The Witch’s New Year

I love Halloween.  I’d trade in Thanksgiving and Easter for another day or two of Samhain and, if I got to decide on these things, it would be a holiday.  Instead of spending the day in the kitchen cooking and cleaning while the extended family rehash the old fights over football games and other assorted mind-numbers on TV, on All Hallows we have licence for one magical day to indulge the darker half of ourselves. 

all-hallows-eve-witch

Samhain, the dark winter half of the year, commences on this Sabbat which one of the two spirit-nights, the other being Beltane in the summer. It is a magical interval when the veil between the worlds is thin.  The departed journey through this world at Samhain on their way to the Summerlands, so communication with them is easier.  It is a a time to honour the Dark Mother and the Dark Father, symbolized by the Crone and her aged Consort.

Dark Faerie Forest

It’s  a ritual, a festival, as old as time, originally the “Feast of the Dead” was celebrated in Celtic countries . The Greater Sabbat has also been known as Third Harvest, Samana, Day of the Dead, Old Hallowmas (Scottish/Celtic), Vigil of Saman, Shadowfest (Strega), Samhuinn, All Hallow’s Eve, (that day actually falls on November 7th), and Martinmas (that is celebrated November 11th).  Samhain is  considered the Witch’s New Year.

samhain

Many of our Halloween traditions have their roots in those practices, although they have been whitewashed of their original spiritual potency and turned into games.  Do you recognize some of these in the candy and costumes of today?

Food offerings were left on altars and doorsteps for the wandering dead.

Single candles were set out on a window ledge or near the door to guide the soul of a loved one home.

Extra chairs were set to the table and around the hearth for the unseen guest.

Apples were buried along roadsides and paths for spirits who were lost or had no descendants to provide for them.

Turnips were hollowed out and carved to look like protective spirits on this night of magic and chaos.

The Wee Folk became very active, pulling pranks on unsuspecting humans, so travelling after dark was was not advised.

People dressed in white (like ghosts), wore disguises made of straw, or dressed as the opposite gender in order to fool the Nature spirits.

Crops still in the field on Samhain were considered taboo, and left as offerings to the Nature spirits.

Bonfires were built, (originally called bone-fires, for after feasting, the bones were thrown in the fire as offerings for healthy and plentiful livestock in the New Year) and stones were marked with peoples names. Then they were thrown into the fire, to be retrieved in the morning. The condition of the retrieved stone foretold of that person’s fortune in the coming year.

Hearth fires were also lit from the village bonfire to ensure unity, and the ashes were spread over the harvested fields to protect and bless the land.

Not having any Wicca friends to practice the old ways with, I will celebrate All Hallows in a costume that reflects a side of me that doesn’t fit in my everyday life and (over) indulge in some modern forms of bacchanalia.

Dark_Fairy

And on Monday night I’ll be at my front door in something a little more . . .acceptable . . to hand out candy to all those cute little ghouls and ghosts, princesses and superheroes.

Only for All Hallows . . some 30 Seconds to Mars . . .censored version, but still fair warning it won’t be everyone’s taste.

 

PDA – is it ever acceptable?

Public displays of affection – is there ever an acceptable time and a place?  Well maybe . . .but they are few and far between.  The famous Alfred Eisenstaedt photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square at the end of WWII is an iconographic image that captured perfectly the exuberant spirit of the time and place.

Times Square Kiss

I’m all for a warm welcome at the airport, or a loving goodbye when you drop someone off, but being treated to this while I’m out for a run – hmmmm, can you say “get a room”?  And if you want a laugh, Google “public displays of affection” and check out the images – wow, who even knew some of that was actually possible – but I don’t want the porno police blocking me!

public-display-of-affection-300

And now we can also enjoy PDA online thanks to egregious displays of affectation (pun intended) posted on the walls of the newly in love gushing on our News Feed  . . .

“you are the best <3”

“no you are the best ❤ <3”

“I’m with my bestie ❤ [insert tagged name] ❤ at [insert name of mediocre chain restaurant]”

All with the requisite snuggle bunny photos of the newly twosome posted on an hourly basis. 

Don’t they have jobs?  And really, did we all need to know that?    The comments go back and forth between the newly love struck, usually without comment from friends, making me think that I’m not the only one gagging at all the PDA.  Time to take action and block it.  The only sure thing about PDA is that it will wear off sooner rather than later, then they can look back on all that and wonder, like the rest of us, what the *&#@ was I thinking?

PDA not amused

And although it’s not a mutual PDA, there is another PDA that needs to stop – and right away.  If you’ve been out dancing with your girlfriends at a club or a concert anytime recently, you have probably been subjected to someone else’s PDA – as in those annoying, creepy guys who want to dance right up on you.  There you are, having a great time with your girlfriends, rocking out to the awesome music and some guy thinks it’s ok to get right up behind you and press his junk, onto your trunk.  Hell no, there is not enough tequila in the world for that – get that thing off of me creepy boy.  No-one has a better answer for the creepy dancing boy than the lovely and talented, Jenna Marbles.  Fair warning, Jenna has a potty mouth, so don’t click on the video if you are easily offended.  Otherwise, her YouTube channel is hilarious.

