Samhain

By Eric Burch

Delivered at First UU Congregation of Second Life

On Nov 1, 2007


Into this place may we come
To share, to learn, to speak, to listen,
And to grow together in the spirit of peace and harmony and love.


A few years ago I was looking through a small book that included pictures of words that have been carved into the sides of buildings.
Most of them were simple and trite things, but one thing written on the side of a building in Dayton, Ohio struck me.

You are a part of everyone you have met.

It struck me, and I stopped and thought of that for the rest of that day, and many times since.   
I came up with two things I believe to this day:
Everything I do does mean something to everyone I meet.  I decide whether that is good or bad for the others I meet.
Even here in Second Life!

But one other thing I realized, and is significant for this first day of November:
Everyone I have ever known is a part of me.


Samhain

All societies, ancient and modern, note the passing of the longest and shortest days of the year, and some even celebrate the equinoxes.
These days are significant because they signal large changes in weather; the seasons.
In the ancient northern European calendar, the mid-season days were also celebrated,
for the ancients thought that during these times the barrier between the real world and the spirit world was thin.

A thousand years ago, the Church's ability to incorporate the ancient rituals into the new religion
aided the successful spread of Christianity in Europe.
The three-day-long mid-spring and mid-fall celebrations of the ancient Celts, the two most important holidays in their calendar,
partly survive today as Easter ("Eostre" being the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn), and All Saints and All Souls Days.
The Celts call this time "Samhain"--the end of the "light half" of the year and the start of the "dark half".
The spirits are free to mix with the living, and the people would celebrate the lives of those who passed on before.
Just last night many communities had children walking around the neighborhood dressed as spirits, playfully re-creating
this mixing of the spirits of the dead in the land of the living.

Mexican culture has taken this a step farther; Dia de Los Meurtos is celebrated November 1 and 2.
This celebration may have roots in ancient mesoamerican culture.
Graves are decorated, and stories are told.
Some of these are stories of family and friends and the good things they did when they were alive.
As Octavio Paz has written:
   "The word death is not pronounced in New York, in Paris, in London, because it burns the lips.  
   The Mexican, in contrast, is familiar with death, jokes about it caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it;
   it is one of his favorite toys and his most steadfast love.  
   True, there is perhaps as much fear in his attitude as in that of others, but at least death is not hidden away:  
   he looks at it face to face, with impatience, disdain or irony."


Our Western tradition is to focus our memories of those who have died in the time just after their death.
This is entirely appropriate, and is an important part of the grieving process.
But it is also important to remember those who have died at other times, for as we remember them they still live in our hearts.

This past Sunday in my RL church we took some time during the service to remember those who have died.
Not just in the past year--perhaps it has been too soon--but also those who have been gone for some time.
Let's take a few minutes to think about someone who has touched us, and we haven't thought about for some time.


It's is also a tradition in my church to say out loud the names of those who are still alive in our hearts.
If you feel comfortable, please share the name of a few people who still fill you with joy though they are not here.
You can add a line or two--barely enough space I'm sure--to explain one thing that makes them make you still feel special.

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