October 31, Samhain, Grief, and Photographs

Lithograph of Chief William Macintosh Jr

I was on Root Simple (one of our oldest blog friends here at BE) to find a link for a commenter, and I noticed the most recent post Sorting Family Photos.

I was already thinking about a companion post for Halloween/Samhain to match my Mayday/Beltane post from many years ago.

So I was instantly connected to the idea of grief and old photographs and the season for and the celebration of death and dying.

Which is how this post you are reading came about.

Wet plate photograph of Kevin

Halloween or Samhain is traditionally associated with the dying of the year itself, the natural world going to sleep for the winter, and remembrance of those who are gone.

It is also a celebration of the harvest just completed, a liminal time when the tissue between this world and others becomes thinner, and wearing costumes or disguises to step outside of oneself for a short time.

How does this connect back to photographs?

Most of us have a box of actual photos, videos, film, and sound recordings that we either made ourselves or which were passed on to us from family members.

It can be a difficult journey to sort through them.

We need to take the time to add notes as to who or what these slices of the past contain.

It can be even more difficult to make decisions as to how they should be archived or duplicated.

What better time to do a bit of this each year than at this celebration of remembrance?

Even more critical if you have children who have never seen those in the photographs or heard the voices of the persons captured on the recordings.

You are sharing a hidden past with them that is part of who they are.

You yourself are connecting back to ancestors, family, and friends that are gone beyond the veil.

Processing the grief associated with this is healthy.

Scheduling that process you are more likely to embrace it rather than avoid it.

It can also help you reflect on the year just past and process new wounds.

Loss of a loved one, the breakdown of a relationship, or a friendship that has disintegrated all need to be grieved as well.

Take the time to raise a drink to the past, but then turn and toast the future as well.

Winter is in front of us, let the past go to sleep for another year.

Start to dream of spring again.


About the images:

The lithograph portrait is Kevin’s 9th generation grandfather Chief William Macintosh Jr.

The original portrait was painted in 1836 by C. B. King and the lithograph by Thomas L. McKenney

The wet plate photograph of Kevin was taken by his friend Aspen in August of 2013.

It is not your imagination. We do look a lot alike. Genetics is a funny thing.





Leave a Reply

Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That's how we're gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you're rude, we'll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch and Tim Ferris for the inspiration regarding user-friendly comment rules)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *