Beliefnet
People of many religious traditions turn to deities in times of stress and need. While faith may not always shield a follower from tragedy, it can provide a way to cope with the trauma, a way to survive the trial.

The past two months have been a testament to this concept. Religious people in the United States and throughout the world have responded to the events of September 11th by turning to their faith. Differences and disagreements have been set aside in the face of something much larger, forging the diverse groups that comprise America into a single, strong whole. We have drawn hope and healing from the strengths of the individuals.


Now is our time to mourn. We should take the time to express our grief, as one, and, as a nation, honor those who have fallen.


One strength that has been untapped by many Americans is the holiday of Samhain, celebrated by Celts and Pagans. The echoes of this ancient tradition can be seen in popular Halloween celebrations today. Some people have suggested that Halloween be cancelled this year due to the September 11th tragedy, that we have seen enough real-life suffering and death, and that Halloween celebrations would simply be "tacky" or "tasteless." But Samhain has something to offer beyond the tricks and treats of Halloween.

Gaelic for "summer's end," Samhain is perhaps the most important holiday in the Celtic world. As is suggested by the name, it is a seasonal festival, the time of the final harvest. The end of summer, and the end of the Celtic year, it is a time to reflect upon the past, to see how you have reaped what was sown. It is also a time for looking to the future, for firmly resolving plans for the new year.

Beyond the harvest, the second aspect of Samhain is the root of what eventually became Halloween: the festival of the dead. This is the time of year when our world and the Otherworld are closest to each other. As such, this is the time for Celts to remember and honor the dead, both their ancestors and those who have died recently. Fires are lit to fill the night with light, and stories of courage and honor are told.

We, as Americans, have a great number of dead to remember and honor, and much mourning to do. On September 11th, several thousand Americans were lost in one of the greatest tragedies to strike America. Several hundred rescue workers bravely gave their lives attempting to save them. In a few tragic moments, our sense of national invulnerability was toppled. We have responded quickly, as a nation, to restore order and hope. Working past our grief, we have attempted to act decisively, and with clear judgment. However, the focus on active response has left our nation to mourn in the fleeting pauses between our efforts. We have started the process; we light candles for our dead, while our storytellers--actors and musicians--rally together to support the living. Still, there is more that we can do to heal our wounds.

We have set our response in motion. We have gotten past the initial shock, and keenly feel the pain of the attack. And we have started to grieve, as individuals and small groups, groups that rapidly are growing in size. Now is our time to mourn. We should take the time to express our grief, as one, and, as a nation, honor those who have fallen.

Many people have long considered the end of December to be a time set aside for peace, as exemplified by the Christmas message of "peace on earth, goodwill towards men." These sentiments are nearly universal during that holiday, crossing many religious boundaries. Now, in our time of need, another opportunity is granted to us. If our nation were to allow the spiritual meaning of Samhain to cross religious boundaries in the same fashion, the opportunity for national healing and unity would be unsurpassed. Let us acknowledge the strength and healing that Samhain can grant us. Let this be our time to honor the dead, regardless of religion, and mourn together.

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