Spooky Hour with Spirits of the Dead

6 min read

Word Work

2 Lexicons: Webster’s NID 2nd Ed and Shorter OED

1 Book rec

Halloween, All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day

Fall mocktail, easy and delicious

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Lakeview Cemetery next to my father’s grave

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No pressure but what are you doing for Halloween? We want to invite ourselves to your house.

Sunday Text, 29 OCT

This got me off my arse. So we brought the boxes up from the basement, set up the bloody styrofoam heads with wigs, focused the strobe lights, and strung up the flying ghost which howls and glides across the foyer. Back in the day when the kids came together to trick-or-treat, parents gathered at our house for Spooky Hour.

A friend we’ve dubbed Colonel Flanders* for his distillery expertise sends jars by courier–aka my brother–in generous quantities. It seemed fitting to share and what better occasion to bask in the spirits of the season?

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I love to read and watch scary stories.** I also love the autumn colors and cool weather. Yesterday I picked up some mums and white roses. My mother and I visited Lakeview Cemetery, as one does this time of year. The hydrangea was a weathered mauve by my father’s grave. It is the largest I’ve seen, a thick and medium-sized tree. My mother and I placed white roses by his headstone. Then we broke off hydrangea blossoms and tucked them on the other side.

She said, “I’ll see you tomorrow” as she left the grave. Then she whispered, “At my altar. I see him every day.” In her prayers, in daily meditation. Right. Breathe.

We drove around the pond and the hilly roads. I said, “Hey, I taught the kids to drive in here, in the cemetery. Narrow one-lane paths.” She looked outside. I lowered her window and drove close to the Japanese maple, its glowing red fingers. She grabbed a leaf and handed it to me, then another. Smooth, like hair on my palm. “Thing is,” I continued, “driving couldn’t do much damage. Everyone is dead.”

I pulled into a spot by the back entrance. “Wait I’m going to take photos.” It’s that eerie calm you get in cemeteries, the connection to humanity, to mortality, to the names on the tombstones, at once familiar and remote, the lichen covering the bench. Time, for the moment, comes to a standstill. My hands warm, my breath, that vital wind, in and out, my legs moving above. As if, as if they could sense me below, that they of no warmth, no breath, no movement — they once had all I had, and are now no more.

Why then do we talk to our loved ones in the grave? How are you today, Dad? It’s mom, she’s come too. I saw your grand children. And on I prattle. Why talk to the dead? because the’re very much alive. In us. They live on. In us.

Back in the car I said, “Dad would celebrate the saints tomorrow, then remember the dead. It’s a holy time for Catholics.”

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I did some word work. Gathering words and reading about the three days. Halloween is All Hallows Eve, also known as the eve of All Saints’ Day. Hallows are saints. So the eve of the hallows is 31 October and All Saints’ Day is 1 November and then All Souls’ Day is 2 November. My father as Catholic would have grown up knowing this.

  • Halloween, 31 October
  • All Saints’ Day, 1 November
  • All Souls’ Day, 2 November

Ancient Celtic rituals included a harvest festival and merry making, far predating the church’s decision to honor the saints and the dead. Folks believe that the veil to the spirit world is thin at this time of transition from bounty to darkness, when nature sheds her greenery and life goes dormant.

Without planning to do so, I had picked up my mother and visited my father. Feelings for the past and for those we’ve lost arise naturally now because life is shaped by the seasons of the earth. I am inseparable from the earth, from living and dying, from summer and fall. I am inseparable from others, each action and interaction binds us.

My aging mother, a visit to my father’s grave on the eve of hallows, when we honor saints and remember their deeds, when we remember our own departed.

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Neighbors and friends made merry last night, with only one family of trick-or-treaters at the door. I invited the young parents in, along with Yoda and the cheerleader to check out the haunted room with bloody heads, light colors strobing.

Close-up of the trunk which has branched apart and grew back together.

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FOOTNOTES

*Colonel P. Flanders is the real deal, a career US Army officer whose skills are broad and deep. This year’s batch included a ‘suprisingly good’ rum which folks added to my Hocus Pocus Punch. This was a hit which I enjoyed, as a mocktail.

*Autumn mocktail – here’s my take on the punch. Shop: 2 oranges, 2-3 apples, 2 quarters cider, 2 cups cranberry juice, 2 cans citrus seltzer, half can of ginger ale or ginger beer, quarter cup marashino cherry juice. Prep: Cut 2 oranges into thin half slices and slice 2-3 apples. Mix about 1.5 quarts (yes 6 cups or not quite half the gallon) of Apple cider, 2 cups of cranberry juice, 2 cans seltzer and half can ginger beer. Add cherry juice; if you don’t have, use a sweet fruit syrup. Stir together. Throw in a chunk of ice and put in the fruit. Let sit ten minutes and serve into cups. Include fruit slices, top with optional cherry. Add spirits of the season to taste, such as Flanders’ rum.

**Old House of Fear by Russell Kirk. (1961). I am reading this gothic tale set in the Scottish Hebrides after listening to the book discussion online with James Panero, who wrote the introduction to the new edition. It was a publishing sensation when it first came out and is a delight to readers who enjoy a good story, not steeped in modern pedantries.

*WORD WORK going back to OE or Old English

Halloween. The evening preceding Allhallows, or All Saints’ Day; the evening of October 31. In many countries Halloween is devoted to merrymaking. ME [Middle English]

hallow, verb. To make holy; to set apart for holy or religious use; to consecrate; to treat or keep as sacred. Hallow the Sabbath day; to do no work therein. Jer. xvii, 24.

hallowed, adjective. Blessed, consecrated. Hallowed be thy name. Matt vi. 9.

hallow, noun. A saint, or a shrine or relic.

Hallowmas, noun. The feast of All Saints, or Allhallows

Allhallows, noun. All the saints (in heaven). All Saints’ Day, November 1st.

Allhallowmas, noun. The feast of All Saints.

All Saints’ Day, A church feast observed November 1.

All Souls’ Day. November 2, a day of solemnity on which commemoration of, and supplications for, all the souls in Purgatory are made.

(Source: Webster’s New International Dictionary, 2nd Edition, 1934. This is the lexicon of lexicons, the longest and most comprehensive ever published with a compendium History of the World, totaling 3570 pages and about 18.5 pounds. Compiled at the time with 207 of the world’s greatest specialists.. “The greatest corps of editors ever organized was created to make this volume. . . 600,000 entries–the Greatest amount of information ever put into one volume.”)

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Hallowe’en, noun. Also Halloween. The eve of All Saints, 31st October (the last night of the year in the early Celtic Calendar).

All Hallows, noun. All saints; the saints in heaven collectively. All Hallows’ Day or Allhallowmass.

comb: All Hallow Eve the eve of All Saints (=Hallowe’en); Allhallowmass the feast of All Saints . . . All Hallows Day All Saints’ Day, 1 November; Allhallowtide the season of All Saints.

hallow, noun. A holy person, a saint. The shrines or relics of saints; (the shrines of) heathen gods.

hallow, verb. Make holy; sanctify, purify. Consecrate or set apart as sacred; dedicate to a sacred or religious repose; bless OE. Consecrate (a King, bishop, etc.) to an office. honour as holy; regard and treat with reverence; observe (a day, festival, etc.) solemnly. OE [Old English]. J.P. Hennessy Her death was tranquil and .. hallowed by a kind of beauty. H. wilson This is a question hallowed by tradition.

All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day do not appear as separate entries.

(Source: These appear in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th ED, 2002. This two volume lexicon is a modern reference which I enjoy for its thoroughness, easy-to-read entries, and illustrative quotations.)

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Nov 1, 2023

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About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

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