It is Samhain in the north of the world, Beltane in its south.
Samhain and Beltane are twinned mysteries. In ecstasy, we touch the realm of the dead. In death, we fulfill the ecstasy of our ancestors and become ancestors ourselves.
Sex brings life, life brings death. We exist because two humans had sex with each other. But we also exist because all of nature has sex with itself. The sun’s rays caress the leaves of plants, whose metabolic ecstasy produces the air we breathe and food we eat. To eat that food, we participate in death, consuming part of nature in its older, pre-capitalist sense: “consummation,” becoming together one-with. And when we die we are part of another consummation, our bodies surrendering to the ecstasy of dirt, which is anyway bits of dead stone and dead bodies like ours. In that soil life is born again; the seed which sprouts in what we once were to reach higher towards the sky to be loved by the sun.
So this day of the dead is also the day of life. The veil doesn’t really “thin,” but we just learn to give attention to what’s always been around, those whose death meant life for us, those whom we will join in death in order to bring life to others.
The word vital has two meanings, but we forget the second. The first is something that is necessary, crucial, essential. But vital also means literally to be full of life, abundantly alive, energetic, and life-giving. To look through the gates of Samhain is to remember something no human likes to remember: death is vital, in both senses. Not only can nothing live without death, but it is death which gives life to life, makes life abundant, makes life lively and worth living.
At the end of everything is death, but death is also at the beginning of everything too.
The world we know is dying. The orders of meaning and authority, civilizations and societies, and all the things both glittering and rotting that humans have made are dying around us. But not quite dying, not yet. Capitalism and Liberal Democracy, our modern technological orders and governments built upon colonization and patriarchal violence, are dead but restless, still wreaking havoc upon the world because they refuse to stay in their graves.
Until they are finally put to rest, they cannot decompose into the earth, and we humans and the rest of the nature of which we are but one small part cannot meet the ecstatic consummation which will birth a new world.
Remember: death is vital. As the skin peels off and the limbs rot from the walking corpses of the civilizations around us, we await a new ecstasy, a new birth, a new life, one which cannot be born until they are finally put to rest.
As Gramsci said, “the old world is dying, a new world struggles to be born. This is the time of monsters.”
Happy Samhain. Happy Beltane.
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VIDEOCAST: ANGIE SPEAKS
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