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Samhain Mediation:



Mark: Welcome back to the wonder science-based paganism. I'm your host, mark.

Yucca: And I'm Yucca.

Mark: And it is Hallows seasons, Samhain season, Halloween, so many happy returns of the holiday to you. Today we're going to talk about all things related to those holidays, that constellation of holidays, and talk about themes and activities and how we celebrate.

So it's hard to believe that we've come all the way around the wheel of the year, again, to, to this time. But here it is

Yucca: Yeah, here we are. And personally, I'm thrilled. I love this time of year

Mark: me too.

Yucca: it's a fun one. And right now, so we're recording the 24th, so a week ahead. But mark, you have another reason to be celebrating happening right now, right?

Mark: I do it is pouring rain where I live and we've been in a really serious drought. So I'm, I'm, I'm in a really great mood today. It's the sky is dark and gray and we're probably getting about an inch, an hour of rain, maybe a little less. And,

Yucca: a

Mark: we have flash flood warnings and I couldn't be more pleased

Yucca: Yeah. So sounds like the land has been really, really thirsty. This is early for you to write.

Mark: very much so. Yeah. I mean, we typically get one rainstorm in September or October, and then it stays dry again until like December But this is the second rainstorm we've had. The first one was very weak and about a week ago. But this is a class five atmospheric river, so it's huge. And we're expected to get as much as 13, 14 inches of rain in the next 24 hours.

So it's pretty exciting.

Yucca: That's amazing. Yeah. So I hope everybody stays safe during this time as well though. Cause you've had fires. So after fires, there's often the mudslides and flooding that comes from the areas that were burned.

Mark: Right. The other reason why it is such a relief to have this huge rainstorm for us here is that this marks the end of wildfire season. Everything is getting a good wedding down and we're we're even if we have a lightning storm now, which is what set off the last couple of rounds of fires were lightning storms.

The ground is just going to be too wet for anything to take off. So we're, we're good

Yucca: be that sponge, just that store to get you through the next few months. Hope, and then hopefully your rain will come, so, oh, well that's great.

Mark: Yep. They're excited.

Yucca: yeah, 13 inches. That's amazing. So, but why don't we let's jump into Hallows and Halloween and all of that. And let's actually start by talking about.

Different holidays because like Blake, when we get to the winter solstice, there are quite a few holidays that are all clumped together. And sometimes we treat them sort of as one, sometimes we don't, but there's different themes. There's overlapping themes. So I think that'd be interesting to get into the differences

Mark: Sure. Yeah, at the winter solstice, there's a, I mean, a literal blizzard of holidays, starting, starting with Krampus knocked on December 7th and then extending all the way until.

Yucca: Mid January.

Mark: January when you've got, you know, the end of 12th night and you know, all those three or three Kings day, and there's all kinds of stuff going on in there for, for various different religious orientations, but here in the United States.

Anyway, we really only have one conventionally recognized holiday that is celebrated by the predominant culture. And that's Halloween on the 31st, which is a week from today. And

Yucca: I my area also

DIA de Los Muertos is really big here as well. Yeah. cause we're, my account is about 80% Hispanic. So that's a big, but for the, for the majority of the country, I think you're right. That, that Halloween is the primary celebrated holiday.

Mark: We do have some celebrations of DIA de Los Muertos here. And, but I mean, the area where I live is predominantly Anglo. And so, it's really more for the Latino community and and in a very gracious and welcoming way, the leaders of the Latino community welcomed the rest of the community to come and visit the public or friend does and all that kind of stuff.

Very aesthetically beautiful holiday. It just, you know, the orange and black and the, the beautiful, beautiful altars. They're just so stunning. So anyway, we have this day Halloween, and for those of us who are pagans, then there's this other thing which is called Sowan or we call it Hallows in atheopagan ism because we don't use the Celtic names for things.

Yucca: Or last harvest is another one that gets used.

Mark: Right. The last of the three harvest Sabbaths. So, we, we thought that we would differentiate between those a little bit because for one thing, we're pagan, so we'll take any opportunity to celebrate things that have a holiday. So we'll, you know, we grab all of them and we don't have to crystallize our favorite time of the year down into a single day.

In fact October is kind of eerie month.

Yucca: Yes.

Mark: We get out all the decorations and we watch scary movies and just do all the, you know, read ghost stories and do all, all the things,

Yucca: And eat, pumpkin so much pumpkin

Mark: eat so much pumpkin. Oh my goodness.

Yucca: and the sweet potatoes and the all that nice warm, all that good stuff.

