Hallowtide 2023

1. Contents Below

(2) Introducing a Poignant Hallowtide

(3) Hallow’en & Some Things to Mark It, ie Two Poems & A Ghost Story

(4) You Need to Start Preparing Soon for All Saints’ & All Souls’ Service 05.11.23 (Sunday)

(5) Guy Fawkes / Bonfire Night

(6) Be There Remembrance Sunday 12.11.23 & Dig Deep in Those Pockets

2. Introducing a Poignant Hallowtide

The final day of October marks Hallowtide, the three-day period when Westerners traditionally remember the faithful dead. These three days are: 31.10, All-Hallows Eve, or Hallow’en, and 01.11, All Saints’ Day, both remembering the canonised and other exceptional spiritual souls; and 02.11, All Souls’ Day, remembering all the other spiritually faithful dead, including those once known to and loved by us.

3. Hallow’en & Some Things to Mark It, ie Two Poems & A Ghost Story

(1) ‘Hallowe’en has come to absorb many of the ancient pre-Christian rites from this time of year which were associated with the return of winter and the spirits of the dead. In the ancient societies of Europe, the dark months of winter were believed to be the season of evil spirits. Early November, therefore, marked the season when the spirits came into their own once more and roamed the earth in strength, delighted at the weakening powers of the sun.’

A Feast of Festivals, Hugo Slim (Marshall Pickering, 1996)

(2) As a Unitarian, I am very much a religious humanist with a rational, this-worldly faith. Yet I have never been able to shake off the conviction that there is a supernatural dimension, and one very much interacting with this. As Hamlet says, ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ Indeed, I believe Truth, Beauty and Goodness (ie God) and Jesus exist not only in us, but beyond us. I attribute this to seeing a ghost as a boy of about 7, which left me most shaken and in need of divine protection from being haunted. I found that protection in Christianity. As a young adult, I also took my grandfather’s advice to heart: ‘It’s not them that’s died you need to be frightened of, but them that’s still alive!’

(3) As a young man with this background, fascinated by history, preparing for the ministry in an ancient university at an age similar to those in the Medieval period despite it being the 1980’s (I was rightly the last such in our denomination), flapping about in a gown based on a monk’s habit, and living in very ancient rooms in my college, it was almost inevitable that I became interested in ghost stories. My favourites are those of the Cambridge and Eton don, M R James. I’ll no doubt mention more on M R James as we approach Christmas, which was the time he read his ghost stories to his friends and favourite students. For now I give you Walter De La Mare’s All Hallows, read by Jonathan Price. My intention is not to bring on a haunting as such. I wouldn’t risk that with anybody and am sure I am not doing so. No, my intention is to provide suitable entertainment for this evening and to bring on a haunting of a kind: that is, a mind open to the possibility that there is evil as well as goodness in the universe, and we are either possessed largely by one or the other. If you get the shivers at times, you’ll be at least largely on the right side!

(a) Poetry

If you really want to mark Hallow’en, then before you play our ghost story read these two pieces of poetry.

All Hallows’ Eve

by Adam J. Sedia

The moon is full,
The trees are bare,
Dead leaves glide through
The cool, dry air.
The night is silent as a grave,
Or some deep, dark, unfathomed cave
Beneath the stars’ cold stare.

The silence breaks
With hollow moans
And beastly snarls
And clacking bones:
The God-forsaken, restless dead
Awaken from their earthen bed
Beneath cold, carven stones.

Their din grows loud
And twice more dread
Than piercing screams
Or blood fresh-shed.
Out from the very depths of Hell
They slink, too terrible to tell:
The cursed and restless dead.

Their summoners
Shriek shrill with joy
As they behold
That grim convoy.
By potions, charms, and arcane verse
They placed this night beneath a curse
And bade the dead deploy.

Assembled now,
That fiendish crowd
Swarms dizzily
And hails aloud
The thousand execrable names
Of him who reigns in acrid flames,
In doom’s eternal shroud.

The chaos of
The hellish throng
Soon dies away,
But not for long:
More fearsome than the din before,
Their voices join as one and roar
A wild, infernal song:

“Praise the one
Once bright as sun,
Who dared defy
The Three-in-One.

“And so he fell
Too far to tell,
To reign as king,
Our king, in Hell.

“He dared to bring
Death’s dreadful sting
To Earth, to gain
His following.

“He first laid eye
On man, and by
His sweetened tongue
He made man die!

“Alas! Our wrong
Prevailed not long,
Soon overcome
By One more strong.

“Still, bubbling from
Hell’s fires, we come
Up to this sphere
In massive sum.

“Behold our sheer,
Brute strength and hear
Our battle-cry
And quake with fear!

“We venture out
To thrash about
This world of men
And win our rout,

“For thus we can
Complete the plan
Our master spun
When time began.

“Now, to our feet –
To prowl the street
And visit doom
On all we greet!”

