A Day of Life and Death

Despite occasionally getting into Gaelic polytheism (especially through Brighid worship), I don’t feel much connection with Samhain. Instead, I love Halloween.


It’s what I grew up with and will always love.


While I also believe it is a time to be close to the Beloved Dead/ancestors, I’m not sure that has anything to do with Gaelic polytheism. It feels more like an extension of the Catholic All Souls’ Day.


Yesterday was beautiful. Wanting to keep at least part of my focus on the dead, I spent the day at one of the most beautiful cemeteries in America, Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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It’s essentially a large park full of hills, wildlife, many different kinds of trees, and beautiful elaborate gravestones and mausoleums.

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It was the perfect weather. It was cool yet sunny. The only thing that would have made it better would be if we hadn’t had a huge windstorm Sunday that knocked all of the leaves off of the trees.


While walking through an area with several crypts, I began to notice a strange odor. Not an odor of death, but of….food? I couldn’t place it exactly. Nutty? Then that I looked down and saw that the storm had knocked down a branch from the nearby ginkgo biloba tree. There were ginkgo fruits and nuts all over the ground. That’s what I was smelling.

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I checked out a few notable graves: scientist Buckminster Fuller, feminist and transcendentalist, Margaret Fuller, architect of my former home (and the US Capitol), Charles Bulfinch, renowned actor Edwin Booth (brother of Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth).

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I was resting for a moment, drinking some water, when I saw movement in the distance. There was a group of four massive wild turkeys among the gravestones. I watched silently for a while. Then, as they moved, I slowly and silently moved along where I thought they’d be headed in order to get some photos.


I didn’t want to alarm or provoke them. I was pretty sure that if it was one wild turkey, I could scare it away by myself, but four? If they chose to, they could use their leg spurs to do serious damage.

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The cemetery felt like a magical place. Being that it was a weekday, it wasn’t very crowded. Often, I felt like I had the place to myself. I spent some quality time with the dead. After a while in the cemetery, I decided to head back to Boston.


I spent a little time in Boston Common, where I met an aggressive squirrel. I offered it a nut from a bag of almonds I had. It took it right from my fingers using its tiny sharp claws to grab the almond. It left to bury the almond, then immediately came back to climb up on me for more. After a few times of this, I had to put the bag of almonds away. The squirrel seemed to understand.

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(A poster hung on the outside of Park Street Station.)

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(A collection of cards, memorials, and flowers to someone who recently passed on a lightpole in Boston Common.)

It’s a short walk from the Common to my old residence. For four years, I lived in Beacon Hill Friends House, an intentional community in a Quaker meetinghouse. Beacon Hill is one of the best places in the country for trick-or-treating on Halloween. Families come from all over Boston to trick-or-treat, so I wanted to go back to BHFH and give out candy to the kids.


Not only that, but as a predominately wealthy neighborhood, many of the residents of the area set up elaborate Halloween displays. If you love Halloween, it’s a very cool experience.

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I got to spend time with former and current Housies (i.e., residents of the Friends House). It was a really great experience.


A day of both Life and Death. A day of festivity and solemnity. A day of beauty.


Tonight when I get home from work, I will remember my Beloved Dead with offerings. I cannot say whether it’s “Pagan”. Just that it makes me feel more connected to those I’ve loved and lost.


A local Italian bakery makes cookies for All Souls’ Day called Ossi di Morti (or Bones of the Dead). They have a cinnamon flavor and a hard meringue on them to represent the hardness of bone. That, plus some water and alcohol…will be offered to my ancestors, family, and friends.

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~ by sacredblasphemies on 11/01/2017.

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