Mark: Yeah. Yeah. So let's talk about Halloween first. I mean, this is going to be pretty familiar, I think to almost all, if not all of our listeners it's obviously a holiday that has become very commercialized in the United States. More money is spent on Halloween than on any other holiday, except for Christmas.

And that's in the form of decorations, candy, party supplies, and costuming generally. It's a big deal. And so there are these, there are themes that go along with Halloween. And the biggest one is death, mortality and scary stuff, stuff we don't generally cuddle up to, or want to look at so big, hairy spiders and you know, lots of cobwebs and imaginary, supernatural beings that scare us a lot and psychotic people who will kill you because they're deranged and all those sorts of kind of narrative themes.

It's a, it's a time for looking at the darker side of life. And I wouldn't say. In the mainstream culture that's done in an entirely healthy way. For one thing, it's very commercialized and it's also highly sexualized. A lot of the costuming, especially for women is it's like sexy nurse, sexy air air, traffic controller.


Yucca: I was looking at it and my kids are very young, but I was looking at costumes for them. And we ended up making them, which was way more fun for the kids, but looking at what would fit my five-year-old daughter and going, whoa, whoa, wow. Like, you know, we're not like super like modest, tight, strict people, but like that's uncomfortable.

Like that's for a, five-year-old that's a barely more than a toddler and you know, the, the skirts and the low cut things and just very sexualized already

Mark: Yeah.

Yucca: I was quite disappointed actually to find that

Mark: Yeah, it's disturbing. And I mean, to me, part of that is just not letting children have childhood,

Yucca: yeah,

Mark: You know, sexual, especially girls, you know, sexualizing them early and kind of encouraging them into that sort of, you know, demonstrative sort of dress and, and behavior. And as you say, you know, as pagans, we're not, prudes, we're all about the sex.

We think it's great, but not for five-year-olds.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: That's that's, that's inappropriate and there's no reason for it. And unfortunately there is that factor that happens with children, where they try to emulate what their parents or the older people are doing, because you know, learning to play adult is a part of how they learn to become adults.

Right. And so I think then there's that fosters this demand for this kind of costuming that just really isn't appropriate.

Yucca: And to be fair, it's not all of them, there are plenty of other ones out there, but a lot of those are the ones that get on the front page of this search. You know, when you're on Amazon or they're the things that are at the front of the store, if you're going into a physical store, like that's, what's being presented and you have to search to do something else that you've got to put in this, this time and mental effort.

And just to use some of your bandwidth to make a conscious choice to not do that.

Mark: right, right. So that being said, it is a very commercialized holiday and because it is a mainstream over culture holiday, it is steeped with the values of that culture. Two very big aspects are a very uncomfortable and often inappropriate relationship with sexuality and a deep phobia around death, which sometimes manifest itself in morbid fascination, especially at this time of year.

So you will see people going for the bloodiest most disgusting look they can possibly come up with because. That's cool that the rest of the year, they have to kind of keep their fascination with that stuff bottled up. But on this one day of the year, they can, they can let it shine.

So, we were talking about fiends and I think that

and we've talked about this before. There's a, there's a sort of Gothic aesthetic. That's very popular with with goth people clearly. But with pagans in which generally because we, our value system is somewhat different. We kind of, we embrace the dark, we don't reject the dark. And so being associated with spiders and snakes and bones and skulls and.

That's and all that kind of thing, black cats that doesn't freak us out at all. In fact, we like it. We, we, we gravitate it is it's kind of fun and there's a, there's a power in it. I think, you know, that, that we, we take to ourselves, these, these objects of fear on the part of the mainstream culture and say, Hey, we're not scared of it.

You know, to us, these are powerful allies and friends. And so, you know, we, there there's some, there's some weight that goes behind that. Some, some power that is implied by our not being phased by stuff that the rest of the culture seems to be intimidated by.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: So. Talk, still talking about Halloween before we get into hellos. And so, and what are some of the activities that we associate with with that holiday?

Yucca: Well, clearly the trick or treating that's a big yeah. The trick or treating. And then sometimes the Halloween parties as well, but, but really the trick or treating is the first and foremost part.

Mark: Right. And. You know, especially now that's really kind of a remarkable thing when you consider how encapsulated people are in their little homes, most of the time and the kind of paranoid relationship that we have with one another. Now, I mean, violent crime has been dropping steadily and crime against children has been dropping steadily for decades, according to all the available statistics.

