Between the two mighty opposing stars, Antares and Alderbaran, there appears from Earth a black, apparently starless void. Visible around the times we now call May 1st and November 1st it is a marker for the Celtic festivals of Beltane (May) and Samhain (Nov) as well as the Aztec festival, now played out in the Americas and Spanish-speaking world as Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead.
As the pagan calendar has blended with later ones and as cultures have mingled across the globe, so too have festivals where the old knowledge of the Cosmos merges Samhain and Dia de los Muertos in the American form of Halloween and celebrated in Christianity as All Saints and All Souls days.
The visible ‘void in the Universe’ is imagined as very thin so the hope of visiting with the Dead more possible between Oct 31st and Nov 1st than any other time.
The Celts saw the life cycle moving from darkness to light. So their “new year’s day” was the first day of winter. The last pickings of harvest must be on Oct 31st, the animals prepared for wintering over and those unlikely to do so, prepared to fill the winter larders. The good housekeeping at the end of these preparations was to burn the leftovers including the cattle bones. These were burned on ‘bone-fires’, now bonfires, which continue to be lit on Samhain in the Celtic world.
On Dia de los Muertos, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones. Confident their dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness, Dia de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed in life.
Samhain, Dia de los Muertos, Halloween, All Soul’s Day – opportunities to rejoice in the harvests of life and to remember those loved and departed. Fire, bones, harvest foods are all fun to play with as you decorate this festival. But remember, all the traditions from this time of year come to us from the Northern Hemisphere where it is celebrated as an Autumn or Harvest festival. In the Southern Hemisphere, Antares is visible and is the marker of Spring. Once again the traditions are blending and new ways of celebrating fruitfulness are free to emerge.