Thursday, October 27, 2005

CONCOST: It's a Dead Man's Party

Don’t run away; it’s only me. Don't be afraid of what you can't see. Don't run away; it's only me…” – Oingo Boingo.

We cloak our dead in vestments of white, just as when the land dies in winter and slumbers beneath a mantle of snow. And just as the land dreams in its sleep and awaits the day that it will awaken again into the Spring, so do our honored dead slumber beneath a shroud of white and wait their day to waken to our world once again.

As Concost approaches we harvest our fruits from the land, stow away the grains and fruit, prepare the meats we have gathered over the year, and watch the world breathe away its pain. We light fires against the night, watch the coming of storm clouds, lead by the breath chilled air, and smile.

When the sun begins to set upon the day sidled up against Samhain, we shroud ourselves in white—the vestment of the dead—and walk with them for a while. In their vestment we become our own honored ancestors, ghosts walking in waking unison with the living; we make our sorrows into coin and use them in trade for those things that would sustain for all Concost; we seek shelter with relatives, with friends, with neighbors, and with strangers, as we try to see what the dead would see in our community; and at night, when we sit by the fire, clutching our shawls around our shoulders, we are penchant to know them again, lost to us to that deep slumber, somewhere in the Otherworld: our honored dead return.

For any who has ever wondered what it is like to be dead for a while. To walk betwixt and twain those murmuring shadows, not to just glimpse the Otherworld at thresholds and crossroads, but to actually walk there for a while: then come thee upon Concost; shed thy mortal frame; and believe for a while.

On the first day of Concost—the day of the waking dead—we attune ourselves to the Otherworld; we bless ourselves with smoke and ashes from the burning alder and hawthorn and anoint ourselves with whortleberry juice. As the sun sets on the first day of Concost we visit the bonfires and offer up our mortality and we shirk all vestments of our former lives. We become apparitions who walk alongside the living, quiet in our speech, gentle in our movements, and very aware.

The second day of Concost—the day of the dreaming dead—we embrace those who are dear to us, we drink our whortleberry drinks, and partake of great feasts, sweet candies, confections, spirits, and liqueurs provided by our neighbors and friends, and they proffer their wares in trade for the coin forged of our sorrows. All day long we trade our sorrows thus that at the end of Concost we have exhausted our stashes and hold the coin of others in the community. When we visit the fires tonight we partake of potions and philters made from whortleberries and Lugh’s Fire; the embibation gives us that last push necessary to cross that final veil, and here in Samhain Eve’ we are visited by our ancestors, take drink with our gods, and enjoy the company of those who love us.

The third day of Concost—the day of the sleeping dead—we spendthrift the last of our coin, we spend the day in contemplation, smiling and watching. As the dead slowly return themselves to the Otherworld, so shall we return ourselves to our world. As the fires burn in that hallowed night air, we cast the coin of our sorrows into the fires and let them go. Release them like ashes into the air, burnt offerings to the year that is dying, that has passed into the Otheworld. Another tradition of this day is to keep one (or more) of our honored dead in our minds, we write a message to them on a bit of parchment; and think of their lives with us. At the end of the day, when we cast away our sorrows into the fire, also to them we offer up our message ito the ashes--and through this we can let them know that we miss them.

And we wait to watch the shrould of white cast itself across the land as she slumbers. As the vestment of the dead flenses her sorrows and leaves her cleansed to awaken into the Springtime.

Should an ethereal presence step close and touch you on the hand, or brush against you sitting all alone—never fear on this Concost day: it might be me.

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