And yet parents, I mean, the idea of parents actually letting a band of trick or treaters go around on their own without parental supervision. That just doesn't happen anymore. And it used to, when I was a kid, it was like, go have a good time. We're going to stay here and hand out candy to the kids. And, you know, we'll see you back here at nine o'clock or whatever the time is.

Yucca: Yeah.

but that was already, by the time I was a kid in the nineties that was already fading. Right, That you might see a few, maybe the older kids you'd be maybe the kids that were just on the edge of not of kind of being a little too old for trick or treating, like they could do it, but, but you know, any of the younger kids, they were always, there was a parent, but maybe the parent was like staying back in the car on the side of the road or just sort of like watching, but yeah.

You couldn't do that anymore.

Mark: So I think that at the stage that we're at now where, I mean, I don't know about you, but I get bombarded with advertising for, for like home alarm systems. It's ridiculous. It's like, I don't need a home alarm system. Sorry.

Yucca: Or they have it so that you can then check it with your phone and then I'm like, yeah. But then someone can just hack into that. And now your phone, like now you can, you've got cameras all over your house and anybody could hack in and see what's going on inside your house. That's creepy to me. That's way more

Mark: super creepy. Yeah,

Yucca: All the smart, the,

so-called smart gadgets really creeped me out. Not in the fun Halloween way, but in the like dystopian future creeped out way.

Mark: yeah, me too. Me too. We have one smart thing in our house. It's a smart plug

Yucca: Okay.

Mark: that the mayor can control from her phone to turn lights on and off that I can live with. It's not connected to the, well, I guess it is connected to the internet by some sort of means, but all that it can do is turn on and off.

That's all that it's capable of doing.

Yucca: It's not voice command.

Mark: There's no voice command there's no he, oh yeah. Don't even get me started on Siri and all those things. They're just really, really disturbing. So. Leaving leaving the actual scary stuff in the world, going back to the stuff that isn't really so scary, but which people get creeped out about.

So the trick or treating of course is a really big deal about that. And that has two elements to it. One of which is, you know, bands of small bandits going from door to door, demanding protection, candy,

Yucca: Yes.

Mark: The the other is is the costuming right on Halloween. We get to pretend to be somebody else.

Yucca: Yeah. We get to play with.

Mark: Yes. And that is. Incredible really. I mean, to me, that's the most attractive part of the whole Halloween, the, the mainstream Halloween holidays that I like to dress up as different kinds of people. I, I enjoy that. I, and, and when I do it, I do it in this very method acting kind of immersive way where my character has a name and they have a backstory and, you know, it's a very Dungeons and dragons sort of, way of approaching things.

Yucca: And is the listeners you already know, we're both, you know, big, big into Dungeons and dragons in the role-playing tabletop role, playing games. So

Mark: yes.

Yucca: even another excuse, but this time it can be LARPing even better, right?

Mark: Yeah. So you should tell them about your game that you do this time of year.

Yucca: Oh yes. So. So we do a lot of gaming but around Halloween we'll do a horror game. So my partner and I, and neither of us particularly liked to play for, but enjoy running the game. So we'll actually code DM a game and in here's where we can get together and there's not, you know, pandemic going on. We still don't have people coming into our home because our children are too young to have the vaccine yet.

Although hopefully pretty soon the older will be able to, but we still have the youngest. So we still have all the precautions. But when we, when it's not a year like that, we actually use a system called dread. So instead of rolling dice, it's a Jenga block tower. And that just adds to the tension and the atmosphere and we'll do different themes, but it's the one time of year that with the people we play with that it's.

Instead of doing a power fantasy, we get to play with those horror themes. And again, I'm not a big fan of playing the horror, but I'm pretty good at figuring out the things that are really kinda gonna get my friends and feel like, Ooh, this is, this is what's going to really, really make you uncomfortable just for that one.

Just for the one night. And there's just something really nice about being able to, to play quite literally with those different uncomfortable, those that whole different side. There's just something very, very I guess cathartic about whore.

Mark: Yeah. Yeah, I think so. I mean, there's, there's some good science on this, actually. I mean, you know, what, what horror movies do is they build tension and then they give you a big dopamine flush and then they do it again and then they do it again. And you know, that's rather like winning frequently at the slot machine.

It's the same, you know, the same sort of intermittent reinforcement principle that works so well for human motivation.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: So it's it's a kind of a natural thing for us to be attracted to doing.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: so the dressing up, that's a, that's a big deal. I, we have tons of costumes stuff, Noumea, and I do tons and tons of it.

I'm not saying it all fits anymore. But we have. And I haven't decided what I'm going to wear on Halloween itself. And I'll be getting into what my weekend looks like next weekend in a little bit, but we're going to be the new neighborhood that we live in now, I believe probably has quite a number of kids that are going to go trick or treating.

And so I'm going to get home from my other commitments early enough that I can change into a costume and hand out candy. And that'll be fun because we haven't done that for years. The places where we've lived before have not had children come by.

Yucca: Well, where we live, there will be no trick-or-treaters, but we will be going into town to their grandmother's place, which is actually where my family would drive us to town. I had lived very rural as a child as well to go trick or treating. But my children have informed me that I'm going to be the wishing tree.

So anyone with young kids right now might be familiar with true in the rainbow kingdom show from Netflix. But they are going as true and Bartleby, and I am going as a very large tree that grants wishes. So, but it's good. I think it's going to be really cute.

Mark: It sounds adorable.

Yucca: yes. And they got, they got to choose what everybody was going to be.

I was, I was going, how about we all be cats? No, I don't get to dress up like a cat. I'm going to be a big tree.

Mark: Lumbering tree.

Yucca: yeah. With a little smile on it. So yeah, they were also voting, they also number blocks. So basically going as numbers was pretty high on their list too,


Mark: well,

Yucca: yeah.

Mark: And you have, you have a week to get that costume together if it's not together already.

Yucca: It is not, I don't think it's going to be terribly difficult because it's a tree. So I'm just getting, I get to be great. there's, a little bit trickier. I mean, the, the littlest ones could, it's going to be a black cat, basically talking black cat. So that should be good. Cute, cute photos for the future to get to look back on. And that's, I, I remember, and it's, it seemed like it's been the same thing with my kids. Just being the anticipation. there's something so exciting about it. I was woken up this morning to a little voice going seven days to Halloween. So she's been doing that since day 20. Very excited.

Mark: I mean, there's so much to love about it when you're a little kid, it's like you get, it's a different day. It's different than all the other days of the year and you get to dress up and you get to go and get candy, and there's all this sort of wonderful imagery around you. That's really interesting and, and evocative.

I mean, I, I, I loved it when I was a kid and I, well, I didn't stop

Yucca: you still, Right,

A lot of the other holidays that we have, like, there's a kid component to it, but it's not really about kids.

Mark: right.

Yucca: Like we're going to be coming up on Thanksgiving. And so yeah, you get to like eat stuff and that's great, but there isn't really a kid you're just sort of there for Thanksgiving.

Halloween is really about kids and a lot of ways for the kids, right. Still adults who don't have kids do plenty of Halloween things, but,

Mark: Right.

Yucca: but just from their perspective,

Mark: Yeah. Being the center of attention. That's, I mean, that's, that's an attractive prospect for most people and especially for children.

Yucca: And getting to put a mask on piece, someone else and get lots of sugar, lots and lots of sugar.

Mark: Lots of sugar. You bet.

Yucca: So

Mark: So, the, the other side of this holiday season is the pagan side, the Salan or Hallows as some of us call it or the third harvest.

And that is not necessarily. October 31st fact, the actual midpoint between the autumnal Equinox and the winter solstice lands, typically on the sixth or 7th of November. So what that does is create a nice tidy week of festivities through October 31st through the 7th of November. When you can do all kinds of cool fun, spooky, great Erie stuff.

So why don't you talk a little bit about your thoughts and feelings around this time of year and.

Yucca: Yeah. So, so for us, it's this time of year is really about our ancestors, about the, our ancestry and yes, about our immediate, you know, our parents and grandparents and their parents. So our, our human ancestry and maybe our cultural ancestry. But it's also a time that the magically we're really interested in our non-human ancestors, looking at our.

At evolution, right? And the, the looking at going back, you know, to reptiles, back to fish, but way before we were even, you know, court dates and going back through and, and really looking at that and just bringing that back into our normal awareness, because we can get so focused in, on our, our daily human life in are extremely urbanized separated from the rest of nature reality, even though, as we've talked about before, you never really can separate from that, but we can, we can put our blinders on and pretend that we are right.

And so this time of year is really about being in touch with that. And also the, those that went before the, to make us to allow us to exist that were our ancestors, but also the. That whose deaths allowed us to be in a, in a way they are also our ancestors. So the, the beings that we ate, right. And all of us, again, no matter what your diet is you, because the like thing, that's not really, like, that's not really a thing.

