I will be signing books at Coles Westshore in Langford and Coles Tillicum in Victoria on December 21st. This is the Winter Solstice, of course, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing on this date than talking about ghosts and the spirit world.
The sun will set at 4:21 and will not rise again until 8:03, making this both the shortest day and longest night of the year. Many cultures, including Vancouver Island’s Nuu-chah-nulth, used the Winter Solstice (Kwiis?ist) to predict the coming year’s events, such as the following summer’s weather or the abundance of fish (Elder Stanley Sam). Others, like the Celts, built fires to “conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year.”
It was originally during these dark days of winter, not on Halloween, that people told ghost stories and tales of malevolent spirit beings. This practice is believed to have existed since before recorded history. It continued until recently, which is how we ended up with Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Unfortunately, the commercialization of Christmas in Western culture made ghost stories a thing of the past. A growing disconnect from the natural world (electricity, refrigeration, radio, television, internet, etc.) further removed community storytelling from our day-to-day lives as a form of education and entertainment.
Many people, myself included, would love to see the tradition of telling ghost stories return to the holiday season. Enjoying them reminds us of our own mortality in an entertaining way, which in turn forces us to reflect on the seasons, which results in a respect for food sources and all living things. Tales of spirits also remind us that the world is filled with mystery, that an unseen realm of magic might exist, and that death might not be the end, but merely a new beginning.
It brings me great pride to see The Haunting of Vancouver Island become a popular Christmas gift on Vancouver Island this year. A huge thank you to everyone who has supported the book and spread the word! I hope to meet some of you on December 21st.
Happy Winter Solstice Everyone! May it be a dark one.