Halloween: From Sugar to Real Sweetness

traditional mexican ofrenda

Traditional Mexican ofrenda

* harvesting * letting go * first frost * preparation * lungs * mushrooms * roots * fall fruit * mustard family * nuts * seeds * balance * fall colors * hunting * rendering lard *

“Like a fisherman drawing in its nets he has dipped in the ocean, September’s equinox quietly pulls in the light which filled each long day of summer.  The chilling dusk signals all animals to hasten homeward, returning to the shore of our beings and preparing to take shelter within ourselves.”

~ Judith Berger, Herbal Rituals

Fall weather is finally arriving in Southern Appalachia and it feels heavenly.  Everything seems in perfect balance right before the cold arrives.  I can literally feel this in my body right now.  The physical demands of balancing my body from the impact of summer heat are all but gone.

You can also see it in other people.  They just seem more content with the cool, fall breeze at their backs.  There are more people out and about on trails and greenways.  Everyone is in their yards or gardens tending things before the cold comes in…

We are also nearing one of my favorite times of year…late October…

Late October is significant in so many cultures of Europe and beyond.  All Saints’ Day.  All Souls’ Day.  Halloween.  Dia de los Muertos.  And, the ancient Celtic observance, Samhain.  When I lived in Ukraine around year 2000, I observed that it was at the end of October that families visited the graves of their ancestors and picnicked.

It is said that, at this time of year, the veil is thin between the living and the dead.  In Mexico, they build altars or ofrendas for those who have passed.  They put memorabilia, fruit, nuts, flowers (marigolds and cockscomb flowers), and other items on the ofrenda in remembrance.


Cockscomb flower

Meanwhile, in the US, we have Halloween.  And, it is riddled with refined sugar and plastic and polyester.

The National Confectioners Association (NCA) said in 2016 that it “predicts Americans will spend around $2.7 billion on Halloween candy this year, a 2.3% rise on last year. This would make 2016 a record year for Halloween candy spending.”  Other news source actually put the predicted amount at $5.5 billion.  Considering the nutrient-deficiencies of the American population, along with the increasing number of childhood obesity and childhood food allergies, this has got to change.

candy by state

Favorite candy by state, Business Insider (aka United States of High Fructose Corn Syrup)

In my lifetime, I hope to see a renewal of more quality experiences at this important time of year of harvesting, remembering, and slowing down.  And, there are already movements afoot of people reclaiming simple, seasonal observances.  In a desire to move toward the gradual, the soulful, the simple, people are recreating observances that honor particular times of year with food, friendship, and crafts.

It seems, though, that we are searching for real sweetness and sugar is symbolic of that desire.  At a time in the US, where connecting with the ancestors seems to be the furthest thing from peoples minds…I’m thinking that this is the real sweetness we are looking for.  That this is the real soul nourishment we need.

Ancestor-work is actually becoming more common in our culture.  We actually have practitioners now that specialize in it.  And, in my own healing process, reconnecting with my ancestors became a central theme to finding home again in my own skin (coincidentally, as well as kicking my sugar habit).  Naturally, lineage or ancestor-work comes up with my clients as well.  It organically arises in our conversations…

For example.  I just heard from a former client of mine about two months ago.  I was wondering how she was doing as we just talked once on the phone and I hadn’t heard from her in the two years since!

She had hyperthyroid issues and did not want to pursue medications.  We talked for awhile…and soon it was clear (as is often the case) that there was more to her situation than thyroid issues.  So, I suggested some resources on ancestor work, some dietary changes, and an herbal formula (to help lower TSH levels as well as take stress off her thyroid).

It was so great to hear from her two years later.  She emailed me and said that her thyroid had normalized.  And, she had changed her name to an ancestor in her family that had always been regarded as a “black sheep.”  She took that name on and was consciously working on that unhealed aspect of her family system (that she felt needed to be integrated).

This was really powerful for me to hear.  She took some simple feedback and just ran with it!  And, she sounded fantastic…full of agency…and aware of her own ability to heal.

She had found the sweetness.

As we near All Hallow’s Eve, Dia de los Meurtos, Samhain, and…yes, Halloween…I can’t help but dig deep into our cultural hubris to find that sweet, tender morsel of what’s been-forgotten. So, while bush-wacking through candy, candy, and more candy…and polyester costumes and plastic pin-ups of black cats and ghosts…I try to keep my feet on the ground and my head looking towards the ancestors.

Because, really…I feel that this is what the old traditions are trying to tell us… Slow down… remember… be still in the growing darkness… pay homage to that which was before you…

I tend to like the ofrendas of mexico this time of year for dia de los muertos rather than dumping arm-loads of plastic and candy on our children. They can’t swim in that stuff…really, they can’t.

I tend to like the pumpkin patches…picking that special one to carve…cooking down the pulp to make pumpkin pie or even a hot chocolate spiced pumpkin drink…or, roasting the seeds in the oven for crispy, salty goodness.

Let’s revive the simple ways, shall we?

Feel free to share with me what you do around hallow’s eve to add meaning, creativity and fanfare to this time of year.

This year, I think I will pull out old photos with the fam and talk about the ancestors that paved the way for us to be here…the good, the not-so-good, and all that… When we remember, we weave narrative and myth…a fabric that holds our family together and infuses our culture with the unique flavors that emerge from our family’s story-line…

Maybe we’ll bedazzle our home in marigolds…

A visit to the pumpkin patch at a local farm/ranch is in order as well…

Blessings, dear souls… Let’s swaddle up in substantial observances that honor the passing of time and the endearing cycle of life that has us going in a spiral…repeating seasons and yet nothing is ever the same the next time around…

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