Like we all eat. That's just part of being an organism. And we ate somebody in somebody, in somebody. And those, I think honoring those beings is, is honoring our ancestors. So we think a lot about that. It's we were always, you know, reading books and watching documentaries and things like that, but we try to theme w we try to choose things that match with the theme of the time of year So we've been milling a lot on on human evolution and things like that. So the, we have the, the family practice and then my personal practice and the family practices evolving as the children are growing older and getting into different phases in their life on a personal level, I will do like a kind of a meditation or where I will just step out, do a private ritual, usually outside sometime around dusk.

And just. Take a moment to really, really think about and remember, and.

be really present with those ideas. On my YouTube channel, a couple of years back, I actually did a guided meditation version of this. If people are interested in checking that out.

Mark: Great. Let's put a link to that in the episode notes.

Yucca: Yeah. So I'll go ahead And put a link there for everyone who wants to check that, out. And you know, that's like a 20 or 30 minute version for me when I'm guiding myself through that it would, it's maybe a longer process. And it's really nice when I finished. I don't like being cold, but I'll usually go out and do this so that I am a little bit cold afterwards when I go in and there's, and now it's dark and there's just this, this quiet feeling afterwards.

Mark: And that, that ties in with the idea of Hallows or sell and as the third harvest, the flesh harvest, but not just the, the late vegetables, but also the time when you're thinning the herds. So that the, the, the animals that you keep are your reproductive stock and, and what you need to get through to the net, to the following spring.

But you're not keeping everybody because all of those will eat and food that they're going to eat his food you need.

Yucca: Yeah. Or, or like, you know, with cattles, we don't even sustain food as them typically, but they need a lot of it. And is it available? Do you have it stored up? Right.

Do you have enough of it or not?

Mark: Right, right.

Yucca: yeah.

Mark: Yeah. So, that whole idea of. The ancestral value of the creatures that we have consumed becomes really pertinent at this time of year. I think there's a tradition that is pretty common in the pagan community which I like to call a silent supper. There they're more frequently called a dumb supper, but I don't like using that word for being unable to speak.

So I'm a silent supper and that's a, a silent meal contemplated meal where an empty space is set for the dead. Or in some cases, if it's a ritual for a particular funeral, then that place is set for that particular person.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: And then the foods that are offered to them, which are always the best, the best cuts of whatever you have, the nicest vegetable, the prettiest piece of cake, all that kind of stuff that gets offered to wildlife afterwards, so that it goes back into the cycle of everything as we all do that there are at some of them that I've been to there have been sort of thinking prompts that have been printed on a little card next to the place settings and thinking about ancestors and then also about the animals and plants that we've eaten over time are among those prompts.

That can be a very profound ritual. Actually. It's a. There's this, something about creating a special feast for the dead and, you know, having the food be very special and using the good dishes and you know, all that kind of stuff. It can be, it can be very moving actually.

Yucca: And, and the silent aspect to, it seems like it would create would be create a space out of the normal, because we so often are filling things with conversation, with our phones, with our, you know, everything. But when it's silent, you are there. You're really there. Right? Where else can you be? If not there.

Mark: Yes. And it reminds you of the profound silence or silent equivalents. The death is no stimulation, no awareness. Just. Stillness.

So that's a thing that sometimes people do for Sowan hellos celebration in honor, of their ancestors or of the people that have passed over the course of the last year. I'm going to back up the people who have died over the course of the last year. I really don't like those euphemisms for Def prefer not to use them.

What are some other activities that you do? I know that there are some things that I do in the lead up to Hallows that are a value to be. I update my preparation documents for death every year at this time of year in October. My will, my Advanced directives for health decisions. My you know, just lists of phone numbers of people to be contacted and biographical details for an obituary and a farewell letter.

And about a half page description of my wishes for the conditions under which I'd like to die. You know, I prefer to die at home. I prefer to see my friends as my health allows. I'd prefer to listen to this kind of music and have these kinds of sense around me. And

Yucca: So your death plan in the same way, someone might go to the hospital with a birth plan.

Mark: yes.

Yucca: your, your death plan. Yeah.

Mark: And so I update all that stuff and then I take it to my ritual circle, dark suns Annual cell and gathering. And then we sign the documents and I have members of my ritual circle service, the witnesses for the things that require legal signatures. I believe very strongly that doing this kind of preparation is a profound gift to the people who survive you.

When people are grieving, their brains are fogged and it's very hard to pay attention to details like, you know, how do I find the life insurance account number or the phone number for the the bank or the password to the Facebook account, or, I mean, any of those things and having all of that in a packet of information that can just be given to the loved ones.

Is a huge weight off them. And it's something that I feel strongly we should do. Not only for them, but because having an annual think about the fact that you're going to die and making some choices about how you would like that to go, I think is very healthy for us.

