There is a tradition, it could be ancient or it could be neopagan, that at Samhain, which is this week, one lights a ritual fire and casts upon it that which you would be rid of. When a friend reminded me of this, I immediately thought of our new neighbour’s Saltire, which flaps over the gardens driving away the birds. A curse written on a piece of paper should do the trick. But what if the next time I saw the flag, it was in tatters? What if it wasn’t? I didn’t like the idea of either possibility so decided that witchcraft is best left to others. [But see note below!].
Of course, I could be more philosophical and cast upon the fire my neighbour’s desire to belong to a clan. Or mine, come to that. But that seemed a bit limp.
We’ve been clearing out a lot recently, sold stuff on eBay, given it away on Freecycle, taken three loads to the dump. There’s much more to go and amongst it a certain hat. Catching a glimpse of it yesterday in the heap, I knew it was to be my Samhain offering.
When my father died, I got fired by a strange energy and was definitely not myself. The idea that has since taken root that I’m no good at organising funerals began then, when I arranged for it to take place in the local church, even though my father had no time for religion (he was deep, he was spiritual, but he never went voluntarily to church). I went out in the morning to buy an appropriate hat, which I found in Debenhams. Having spent a small fortune on something I knew I’d never wear twice, I was going out of the store when I was offered a make-over, which I was high enough to accept. Who on earth did I think I was? My dear, humble dad being buried by his plain-jane daughter, in a swanky coffin in a church and her dressed up to the nines and with a plastic face. Every time I see that hat, I wonder what possessed me.
I shall wonder no more. On Thursday, the day when my dear old greenhouse goes to make way for something bigger, I’m going to light a bonfire on the allotment and cast the hat into the flames to mark the moment when I declutter my life of parents. I don’t mean that to sound brutal, but I don’t have to keep everything that was theirs, only a couple of photos and some real treasures. After all, it won’t be long before someone else is having to clear up after me, and the less I leave them the better.
All Souls is the time to remember and honour the ancestors. Let memories be stored in the heart, not the attic! After all, the heart we take with us.
Note. I wrote this in draft on Sunday. Yesterday the Saltire disappeared. Whether it was our neighbour taking it out of harm’s way, or the 90 mph winds that took the country by storm, I don’t know. But it’s gone, and may be I have powers best left untapped.