Most years, I had always suggested that my grove elect a theme other than those commonly associated with Hallowe’en and we'd usually hold our “Samhain”/Autumn-Crossquarter rites several days into November instead… WHY ?
Well, it’s like this…
- We, as an old-style grove, used a “reformed” set of crossquarter-dates .
- I (and you?) belong at home on Halloween night...
- Our Wiccan and other Neopagan friends provide too much “competition” around Halloween... .
- Halloween is becoming harder to make sacred all the time; maybe there’s an alternative .
- Sassafras has discovered a powerful alternative theme that has rooted itself in our Work and community .
Yes, we do have reasons for fixing our event dates at other times, several good ones:
- ADF Groves traditionally* tried to cite their events on a “reformed” calendar of Crossquarter dates based, in part, on a calculation of the crossquarters as either falling at or Astrologically close-to the moment in time halfway between adjacent equinoxes and solstices. This is usually about 4 or 5 days different from the “traditional” (familiar) dates. The ADF publications and website used to carry a list of these crossquarter date/times. Sassafras Grove publications provide crossquarter date/times calculated to be the exact moment in time halfway through each seasonal quarter. ( *in the 1990's; now much less common... )
- It has long been my position that Halloween, in particular, is an important home/family/ neighborhood tradition for most of us and should not be interfered with by events which would require you to leave your home and neighborhood on a night when “you really belong there”.
- The Wiccan and general Neopagan community usually provides an array of options in every region just before or on Halloween. We simply don’t want to make our friends have to “choose” between a Sassafras Druid rite and the many other events available: religious, semi religious, or social. With this in mind we can go out and share the holiday with the rest of our community at that time, without trying to inappropriately “stretch” the Halloween Spirit out five days beyond its peak for our rite due to our other reasons.
- Contemporary Halloween traditions and imagery, “witchy” or not, are becoming less and less appropriate for our religious work all the time. Although its roots are in the Old World’s All Souls Day and the Celtic Samhain, Halloween as we know it is an almost exclusively American festival which sprang up and took hold early in the Twentieth Century. Having started as a cluster of innocent and charming childrens' customs, Halloween quickly gave way to a heavy intrusion by the adult social culture borrowing on its usefulness as an occasion for costume parties and fancy-dress events unhampered by the stuffy formalities of religious holidays. In short: it has become an opportunity for “fun” for children -and- adults.
- Through the self-referential dynamics of the media and marketing, our Halloween imagery is becoming severely culturally “inbred”. The result is frequently so brutal that it is virtually obscene in its violent, heartless and vulgar content. What began as a time for the honoring of the Spirits of the Departed and an opportunity for children to shuffle through the Autumn leaves in fantastic garb begging for treats at the doors of their neighbors, has become a theatre of blood, butchery and inhumanity. Halloween may once have been meant to be atmospheric and “spooky” but never was its true spirit upheld by the horrific and brutal.
- Our annual theme of the Three Sisters in the Wasteland has been a surprisingly rich development, unique to our grove, and has become in its way a part of the living tradition of the grove and our community. It has become an example to other ADF groves of an unsuspected but remarkably appropriate “fit” for the season and our Work. Freed then from the hubbub of our beloved Halloween, this and other themes become available for us to discover and explore along the November shores of our Year’s long night.