Yucca: I

Mark: It helps. It helps remind us that this life is finite and that it's precious.

And so that means that if there's something that's missing in your life, well, you better get to it.

Yucca: Yeah. And I think that in our culture, we're, as we've talked about before, we're really scared of death and. W we like to not, we don't want to think about death because of some sort of idea that somehow if you think about it, it's going to make it.

happen. Right.

It's it's going to happen either way.

Mark: Right,

Yucca: so, so, you know, make the best of what you've got right now.

And being aware that you are going to die, you can make those, hopefully, you know, sometimes there's accidents and you're just gone. Right. But you might be able to have the chance to make those last moments more like you want them to be like you were describing in the, in like the death plan. And also a moment to step back and just be able to see is what I'm doing, what I want, because I am going to die.

I've only got these, how many ever decades. Assuming everything goes great. Well, is this how I really want to be using it?

Mark: right, right.

Yucca: So it's kind of that you hear the stories about people on their death bed, looking back at their life and going, I wish I had done XYZ, but this time of year is an opportunity to have a mini little deathbed each year. So you can look back and see, did I do what I want? And it's your second chance it's it's giving yourself the second chance before it even happens.

Mark: Right, right. That's very well put the, the flip side of refusing to look at the fact that you're going to die out of the fear that that's somehow going to accelerate the process is that instead what it actually does is it tends to give you clarity. Clarity about the fact that your life is going to end and that the you've got a limited amount of time.

And then you can make real choices about what you want to do with the time that's allotted to you. And you don't know when you're going to die, because accidents do happen. And people get terrible diseases at young ages and lots of, lots of, you know, bad things can happen to perfectly good people.

There's, there's, there's no rhyme or reason to it. It's just luck fortune.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: And, but at least you will know for yourself and your loved ones will. How you wanted it to be, and it also gives you a chance to write a farewell letter that says the things you want to say to the people in your life. You don't have to leave anything unsaid if you don't want to.

Because I think that a lot of people on their death bed really regret that they didn't say a thing to a person whether it was an expression of love or an expression of anger or an expression of acceptance and forgiveness, whatever it is, those are important. And they can give you, I think, a sense of peace.

As you pass into the death experience, knowing that that letter is going to be read and people will receive the messages that you wanted them to.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: So that's something that I do leading up to the hellos holiday. The other thing that I do is I steep myself in the mood of the season as much as I possibly can. So we have been watching all of these Halloweeny movies many of which are just terrible hammer, horror movies, and really schlocky kinds of things.

But some of them are pretty good. I mean, there's a, there's a wonderful movie with Nicole Kidman called the others, which is very eerie and, and creepy without being gory at all. It's just very, very creepy and it's, it's worth, worth seeing. There's another with Kate Blanchett called the gift, which is a sort of psychic power, supernatural things set in the deep south.

Great cast in that. And then there's some of the other more standard things like the fog and and practical magic, which I watched this year, every, at this time of year, every year, because it's just so delightful.

Yucca: Hm. Hm. Yeah. And depending on the place where you are too, I mean this, the time of year just outside is just really fun, right? Especially for those folks who live somewhere where you might be in a next to a maple tree or something like that, where you get to skip the amazing amounts of leaves and the beautiful that crackle when you step on them and the little and the little that chill in the wind and the spell of autumn, there's just, every place has its own really special. It's special ambiance.

Mark: Yes. Yes. Sometimes in October can sometimes be very warm where I am, because it's before the storms have come. And so sometimes we have these sort of spookily warm evenings with kind of a light breeze sort of whistling around the eaves and wind chimes tinkling a little bit. And it's all just very, very evocative.

Oh, that's another movie that we always watch, which is the Halloween tree which is the animated version of the Ray Bradbury book which is a wonderful book about the season and ultimately about mortality.

Yucca: yeah, these are. Good suggestions. So

Mark: So that's the kind of thing that I, and of course we decorate outside so that we can attract tricker traders and all that good kind of stuff. And I bring in a bunch of colorful leaves and use those and gourds and dried corn cobs, and so forth to decorate around the house.

Yucca: For us, we're stacking firewood. This is our better have it all stacked. Which is nice because we were in the city for years where we didn't have a stove and I grew up with a stove and we we've got one again. And it's just so wonderful to have that smell and going out and getting the wood and attempting to split it.

I've got weak over the years. I've got to get strong again, to be able to split that wood, but it's gotta be done. So it gets strong over the winter.

