Samhain, Halloween, and Day of the Dead all happen this weekend.
Samhain: According to the internet, peoople celebrated Samhain, (pronounced “sow-win,” which is hard to wrap my head around), to mark the end of harvest and beginning of winter. It was a pagan spiritual celebration that started October 31st and went to November 2nd, which is midway between fall equinox and winter solstice.
Samhain is celebrated with bonfires and feasting, and with guising or mumming. What on earth is that? Wait for it –
Wikipedia says: “Mummers’ plays are folk plays performed by troupes of amateur actors, traditionally all male, known as mummers or guisers. Historically, mummers’ plays consisted of informal groups of costumed community members that visited from house to house on various holidays.”
Oh, hmmmm, sounds a bit like our Halloween ritual of Trick or Treating, doesn’t it? How did that happen? Well, Christians are never ones to miss the opportunity for a good holiday.
According to a Shakespearean researcher named Cassidy Cash: “At least as far back as hundred years before Shakespeare, in the 15th century, among Christians, customs existed for sharing “soul cakes” to mark Allhallowtide. This holiday spanned three days and was celebrated across October 31 through November 2. The holiday was held as a feast day to honor the dead, pray for their souls, and in return for the prayers families of the departed offered soul cakes. Over the course of these three days, people would visit house to house asking for soul cakes, and offering to pray for the dead, or presenting themselves as representatives of the dead. There was a belief that the more people prayed for your dead loved ones, the more likely it was they would have a comfortable afterlife.”
The idea of praying for loved ones connects nicely with Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos. It’s a Mexican tradition, although it has spread from there, and originates with the Aztecs about 3,000 years ago. It has been modified, of course, by Christianity and Spanish culture after Spain invaded and conquered the indigenous people. There is an interesting article about it here.
We celebrate Halloween and Day of the Dead at my house. My daughter will prepare the house with flowers and an altar today in preparation for Children’s Day of the Dead, which is tomorrow, the 1st of November. Then the altar will be cleared and re-prepared for Adult Day of the Day on the 2nd. She and the kids and I will all spend some time remembering our loved ones who have died.
At the same time, the kids have already gone to a couple of events and will do actual trick-or-treating tonight. Good times ahead.
No matter what we celebrate, it is definitely a time to think about endings and death and loss. Balancing that with the remembrance of good times gone by and appreciation of the moment, the love and joy we have.
“Come here,” he said.
She was in the kitchen, fixing a cup of tea for each of them. “Be there in a minute,” she called.
She felt his presence in the doorway a second before she glanced over and saw him. He was just standing there, he didn’t look angry, but he didn’t look happy either. She tilted her head, curious, looked at him as if to say, “what?” She continued fixing the tea. The cups were already prepared, waiting on the tray for her to pour. She filled the teapot from the kettle on the stove, looked over again to see he was still standing there. Not angry, but unsmiling.
She smiled. “Will you carry the tray or shall I?” She felt a touch of anxiety in her belly, just a tightening, while she waited for his response.
His gaze was steady, and she suddenly felt a bit shaky. Unsure of her ground.
Then, “Kneel,” he said.
“Here?” she gestured, looked around the room, thinking this must be a mistake, she was about to serve them tea, surely he didn’t want her to kneel here on the kitchen floor.
But he just raised his eyebrows.
She felt as if the ground were shifting beneath her, half-frozen, she stood, while he waited.
At last, and it felt like minutes had gone by, she lowered herself to the ground, kneeling on the hard kitchen floor. But his expression didn’t change.
As she waited for him to acknowledge that she was kneeling, or at least change expression, she became aware of her posture. It was a clumsy kneel at best, she was not in any of the positions that she had once known so well they were automatic. She lowered her gaze, a bit embarrassed. Moving awkwardly, she rocked back on her heels, opened her thighs a bit, back straight, eyes down. Palms resting open on her thighs. “Offering,” she thought. She checked that her thighs were not too wide spread, which might be seen as a demand, but at an acceptable level of readiness.
In those moments, as she adjusted her posture, she forgot about the tea. She forgot how hard the floor was. She was aware of her own body and of the man standing above her. She heard him step closer to her, but didn’t raise her eyes, not even when he walked around her, viewing her from all angles.
The phrase, “maintain custody of your eyes,” went through her mind as she struggled to resist the urge to look up. Kneeling like this, her clothes felt heavy and out of place.
He had circled her completely and stopped. She could feel him standing in front of her, and even see his feet, but she startled a bit when he spoke.
“I’ve neglected you,” he said. “I apologize for that. I’ve gotten used to you taking care of me in the most mundane ways and neglected your care and training. I would like to remedy that.”
He paused a moment. She couldn’t speak, she was struggling to absorb this, thinking about how much she’d longed for this moment, until she’d gotten used to not having it.
He went on, “I have some plans for you. But I want your consent first. I want you to undress and kneel here again, think about whether you want me to re-claim you or not. I have a lot of lost time to make up for if you give consent.”
She was trembling, tears welling up. Joyful and afraid in equal measure, she couldn’t move.
He laughed, just a short chuckle. “I’m going to fix my tea. I want you to start undressing. Now.”
He moved to the stove, and she could hear him filling his tea cup. Slowly, she stood. Raised her t-shirt over her head and off, unhooked her bra and let the straps slide down her shoulders. Removed it and set it and the shirt aside.
The kitchen was warm from the oven where she had just baked a loaf of wheat bread, so she was comfortably warm. She slipped off her leggings and then her underwear. He was still behind her, and she wanted to look at him, but resisted the urge. Instead, she knelt again, in position. Head up, gaze down.
He moved around her. “I’m going to sit down,” he said. “Just think about whether you’re willing to consent to obey me without knowing exactly what I have in mind ahead of time. You will, of course, still have a safe word, but I’m planning some rigorous training to get our relationship back on track. I will want your whole-hearted consent. Think about it, and I’ll be back to learn your response and determine how to move forward. I’m sure you have questions,” and again he chuckled. “But they can wait til after your decision. Discern wisely, little one,” he concluded.
She heard him walk away.
Kneeling naked on the floor, she was already quite sure what her answer was. She trembled, waiting for him to return.