Why is Halloween so special?
Why do we commemorate the dead around this time in so many cultures worldwide?
Why is Halloween such a mysterious and creepy season? Well, for most, but not for me, this is my Christmas.
Let's get obvious out the way; yes, our ancestors, especially those that lived in the northern hemisphere and were farmers, did see this time of the year in particular as the end of summer, the midpoint between the summer and winter solstice.
Samhain marked the last harvest of the year, and you had better pray that there was enough food to last all of winter and that crops wouldn't freeze and rot, causing starvation, the animals are taken inside, and the nights are getting darker, colder and more prolonged. That alone, I am sure, contributed to the eeriness of it all.
But there is also this weird phenomenon you will encounter many times in your spiritual journey and learning, which is a liminal space or time.
A place between two states of being. A moment between seasons, a threshold, a crossroad, a sea shore.
These locations are where two or more ecosystems often meet, where the Veil between the physical and spiritual world is very thin.
Boy, this is going to be a long article. Buckle up.
The term Veil, to describe the barrier between the physical and spiritual, is relatively recent, probably used with the new era of mystic movements in the early 1900s. Words like mist, smoke, barriers, or shroud are commonly used.
These terms stem from a belief that the spiritual world lives side by side with our world but that the barrier is impenetrable; they can see us, but we can't see them, and they also can't touch our physical form and vice versa. However, this barrier is weaker and, therefore, more prone to supernatural occurrences at liminal places and times.
Examples are; sighting supernatural entities, ghosts, fairies, gods, and mystical animals. You can also do or experience supernatural things like strong intuition about some things, out-of-body experiences, divinatory dreams etc.
So why October and November in particular?
Well, that's just in some parts of the northern hemisphere. Here you can mark the midpoint between the summer and winter solstices, Where the sun crossed Scorpio at 15 degrees around November 6th or 7th if you want to be accurate.
Before and after those dates, People in the northern hemisphere are in this liminal space between summer and winter, light and darkness, life and death. The Veil thins during the days leading up to it and the days after, which is why Samhain, the pagan Gaelic word for Halloween, is a whole season, not just one day.
I could go on about how there are three other dates that Halloween could be celebrated, but no time.
What about in other parts of the world?
I like the example of Iceland, which is just my personal observational theory mixed with some facts, as I sometimes let my spirit take over my writing.
Most recently, a study showed that 55% per cent of Icelandic people still believed in elves and other mystical creatures in one way or another. Fantastic fairy tales have been passed down orally around the fireplace during those long and dark winter months.
Some of those stories were to pass the time, yes. Still, others were allegorical to teach respect for nature, animals and the harsh conditions they had to face in the winter.
The nature of Iceland was and probably still is wild and unforgiving if one does not respect it.
But is there more to these stories? Based on modern Icelanders' recent experiences, you would think something bizarre is happening there.
It is neither myth nor secret that Icelandic building projects have to account for documented hills, forests, rocks, and rivers that are said to be inhabited by hidden people or fair folks.
These mystical folks have a history of being fiercely protective of their dwelling places and even respond with violence when their homes are under threat, as was the case in 2015.
Here Is an excerpt from an Icelandic tourism guide post.
"The most recent incident occurred in 2015 when a new road was to be laid through an enchanted spot in the lava field of Gálgahraun. After many failed attempts, where heavy machinery had continually broken down for no apparent reason, and numerous workers had suffered freak accidents, the construction company was forced to move the road so that it would bypass the elfin community completely."
If this isn't a good enough reason to avoid these dwellings, I don't know what is. I could think of several incidents where people disrespected resting places or places of power and were severely punished for it, which deserves its own blog post.
These hidden folks, masters of those hills, rocks and rivers, mostly stay
hidden unless you mess with their home, but there are times when they let themselves be seen, or maybe the Veil is too thin for them to hide anymore.
As you guessed, those times are liminal spaces around the equinoxes and solstices.
One thing about Iceland, though, is that even if they do celebrate those mainly northern sabbats and esbats, how time works in Iceland and other Nordic countries is quite unique, with long days or long nights, days where the sun does not set at all, you might say they are constantly in a liminal space. Therefore, the Veil is always thin and maybe so are the people because, yes, people can have a thin veil. We will elaborate on that. That would then explain the superstitious nature of more than half the population.
That last thought got me thinking of why people in the global south are also super superstitious, from the mermaid stories at the coast to the belief in "selling" your family to spirit so that you may obtain fame and riches. I have always wondered how these populations seem to all have a thin veil and are more likely to believe in supernatural stories.
Let's travel down south to the Equator where my family is from, more precisely, Kinshasa, which is a little bit south of the Equator. Near the Equator, days and nights are the same lengths, around 12 hours each. However, something happens during the equinoxes and solstice.
SHADOWS - On equinoxes at the Equator, shadows cast by the sun at noon are short and virtually non-existent as the sun shines directly overhead. On solstices, shadows cast by the sun at noon are longer than on any day of the year. The sun is no longer overhead. The sun is either 23.5 degrees south of the Equator - directly over the Tropic of Capricorn or 23.5 degrees north of the Equator - directly over the Tropic of Cancer.
I can imagine the griots explaining this phenomenon with fantastic tales of shadows being your true spirit and how once a year or spirit disappears or travels. I have yet to discover these stories. Also, colonialism had a hand in erasing that part of my culture
(Any moment I get to say fuck colonialism, I will).
This topic also deserves its article, as it would take me so long to research, but it will be worth it.
Liminal spaces as physical locations
Outside of the celestial movements that make the days and seasons, Let's talk about physical places and how they can be liminal.
The Veil is thin during particular times of the year but also in certain places; a veil is thin where two or more elements collide, earth, fire, air, and water; these places are called Vortices or vortex singular. Think of sea shores, air, water, earth, Volcanoes, fire, earth, waterfalls, riverbeds, and deserts.
Let's circle back to Iceland, the nature in Iceland is such a great example of the elements coming together and making the Veil of an entire country so thin that they have to build around fairy hills.
I asked my best friend, who is of Tunisian descent and well versed in the occult, to give me some insight about where the places of power usually reside in middle eastern, north African terrains.
The topics moved to where Djinns, these mystical beings of smokeless fire, would dwell.
According to his research and cultural knowledge, the answer was in old temples, ruins or religious monuments. Before such architectural places, he said they were more likely to dwell in underground caves, especially where there was less noise.
All of this deserves, of course, another article as well. However, the point here is that areas mostly still unpopulated by humans are places where the spirits may roam free and where the Veil is at its thinnest because they are unlikely to encounter humans. Areas where nature is left alone and different elements and ecosystems are left alone are also vortices that might make the barrier between the world almost inexistent.
Is this why shamans, witch doctors, Babalawos and other spiritual leaders have such strong affinities with nature?
I have many theories about this, one being the spirituality of people of colour, at least people who reluctantly accepted this new modern way of living, industrialisation and more. These people, I count myself and my people part of this group, have had a hard time assimilating completely with Abrahamic religions. On the surface, many of us might look like we are Christians, Muslims or Jewish. However, due to the Veil being thin at the places where many of us have resided and still reside to this day, we still have a strong link to the otherworlds, a link that is not felt as intensely in places where nature is quasi-non-existent or not respected. This topic also deserves to be delved into, which I will do in the future.
I will stop here with this part because it's already a lot of information.
Part two is about how humans are also born with thin veils or how we go through moments of our lives where the Veil will thin.
I will touch on tips on how not to go full crazy when that happens.