Mark: So that did so Yucca. Do you have any activities that you do as you lead up other than splitting firewood?

Yucca: Well, there's just so much happening in this season that has to get done. There's just that it's mostly enjoyable. But there's the re winterizing the house that we still have warm days. The days are quite pleasant actually, this time of year we're in the sixties and we might crawl up into the seventies, but at night it's freezing almost every night now.

So there's just a lot that it's all that stuff you've been putting off all summer just has to get done. And it really is for us. November is not autumn. November is when. Right. Maybe the first week or so is still autumn, but then boom, we, we just transitioned there's autumn is super, super short. But a lot of it really is that harvest stuff.

It's a pumpkin's and the, you know, taking the little animals out because this time of year, all the little spiders and little stinkbugs and all of those, they're trying to come in the house because it's getting cold out there. So that seems like maybe some sort of that's a tradition, a very necessary tradition, but here's the cup.

Put it on. Nope. Out you go. I'm sorry. I don't know if I was telling you about this one. On as we were recording last week or not, but we had a Wolf spider come in to visit us that we had quite an adventure trying to get out without letting the cat see that it was there because we didn't want the cat going and getting its nose bit or pulling it apart.

So we had quite an adventure there. But, but you know, other than that, it's really, we don't have a lot of specific rituals that have developed yet. And when we circle back around to this next year, you know, when the kids are older, things might shift, right. Because you know, a lot is about their wonder and excitement and, and building that foundation for them.

So yeah.

Mark: but that absolutely makes sense to me. And so that brings us then to the Hallows, Sal and rituals themselves. And when you practice those in my mind is kind of a moving target. What I tend to do is the first weekend in November. And then in this particular case, one of our circle members had a conflict that weekend.

And so we're doing next weekend, the weekend of Halloween instead, but usually it's just the first Saturday and we do an overnight. So it's the first Saturday and Sunday of November. And sometimes that's the sixth or seventh, but if not, it's close enough.

Yucca: Will you be in person this year? Cause I remember last year you did a, a virtual version, right?

Mark: we did this year, we are going to be in person. We're all vaccinated and we're all old enough to be we're all old enough. Not that I want any of us to stop getting older. I'm just to be clear. We're I'm, I'm the youngest person in the group. So, you know, take that for what it, what it is. The, we are doing it in person.

This will be our 30th anniversary. The circle started on sell and of on Halloween actually of 1991. And so this will be our 31st ritual, our 30th anniversary. So that's pretty exciting. It, it really is And everyone who was in the circle to start with is still there. We added two more members three more members later.

But everybody that, the original six they're all there. We've had people get mad and go stomping away, but they come back. It it's a family you know, it has, has the dynamics of a family. So what we do is we go to the home of two of the members of our circle and we hold th for the ritual part, we build a focus and alter at the fire circle that they have down below their house.

And we lay a fire, but we don't like. The only light we wait till after dark and the only light that's coming from the circle is from the lit jack-o-lanterns that are on the alter. So we proceed down to there. And then we do a sort of upper world ritual, which is a gratitude for the things that we've had, the harvests that we've had over the course of the year.

And acknowledgement of the losses that have happened over the course of the year. And then when we're ready, when we've kind of put everything down and we're ready to go, we precess into the woods to a very dark place that we fancy as the land of the dead. And then we speak to those that have died in the previous year that we miss.

And we tell them that we miss them and we love them. And we're sorry that they're gone and all that, and thank you for what they gave us. We leave things in the underworld that we no longer want to keep with us stuff that is just not serving us anymore. We leave tokens of that down there. And then when we're done, which in a scary sense tends to be when we start getting comfortable, when you start just kind of, well, I don't, we can just sort of stay here.

Then we browse ourselves and we marched back up, light the fire, and then we pass around pomegranate and chocolate and red wine and then sing songs and. Being alive because we've come back to life where we were we're returned from the land of the dead. It's a ritual we've been doing for decades and it's always very moving and I love those people very much.

So it's a, it's a, a great, pretty simple ritual, but it's, it's a really, really profound one for us.

Yucca: It sounds amazing.

Mark: It is. It's really cool. How about you? What are the sort of ritual things that you do for

Yucca: Well, the one that I do is, was mentioning it earlier is the going out for that, that private recognition of all those that made me that unbroken line of ancestors back to Luca and of all of the, the beings. Whose lives, whose lives ended for mine to continue and, and just sitting with that awareness and just thinking through each of those, the ones that I can think of.

