Let me paint you a picture.
It’s Halloween in New Orleans. Eminem, Kiss, and Lenny Kravitz are headlining Voodoo Fest. There are more parties in the city this weekend than you could possibly count. It’s famed the most haunted city in America, and notorious for wildness and playing the edge of having a good time. Even the cemeteries, ornate and prominent, seem to communicate that, yes, this is a place where anything is possible and the dead still hold presence here.
Into this scene steps John Friend, founder of Anusara® yoga and an all around totally profound, down to earth, highly educated good guy with a great sense of humor and storytelling ability. He has come to speak to a room of the curious about the magic and tradition of this time of year. Here is a summary of his talk…
Did you know that people in the US spend $7 Billion annually on Halloween? It’s second only to Christmas, so you know people are celebrating this holiday. People know about it worldwide.
But very few of us know its origins, or the deep potential of manifestation it holds.
So what is the deeper meaning of Halloween?
This time represents the movement of light in its dance within the cycle of the year. It is the twilight of the year, and at this point of transition the veil between worlds becomes very thin.
A brief history: The formal beginnings started in Ireland around 3000 years ago. This time of year is what the Celts called a cross quarter. It’s the juncture between Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice. Think of it as the twilight of the year. It was called Samhain (pronounced “sowen”) and literally meant ‘Summer’s End’.
People gathered at bonfires to acknowledge the changing cycle. November 1st was the New Year for them. The darkness of winter was coming, and with it a chance to reflect on what has come before and look forward to the next cycle. So they did that. These people, who measured their lives by the seasons, gave thanks for the harvest, for family, for that which had transpired that year.
Yet with the end of anything also comes a beginning. And so with the honoring of the past the ancient Celts also looked to the future for what was in store. They played games of divination; trying to tell the fortune of the next year.
Throughout time as one civilization has conquered another, each has fused their traditions. The Romans brought in their tradition of honoring the dead. Then the Christians took it and changed this Nov. 1st New Year holiday to All Saints day, followed by All Soul’s day, which is a time to recognize those who have gone before.
Halloween and its “Trick or Treat” tradition came about because, after the Church took over the Pagan’s Sown, it was on this night that the church encouraged the poor to go door to door asking for food or money. In exchange the givers of these gifts would ask the receivers to pray for their deceased family members.
Because the veil between the worlds is so thin on this night masks were worn to confuse spirits. And out of this, and the rest of the historical traditions, our modern Halloween was born.
So what does this mean to us?
The opportunity here is to recognize the current tradition, figure out why things are the way they are, and then advance – use it to make the world a better place. This is John’s driving theme; learn and then use what you learn to bring more light and upliftment.
Rather than looking at the dark with a fear of the unknown, you can view it as a nurturing womb of unlimited potential. When you close your eyes, there is darkness. Yet in that space you can imagine absolutely anything! What do you choose to create?
As one cycle of light diminishes and the next year comes toward us, we have the chance to do something meaningful. Sure, go out and have a good time. But rather than wearing the masks of costumes and intoxicants to dull the senses and be someone you’re not, you can choose to become more mindful of this powerful time.
This is a time to be grateful for what has come before and plant seeds of intention in the fertile soil of the darkness. These seeds will come to fruition in the next year as the cycle evolves.
It is not only the spirit world that is more accessible as the veil thins here; even the workings of time are more available. This means you can make your intentions known and use your will to create your future.
The Day of the Dead, Nov. 2nd, is still a very important holiday to many. In Mexico, for instance, people will go to the cemetery to light candles and bring their deceased loved ones’ favorite foods. It’s an honoring, a way to light the way and give love. It is considered very holy.
You can do this yourself by bringing out photos of loved ones who have gone before you, even setting a place for them at the table or talking to them. Acknowledge the influences that have helped you become who you are and get to where you are now. Honor those who have inspired you for their greatness. This respect also helps you gather the awareness and power of your own past into the present.
You can create this potency at any moment.
“Spirit is always present,” says John. It is not only in this grand transition between the light and dark of the year that the magic potency of supreme energy is available. You can access it in any moment.
Dawn and dusk happen every day, just as the top of the inhale and the bottom of the exhale cycle moment by moment. It is into these gaps that you may go to find the source of the cycles themselves.
The essence of the dark comes from the same source as everything else, and that primordial energy is intrinsically good. Use what you know, use your own intention and will, to plant seeds of light into that darkness. As they grow and bloom not only will your life be enriched by the ever ascending cycle, but you will be bringing more light into the world.
“In the dark,” John says, “if we can’t see we get afraid. Instead, face your fears. There is so much potential to create here.” Be thankful, even for the challenges because you get through them and each one comes with a gift.
“Transform darkness into light,” he says in closing. “Step forward into the light.”