In thinking about a musical theme for tonight’s post, I came across yet another form of PDA – self PDA (once again, Google that . . .OMG!). And who better to treat us to a squirmy display of self love than Adam Levine.  The song is catchy, no doubt about it and despite being no fan of Maroon 5 I always find myself singing  along, but what the heck is he doing with the mic cord in those plether (or in Vancouver “vegan leather”) pants?  Sorry Adam, no matter what your ❤ bestie ❤ told you, only Mick has the moves.

And my dear friends, should that time come that I suffer from the temporary insanity of new lust and take to indulging in either online or live-in-person displays of PDA – well you can just send this blog right on back to me and remind me of this.   

Fragile Bird

“There would be punishment and pain, and there would be happiness, too.  That was writing.”  Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Some stories won’t go away until they are written, this one’s for my brother and my sister.

The story of “The Standover Man”  has been very present in my thoughts since I  read it  in Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.  The Standover Man is a story within a story, written and drawn on ripped out pages of Mein Kampf  that have been painted over with white paint, because that’s all the character Max had to write on.  Max is hiding in a German family’s basement,  in grave fear for his life.  He is Jewish, it’s 1942 in a small town in Nazi Germany.  Death is the narrator.  

It’s a story of great fear and anxiety, but also of hope and of those fleeting kindnesses and loves that define us in the end.  The images and words of The Standover Man resonated so strongly with me  and, maybe because I live inside my own head a lot of the time, it never occurred to me that anyone else would have had such a profound reaction.  Then  I started writing this story.  I took pictures of the book pages, like the ones below and uploaded them.  It was such an intensely personal experience and I never thought to look outside my own reality.

Then in the course of writing this blog I put the name into Google and was astonished to find that I am not the only one who fell completely under the spell of The Standover Man.   “Zoe” put her heart into this mesmerizing animated video.

My Standover Man:   I dreamed a dream for many years.   When I woke, I never knew if it was a blessing or a curse.  The heart stopping fear of the dream, or the heart stopping fear that stalked me even on waking.   I dreamed a house, a black house.  A big, dark, shuttered black house.  I am  inside, but I don’t see me,  I am just there.    And something is outside, trying to get in, to get to me.   Running, heart pounding, from window to door, furiously closing and locking all entrances, but in the way of dreams, it is  never enough and  there is always one left unlocked, one forgotten.   Upstairs, downstairs, no matter fast I run, how many doors I slam and lock, how many windows I close and shutter,  there are always more.   Waking up, drenched in sweat,  paralyzed by fear;  heart pounding,  trying to silently catch your breath, eyes battened shut, terrified to move.   Willing the darkness away.  Forcing yourself to move, to get out of bed, but closing all the windows and drawing the curtains closed.  Sitting in artificial twilight until reality interposes itself,  the darkness and the terror slowing draining away,  tension unraveling out of muscle and sinew.  Breathing an imposed act of will, finding movement,  slowing weaving commonplace actions back into the dreamscape. 

“Man… is above all the plaything of his memory.”  ~Andre Breton, “Manifesto of Surrealism,” 1924

Two other favourite pages.   Max pictures himself as a bird, but the girl says he “looks like something else” and when he dreams of his lost family, he dreams of people, not birds.

***THE BOOK THIEF – LAST LINE ***

I have hated the words and

I have loved them,

and I hope I have made them right.

 

If today was the last day of my life . . .

Steve Jobs:

 “When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

“Simple can be harder than complex.  You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Steve Jobs’  legacy:

“In billions of song downloads, finger swipes and sleek white headphones, Steve Jobs lives on.  300 million iPods sold since 2001, so popular that the very sight of white headphones is now eternally associated with Apple’s products.”

“A man whose vision ended up disrupting almost every creative and commercial industry on Earth”

“He realized what we wanted before we understood it ourselves. We wanted easy to use. We wanted to lose ourselves in what our gadgets did. We wanted sleek, cool, streamlined — things that weren’t always associated with consumer electronics. We wanted the relationship between object fetish and functionality to be indistinguishable. We wanted to touch the future without seams that would yank us out of our communion with our machines. We wanted, in short, intricate simplicity.”

“Steve was never really interested in possessions or money. As a person, his house was bare of furniture: there was only a picture of Einstein and Gandhi, and a lamp and a bed. He was very much a minimalist in many ways.  Steve was building a house in Woodside and it was so understated and so simple and so small. He was one of the wealthiest men in the world and he had several bedrooms in the house sharing the same bathroom.”

“Cultivating Apple’s countercultural sensibility and a minimalist design ethic, Jobs rolled out one sensational product after another.  He helped change computers from a geeky hobbyist’s obsession to a necessity of modern life at work and home.”

 “Steve Jobs will be associated forever with the cultural icons who stepped outside the establishment. The “Think Different” Apple ads feature Dylan and Hitchcock and Picasso and Gandhi and Ali but the understated message is that Steve Jobs lives on that same unique pedestal. The words of that ad could well serve as today’s eulogy to Mr. Jobs:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. They’re not fond of rules and they hold no respect for the status quo…. They push the human race forward…. The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.

“The beloved, iconic, captivating symbol of the Apple, tiny bite taken, will remind us every day . .  that a gentle genius created technology that went so far as to beguile us. Steve Jobs’ mind has blown our collective mind. Rest in peace, Steve, as we fondly and passionately remember your urging us all to “Think Different.”