And there's always more, but I'll, I'll begin at, I usually do a circle. So cast a very simple circle and be in it. And when I do have a garden that I have an annual garden that I have done through the, the year where we are now, I didn't do an annual garden here because this is our first season, but in the future, I'll do it there where I'm in the.

The plants, the dried up vines and get the, that little pokey sensation of the like the dried pumpkin buy-ins against the skin and things like that. And just hang out in that crispy, in that crispy, dead garden, right. That has produced and has been, and also, I mean, always remembering for me, there's the always remembering that, that all this death does eventually lead to more life.

Like we were talking about in the decomposition episode a few weeks ago that it leads that, that we ate the plants. We ate the animals, we, and it brought our life and our life. I will be, I mean, it's, I'm an ancestor already, which is weird to think about, but, but I will be an ancestor in more ways. One day. And just that memory, that, that awareness of that mortality, just sitting with that mortality

Mark: That's great. Do you and your partner do anything to celebrate the holidays?

Yucca: in the years where we can have gatherings, we usually have a

like a holiday feast.

So we do the, we'll do the Halloween game, which is really as Halloween, but then we'll also do like a get together feast. I don't usually call them Sabots but a Sabbath feast. because actually half of my family's Sephardic, so for us, Sabbath is preferring specifically to the Jewish holidays.

So we don't call the pagan holidays. The Sabbaths like just as some people do some people don't, but for us, there are two separate things. So we, we don't have any sort of ritual you each do together, but we do have the community, if the bring people in. And a lot of those people, some of them are pagan.

Some of them are not, it's more of a community thing of it. It works really well. This, this eight holidays a year with the changing of the season just works out very, very nicely. right.

It kind of has a familiar feel, but it's not so often that people are just worn out by it. Like, oh, it's not special because we do it, you know, every couple of weeks.

No, it's, it's longer. It's not every month. It's a little bit longer. Right.

So, we look forward to being able to go back to that. But you know, we're still, we're still not quite there yet.

Mark: Sure. Yeah. I mean, we all just trying to. Get your head around the sheer magnitude of the losses from COVID it's, it's a big deal. And I know that's going to be a huge subject for our ritual in the upper part of the ritual. Getting ready to take the walk to the land of the dead, because

Yucca: There's

Mark: you can imagine you're waiting through crowds of people that just go on and on and on and on in order to get there.

Yucca: yeah.

Mark: It's, it's, it's almost 5 million people worldwide now and that's just staggering.

Yucca: Yeah, It's, it's been a rough couple of years.

Mark: Yeah, it really has.

Yucca: And to be here, I mean, we at least sort of knew that we'd still be here last, last year when we were doing this episode, but there's just been so many more people sending.

Mark: Yeah.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: I don't want to get sidetracked into that too much because there's a lot to be said about it, but I think it's all been said before by someone. And even though this is a solemn holiday, I mean, Halloween and Halloween is a sort of a sparkly, glittery fun holiday, but hellos Sowan can be a very fervent, solemn, serious holiday around the contemplation of mortality and how all things must go in time and become something else.

And I feel like I feel privileged to be a part of this practice, this, this tradition in process of developing itself. To have a time of the year to contemplate all those things, to not turn my back on mortality and on suffering on the reality of, of the dark things for want of a better term in life.

And we, as we talked about a couple of weeks ago, we don't mean dark in any kind of a racist sense. We just mean the kinds of things that are in the shadow, less conscious hidden, less visible, hidden. And besides that, I, I like a good, scary movie.

Yucca: Yeah, I really appreciate that there are so many sides to it. I appreciate the Halloween and hollows aspect of this time of year. Because I think both are really valuable and that, that it can all kind of be true at the same time. Right.

Mark: In fact, I liked that so much that I really wish there were, there was more dimension to some of the other Sabbaths around the year. You know, this one and you'll, which of course is deeply informed by all of the mainstream Christmas stuff. They have a lot of, they've got a lot of weight. There's, there's a lot there.

And when I think about some of the other holidays around the course of the year, there, there isn't quite as much there. And I, I hope over time to build rituals and traditions that, that add to the, the overall weight and sense of dimension to those, those holiday.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: Which is part of what this podcast is for. So then all of us can, you know, figure out the rituals that are going to work for us and help us to celebrate life more because this is life and it's. It's good.

Yucca: Yep. This was so much fun. Thank you, mark.

Mark: Thank you so much, Yucca. And I hope you have just the most wonderful, spooky, evocative, thoughtful, memorable, meaningful a week coming up.

Yucca: Oh, likewise. And we will see All of you next week.

Mark: All right. Yep. See you on November 1st.

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