Samhain: Feast of the Dead

Tonight is the Pagan festival of Samhain, more commonly celebrated as Halloween. At Samhain Pagans celebrate our ancestors & beloved dead. It also offers an opportunity to meditate on our mortality, a fundamental aspect of embodiment which arguably makes life worth living. We work hard to keep thoughts of death out of our minds and the care of the dead – once a final act of love – is now professionalized.

But perhaps this is changing. I was pleased to hear about the emergence of Death Cafes, places to drink tea, eat cake and discuss the last taboo – death. Reading about The Ticker ‘death clock’ left me intrigued but unconvinced. The Ticker counts down the seconds to your demise, as predicted by data from a questionnaire. I wonder what Heidegger would make of it? He urged us to acknowledge death to avoid the fall into a meaningless life (Heidegger, 1962). Would owning The Ticker help? Maybe.

With Samhain imminent, thoughts of death were with me yesterday as I wandered along Brighton beach. I remembered some of my own beloved dead and pondered my mortality. As if in reply, I came across a swathe of feathers, strewn like a shroud on the stony beach.

feathers on the beachThis is all that remains of some seabird, probably killed by a predator not long before. I sat on the stones and watched as the feathers blew away in the wind, one by one.

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