Then off they fly
With roars and shrieks,
A putrid mass
Of loathsome freaks.
In frenzied swarms, they pierce and tear
Throughout the land; they fill the air
And choke it with their reeks.

No soul is safe,
No home secure,
No heart so strong
It could endure
That mob, accursed from Above,
Bereft of life, devoid of love,
Whose doom is swift and sure!

With sharpened claws
And bloodstained sneer,
They plunge the world
In abject fear,
Let loose for what they most enjoy:
To slay, burn, terrorize, destroy,
And raise Hell’s horrors here.

Their rampage, though,
Must cease at last,
For in the east
The day comes fast.
Though theirs was cold and shadowed night,
They now must yield to breaking light
That fells them with a blast.

With that first ray,
A piercing cry
From all the ghouls
Cuts through the sky.
Dawn breaks! At last the Day of Saints,
Expels them back to their restraints
In flames that never die.

Great Michael leads
A countless host
For Father, Son,
And Holy Ghost.
With eagle wings and flaming swords
They charge and rout the demon hordes
And squelch their one night’s boast.

Then through the clouds
Pure music flies.
A radiant choir
Circles the skies:
The saints who fasted, prayed, and bled,
Whose faith has conquered death and dread,
Have come, all come to grace the earth
As testament to second birth
In Light that never dies.


by Sheri-Ann O’Shea

Oh! Hallowe’en is not about the grave
__Or ghosts or horrors fit to make men rave
It’s not about black witches and black cats
__Or goats or toads or spider webs or bats
There’s nought in it of skeletons in chains
__Or blood or leering heads protruding brains
Or grinning pumpkins lighted from within
__Or sound recordings making dreadful din
The moans and groans, the creaking door, the screams
__The notion that your nightmares aren’t mere dreams
What sickness is it in us that craves fear?
__And what perverse delight holds evil dear?
What view of education and of care
__Sends children trick-or-treating every year?

All Hallow’s Eve anticipates a Feast
__The godly from the bonds of earth released
The glory of the saints in heav’n above
__Their joyful ecstasy of endless love
Whose brightness fills our eyes and draws us on
__To go where faithful souls alone have gone
If they, like us, were weak and sinful men
__They give us hope that we may rise again
And tread the path of Calvary to the Cross
__Nor turn aside nor dread no earthly loss
They all behold us with the eyes of friends
__Each one to some lost lamb his arm extends
Oh no! there’s really nothing fearful here
__Just members of a family most dear
And over all there reigns the goodliest King –
__They see and love and are possessed by Him.

(b) Ghost Story

4. You Need to Start Preparing Soon for All Saints’ & All Souls’ Service 05.11.23 10:30am

We shall be marking All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day in a joint All Saints’ & All Souls’ Service on Sunday 5thNovember this year. We will be focussing on those dear to the Unitarian faith and our chapel, and to us personallyPlease give some thought to those you might remember now, perhaps preparing a few words on one or two souls you don’t remember enough, to be read (over no more than 3 minutes ideally) as you light a single candle for them all. 
5. Guy Fawkes / Bonfire Night
‘In Britain today, Bonfire Night on 5 November is a relic of these pre-Christian winter festivals [see 3 (1) above] which received new meaning after Guy Fawkes’ plot to burn down Parliament. On 5 November 1605, [he] was discovered in the basement of the Parliament building in London, gunpowder in hand. Since then, winter bonfires have made this political traitor the villain in their ritual instead of more sinister spiritual demons.’ 
A Feast of Festivals, Hugo Slim (Marshall Pickering, 1996)
6. Be There Remembrance Sunday 10:30am & Dig Deep in Those Pockets
(1) ‘This century, early November has also become the time to remember those who have died in war. The armistice which ended the First World War [1914 – 1918] was signed on 11 November 1918. From then on this day was known as Armistice Day and devoted to the memory of the war dead. After the Seconds World War, Armistice Day became known as Remembrance Day or Veterans’ Day and it remembers all the war dead. It is now held on the second Sunday in November, and in Britain it is customary to wear a poppy on Remembrance Sunday. This red wild flower continued to grow on the terrible battlefields of France in World war One and has become the symbol of remembrance. During the service on Remembrance Sunday the famous two minutes silence is held in honour of the dead.’ 
A Feast of Festivals, Hugo Slim (Marshall Pickering, 1996)

(2) This year we will be remembering Ukraine and Israel / Palestine particularly. From our modest coffers, we have already donated £1000 per conflict to the International Red Cross (£2000 total), leading the relief campaigns in both conflicts. The Minister has also signed-up on our behalf to Save the Children’s successful call on the UK government to back a ceasefire in Israel / Gaza. This is your opportunity to show up and  get behind / further behind these actions, not least by giving extra to replenish our somewhat exhausted Relief Fund so we’re ready again to give when the need calls.
Here’s to a proper marking of Hallowtide

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