to your flesh that when you push it away you see the marks it has left in your flesh. ‘Not me,’ you say. ‘I have no ghosts in my house.’

But you do.

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Tell me what your mother told you when you were a child. Or was it your siblings? Was it your father? Your teachers? Tell me the judgement given that you carry about with you, echoes of old words that you keep alive with the retelling. When you speak it you bring the hurt out again, the chains you carry with you. You carry this heavy weight every day.

Think of the one you love. Tell me something they have done to hurt you. Tell me how they let you down. How do you feel? The rotting corpse of your old pain limps behind you and does its best to hide when you scrutinise it but the musty stench of old death surrounds you and mocks your attempts to live anew.

Tell me who you once were – whisper it out loud, like a spell. Tell me your old names – your old place in the world. Covered in dust your old selves sit in the dark waiting for you to come home to them.

Invite them all in – invite your dead to the table.

Let them come out of the edges and in to the centre of your life just for one night. Honour them, acknowledge them, and let them speak. They must be heard.

There is more meaning for us though, living a life like ours shows deepness of the season. This is the sacred part.

Think of how we live. Think of the little patterns of our lives.

Letting the dead rise is what we do every day. We name our hurts and our annoyances as we feel  them. DJ does not avert his eyes from my darkness – he does not ignore my desires or my bent for destruction when I hurt. He names it.  He honours us and our lives with words – taking care to prepare us first. There is a ritual of undressing me, peeling back layers of my worldly self before humbling me so that we both truly listen. We do not rush darkness out the door and let it slide away – we have a method to welcome it and let it says its piece.

We understand not all darkness is wrong – the desire for  pain or for dominance, or  the desire to be heard and to say the bad things. There is an acceptance of all aspects of self in this life that I have not found in any other. I have never been so free and so accepted as when I live in this relationship.

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 Not all that is to be feared will harm you – fear is sometimes very good and very useful.

We understand that hurts must be acknowledged, allowed to rise up fully and be heard, they must be given space and time.

And standing away from DJ and I, away from people who live like us we see all the dead wanting to be heard.

We see the pain that comes from denying the dead, from ignoring the pain of others. We refuse time and time again to welcome these in and let them speak.

We all have our old hurts and we all have our dead.

As humans this is the time of year we must let them speak. It has always been so and it always will be.

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In Britain now there are poppies everywhere to remember those who were slain in battle and the quiet dignity of remembering in this manner fits well with our ancient remembering of the dead. The red of the poppies fading into the darkness and the mist as we mourn, listen,  acknowledge and move on.

Have a wonderful day & have an even better night.

pretty witch

*Samhain/ Halloween / other names  – it really does not matter. There is something atavistic going on and the sounds we make when referring to it matter not one jot.

One more thing – this poem would not leave me alone today – so here it is.

“Childhood is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies”

Childhood Is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1937)

Childhood is not from birth to a certain age and at a certain age
The child is grown, and puts away childish things.
Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies.

Nobody that matters, that is. Distant relatives of course
Die, whom one never has seen or has seen for an hour,
And they gave one candy in a pink-and-green stripéd bag, or a
jack-knife,
And went away, and cannot really be said to have lived at all.

And cats die. They lie on the floor and lash their tails,
And their reticent fur is suddenly all in motion
With fleas that one never knew were there,
Polished and brown, knowing all there is to know,
Trekking off into the living world.
You fetch a shoe-box, but it’s much too small, because she won’t
curl up now:
So you find a bigger box, and bury her in the yard, and weep.
But you do not wake up a month from then, two months
A year from then, two years, in the middle of the night
And weep, with your knuckles in your mouth, and say Oh, God!
Oh, God!
Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies that matters,
—mothers and fathers don’t die.

And if you have said, “For heaven’s sake, must you always be
kissing a person?”
Or, “I do wish to gracious you’d stop tapping on the window with
your thimble!”
Tomorrow, or even the day after tomorrow if you’re busy having
fun,
Is plenty of time to say, “I’m sorry, mother.”

To be grown up is to sit at the table with people who have died,
who neither listen nor speak;
Who do not drink their tea, though they always said
Tea was such a comfort.

Run down into the cellar and bring up the last jar of raspberries;
they are not tempted.
Flatter them, ask them what was it they said exactly
That time, to the bishop, or to the overseer, or to Mrs. Mason;
They are not taken in.
Shout at them, get red in the face, rise,
Drag them up out of their chairs by their stiff shoulders and shake
them and yell at them;
They are not startled, they are not even embarrassed; they slide
back into their chairs.

Your tea is cold now.
You drink it standing up,
And leave the house.

Author: Edna St.Vincent Millay



8 Responses to “Inviting In The Dead”

  1. 1 MrJ

    I think I never read such a beautifully deep reflection on Halloween.
    I am convinced that knowing to accept pain, including the pain of death, as part of life is a key element of the art of life.
    Those who master that art will remain children at heart,

    • Isn’t is odd how the elements of childlike acceptance and death are interwoven? We do.all we can to.separate them until this time of year.

  2. 3 richard

    Another excellent post Enjoyed the poem aswell

    • Thank you.
      She is my favourite poet. I did not know if it would be wrong to post it or to.write here I know my style is a world apart from DJ,’s so it is good to know I am not too jarring.

  3. 5 Pixiebelle

    That was very deep and very emotional and beautifull written. Hope you had a lovely day.

  4. Thank you for the view into the British night you and DJ shared, with pumpkins in the kitchen and you quietly writing your words before posting them here. I love Edna St. Vincent Millay, too, and this poem was so powerful a reminder to me to love who I have, while they are here with me. xo, Scarlet


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