Monday, November 1, 2010

All Hallow's Day

Today used to be one of the most sacred days of the year in some places around the world. It has been called All Saints Day in the Catholic Church, and of course, fans of the popular Harry Potter series will recognize "Hallows" as the seven objects that "He Who Shall Not Be Named" has imbued with bits and pieces of his soul. In my own studies of Tarot, the Hallows are the suits of the Minor Arcana that represent the four classic elements of Air, Water, Fire and Earth. However, I would suggest that we each have our own personal Hallows. These are things and ideas that we hold as self-evident and sacred, and they can be useful to us, inspiring us to achieve our goals, or they can become "sacred cows" and habits that we drag around with us unconsciously, using them as excuses not to move forward. Just as a Tarot card can be read right side up, or reversed, the Hallow itself is innocent, but our interpretation of its meaning can change its influence to good or evil.

Fear is such a Hallow. The things we identify as fearful and face become wonderful influences on our life. When we face fear it is firstly an identification issue. Simply giving name to that which we fear renders it less frightening. Thus Voldemort eventually loses his power by his name being repeated by Harry Potter and friends, until he and his Death Eaters begin to target those who use his name for torture or death. The reductive quality of simply calling the most evil wizard "Tom" might have worked even better, as you remember Dumbledore always calls his former student.

Notice that Voldemort names his followers "Death Eaters". What a ridiculous name, but it suggests that they have conquered the fear we all have -- that of death. It is a common initiatic process to try and force the initiate to face this shared fear and release it. The idea being that this release will free a person to achieve whatever it is they are here to achieve. Marvelous books have been written on the subject, having characters either overcoming death itself through immortality or by making death's sting less frightful. Some New Thought folks and New Agers approach fear simply by saying "there is nothing to fear, all is well," but are they really dealing with the fear or just kicking it down the road a bit? On Halloween we conquer our fears by becoming that which we fear - ghosts, goblins, zombies, witches, aliens, monsters, or...uh...princesses.

Somehow though these directions fail to be applied at the mundane level. We may have faced death itself and still be frightened of spiders. It's really ridiculous that we allow ourselves to indulge in little fears, but most of us do it. Currently, a huge fear looming over the world is the double-dip recession. OMG! We might be impoverished! To many, the crash of our financial systems was so overwhelming that they jumped out of windows or shot themselves dead - preferring the fear of death to the fear of poverty or financial and judicial retribution. People now are strategically foreclosing on homes they chose to buy because they don't want to stay committed to something that apparently has no real value, but what they really fear is that they are vulnerable, excruciatingly vulnerable. The fear of excruciating vulnerability is what is driving the economy to tatters. We might as well all be running through the streets naked right now for all the vulnerability in the air.

One of the reasons I think fear overtakes us is that we speed our lives up through consumption and grasping enough so that we don't have to consider what frightens us very much. Keeping the Hallows at bay, we think, is going to save us, but really all that strategy accomplishes is to guarantee that we will carry that fear with us into every decision we make, and that it will nag us endlessly and that it will become a bigger shadow looming over us. Part of the purpose of the Dark Night of the Soul is to finally face these shadows (darkness) in our own hearts and confront them. Rarely is this a picnic in the park, and it can be nicely compared with annihilation. Very uncomfortable.

If you read yesterday's blog, you know that I suspect a fear of mine has been dogging me since I had my first child, and I don't really know how to name it. So, today I decided I would call it my Hallow as a substitute acknowledgment until I can really see what it is exactly. I'm acknowledging the Hallow has been with me for about fourteen years. It's a nice, big, looming shadow that even at high noon doesn't go away. That's a long time to carry something like a fear, and no doubt it has put on weight (like I have) over those years of avoidance. There are even specific times when I felt the heft of it. I kept thinking I was facing it, but the fact that I'm still quite stymied makes me absolutely sure that I have not yet looked it in the eyes. Giving it a name is my way of saying, "I know you're there, Hallow, and I'm going to get to you. Know that, Hallow, I'm going to get to you. I am."

The Hallow is laughing back at me now, but that won't last.

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