Wednesday, October 31, 2018
The Thinning of the Veil
So what is it that makes us crave being spooked at this particular time of the year? It’s not by accident that Halloween—All Hallows’ Eve—falls when it does. This descent into the darkest days of the year for the Northern Hemisphere has affected our psyches since we crawled out of the swamps. All around us, living things are dying. In Celtic tradition, the veil between the living and the dead is thinning.
But it isn’t only the Celts who felt this way. The Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead follows closely on the heels of Halloween on November 2, but the timing is still thanks to Celtic influence, via Catholicism. As with many Christian holidays supplanting pagan ones, the Catholic Church established All Hallows’ (Saints’) Day and All Souls’ Day as a means of subsuming the Celtic celebration of Samhain.
The Norse tradition, too has a “day of the dead” around this time of year, known as Álfablót, or a sacrifice to the elves. Perhaps it’s a bit of a stretch to call this a day of the dead, but there is some evidence that the concept of elves encompassed the souls of the dead. At any rate, in Nordic lands, by this time of the year, it probably seemed as if the world itself were dying, as almost every living plant returned to the realms under the earth. Another Norse celebration, Dísablót, followed, held during the “Winter Nights,” commemorating the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter and in honor of the female spirits, such as underworld goddesses Freyja and Hel. This is also when the Wild Hunt, or Odin’s Hunt, begins to ride (which sets the stage for my book, The Dragon’s Hunt, in case that tickles your fancy).
Regardless of its cultural origins, some sensitive folk believe they can feel this seasonal thinning of the veil. People who believe in ghosts report more ghostly activity and visitations at this time of year. And although the jury is still out for me on the existence of a spirit that lives on after the body dies, I’ve always felt some “ghostly” energy around this time. Around my house recently, out of the corner of my eye, I’ve begun to see what I at first take to be my cat. But then I realize he’s outside or in another room. The “cat” shadow slips about at foot level and between rooms, and I find comfort in thinking my other cat, Urd (named for one of the Norse fates), who died last year, is visiting me.
Are ghosts on your mind this time of year? Do you watch scary movies? Or maybe hold a good, old-fashioned séance and commune with a spirit or two?
Jane Kindred is the author of the Harlequin Nocturne series, Sisters in Sin, and the epic fantasy series The House of Arkhangel’sk, Demons of Elysium, and Looking Glass Gods. She spent her formative years ruining her eyes reading romance novels in the Tucson sun and watching Star Trek marathons in the dark. She now writes to the sound of San Francisco foghorns while two cats slowly but surely edge her off the side of the bed.