For the past 15 years, Donar’s Hearth and the Odinic Rite Vinland have hosted a Winter Night’s party that was open to the “public”. We have always combined the spiritual with the fun. We have the traditional games of bobbing for apples, pin the nose on the pumpkin (or other similar Halloween being), mummy wrap, etc… but this was balanced with a large Sumble where we set the tone by talking about the season. The veils between the worlds are thin. Our candles are seen by our ancestors, and they can hear our words about them. Something that began to occur to us was that even if people knew nothing of the Faith, they seem to connect on a quite profound level with the Sumble. Even the quietest mouse of a person would open up by the second round of the Sumble. Similarly, the tritest of person would become deep and thoughtful. We found after many years that this was case regardless of the type of crowd. It is the magic of Winter Nights.
The Ancient-Winter Nights
In ancient times, our ancestors lit bonfires during this time year. It was called, among the Celts, the Winter Fire. It was thought that these massive fires would light the path home for their passed kin, a beacon to attract the spirits of their loved ones. Around these fires the Folk would gather and tell stories of their kin and their adventures. Whether it was just mundane stories of daily life with them or legendary adventures abroad, they knew that their family could hear them and know that their friends and family on Midgard had not forgotten them. In turn, if they listened hard enough, in the quiet stillness of the chilly night they would hear them whisper back. It wasn’t a time of fear, but of acknowledgement and healing.
The New-Winter Nights
Although shrouded in modern consumerism and materialism, we still do this very thing at this time of year! We light candles in jack-o-lanterns, talk about the procession of spirits, and even tell “ghost stories”. Even though this is supposed to be a scary time, people, unknowingly, still celebrate their ancestral traditions, albeit twisted and darkened…the sparkle is still there. Being a modern expression of our ancient Folk, we blend the ancestral with the traditional and modern. Children love Halloween. They love being scared, being scary, getting treats, and sharing their booty. They, too, are in the mode of reflection; they love to hear stories of their Kin. They like talking with their ancestors and letting them know they aren’t forgotten. They also love to remember those cherished pets they have lost. This is their first experience with death and remembrance.
Over the ages we have lost many a Folk. These emotional scars are carried from one generation to the next. Many people we have come across have lacked is a spiritual release of these scars, so they can heal. Each and every Winter Nights, we have almost complete strangers let go of their emotions around a person’s death and cry, laugh, and really run the gambit of emotions at Sumble. At first we thought we should reconsider doing a Sumble since it was a little unnerving to have people become so emotional. These same Folk would come up to us afterwards and thank us for including them in such an experience. Many never came to terms with losing their loved ones. They just bottled up, but with our instruction in letting them know that their loved ones can hear them, they are here listening to them, it allowed our guests to just let go. Many Folk simply love the chance to talk about a father, mother, uncle, sister, etc… They convey that although they enjoy the traditional part of Halloween, it is the spiritual that they look forward to every year. We have incorporated many elements to help facilitate peoples wish to really connect with their lost loved ones. Two years ago we began an Ancestor’s Altar where people can place the pictures of their kin and light candles. We have even gotten pictures all the way from Enlgand! Even though these Folk can’t attend, they still felt they needed to acknowledge their loved ones at such a profound time.
When we lose someone close to us, we seem to lose a part of ourselves. The feeling that we are missing something; we aren’t whole beings. We believe that, although our intent with Winter Nights was to honor our Elder Kin and Ancestors, it was in fact reconnecting them with our Soul and healing it. A gift for a gift.
In our modern age, Halloween is often touted as a shallow candy holiday. With recapturing an ancient festival, we have moved it to a place of profound spiritual prominence and allowed our Folk to Heal their Souls and those of their departed kin.