Thinking of West

I’m completely superstitious about this week, for exactly this kind of reason. I left natural disasters and industrial accidents off my list, because I know they’re not related to why Americans find this an attractive week in an attractive month to injure/kill each other. But they’re also there.

I have a theory. It’s complete and total woo, so read on in that spirit.

My theory is this, in a very broad and ancient sense, we know there is (or have long ago created) what we might call a “hinge” (if we were stealing from Ursula Le Guin) in the year at the end of October and we know that time of year is about dying and coming to terms with the dead. And we have all kinds of cultural things in place to help us navigate toward that one night, when the veil between life and death is so thin we can whisper across it to each other. Religious things and secular things. Plus nature is dying and blowing away and baring itself. Everything about that time of year is set up to help us navigate this turning point.

But we’ve got another huge turning point here at the opposite side of the year–Walpurgis night. And if October 31/November 1 is bringing life and death close enough together so that death can burst through, April 30/May 1 is the moment when life and death come close enough together that life can burst through. You can see the hints of it in the kinds of bad things that happen in April–all designed to set things on a different course, to change things, to put things right, to shake things up. The impulse is to force a kind of birth (or rebirth). May 1 is a world-wide symbolic day of revolution. New beginnings.

We’ve uncoupled our spring cultural rituals from this month. Or failed to line them up with this month, when we need them in the first place. We could use Easter to always be the first Sunday in May, which would bring Christians through April in a Lenten state and which would place the rebirth of Christ right at this spring turning point. That would bring a lot of our culture into alignment with the month.

But instead, we’ve forgotten the power of this month and we make no efforts to bring ourselves through it okay. We’ve developed no secular or sacred ways to navigate this month. Or we’ve lost them. We have no collective rituals to acknowledge and channel the energy struggling to be born. So we get these individuals and small groups trying to birth their own terrible bullshit. Right now. Because of some dim memory that this is the best time.

The witches run wild before they run home. We used to know that.

Forgetting it doesn’t change it.

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3 thoughts on “Thinking of West

  1. I think that’s very insightful and right on target. Historian Richard Wunderli, in Peasant Fires (a book about a peasant boy who has religious visions in 15th-century Germany) talks about this as “enchanted time,” with exactly that argument about the thinning veil at those key moments.

  2. This post hits me with that weird, clicking-into-place feeling I get when I finally understand something for the first time. You make a strong argument that works, viscerally. You are a woman of power, lady.

  3. Pilgrim/Heretic, ooo, I’m going to have to check that out.

    Aw, shucks, Jess, thanks.

    Most people who commented on the set up of A City of Ghosts were completely befuddled by the split between April and October. But this is exactly why. April is spooky. But not like October is, so we have trouble recognizing it.

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