Friday, October 30, 2009

Oidhche Shamhna

Halloween is my muse's favorite holiday because she like to see what people reveal about themselves on that one night, when they put on a costume and give themselves permission to be ridiculous. All the hidden fears, desires and childhood fantasies are on display. Children become powerful superheroes with the ability to control the universe. Housewives become dangerous vixens. Business men show off their garter-belts. Creatures from horror movies wander the streets, hunting for candy instead of blood. Grown women dress up like cowboys, complete with cigar and six-shooter. Suddenly, everyone is an outlaw.

Halloween is also called Oidhche Shamhna, or the eve of samhain, which is the Celtic new year (Nov. 1). The Celts built bonfires to celebrate the death of the old year, in which bones were burned (bone-fires). It was said that the veil between the world became thin as the year turned, so spirits and the ghosts of loved ones could come for a visit with a living. Not all of those spirits were friendly though, so the Celts decorated gourds with symbols and scary faces to keep the bad ghosts away. People also wore masks to confuse the evil spirits.

"The Celts really knew how to throw a party," my muse said while trying on one of my vintage hats.

"You were there?" I asked, startled to think of my muse at a party 2000 years ago.

She shrugged. "Of course. Why are you so surprised? I've been to all the hot spots." She adjusted the hat's veil and turned her head side to side while studying her reflection. "As soon as the sun set, the bonfires were lit and the feasting began. We dressed in our finest, danced in the light of the fire and sang songs to the gods. The music was incredible. I'll never hear better." She scowled and took off the hat, but almost ripped the veil when a snake got its fangs tangled in the netting.

"Sounds beautiful."

"It was. But I think I like today's celebrations better. Back then, people conformed to the traditions of the ceremony. Now, you can dress up any way you want and if you get arrested, so what? It's much more egalitarian now days."

"What are you going to dress up as?" I asked.

With a slow, almost wicked grin, she said, "A goddess of course."

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