The holiday we now celebrate with witches, superheroes, candy corn, and trick-or-treating was once a somber pagan ritual that marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. The ancients believed that the transition between seasons formed a bridge between the world of the living and the world of the dead and that the spirits of the departed might be seen on these nights. Ancestor spirits were welcomed because they carried wisdom and the legacies of the ages, but some spirits, called ghosts, were thought to be the essences of people who were seeking revenge or who had been confined to earth because of their own wrong-going while they still lived. Whatever the reason, ghosts were trapped in the mists of the past and forever blocked from moving forward into their own next life.
So, too, for us when we allow ourselves to be haunted by the past, by the ghosts of our failures, our mistakes, our losses, and our injuries. Just as the ghosts remain bound to whatever place or person they were painfully associated with in life, we lock ourselves to the past with resentment and regret. We are literally haunted by our memories so that we can’t move forward into our own best lives.
Perhaps Halloween could be more than simply a fun and colorful celebration, as delicious as that can be. Perhaps we could decide to use this holiday as a reminder to turn for a moment away from the light and take a look into the darkness to see what might be lurking there, shadowing our days and stealing our joy. Is there a memory that causes you to flinch or shudder every time it appears? Is there a lost love you still long for? Does an old injury still cause pain? What do you need to forgive yourself for? What do you tell yourself is unforgiveable from your past?
Oddly enough, everything, absolutely everything can and must be forgiven.
Forgiveness does not mean condoning either your own wrongdoing or that of others. Rather it means that we have decided to accept the fallibility that is part of being human and that we have made the brave and glorious choice to let go and move on. If what haunts you is an unfulfilled dream or a lost love rather than hurtful memories, this could be the time that you stop and reflect and grieve, if need be. Letting go can take time and it will surely require your firm commitment, but it can be done and it will free your spirit and open your heart to the promise of the future.
As for me, I love Halloween. I love the costumes, the little shiver of mystery in the air, and the candy corn. I think this year I’ll replay my childhood favorite and dress as a gypsy fortune-teller just for fun. But I think I will also follow my own advice and check in with the darkness just in case any ghosts are lingering there that need to be released into their futures so that I can find mine.