“When we say goodbye on Halloween what we’re really saying is ‘God be with you’. Tease the word goodbye apart and it comes into view, like a print coming up in a darkroom: God be [with] ye. The ‘with’ is completely elided, but for the rest – well, it’s all there.
And as for Halloween – well, again, if you trust your ear you can hear the trumpets of the past. Hallow is short for Hallowed. And een is an elision of evening.
So it’s the Evening of the Hallowed. The hallowed being the saints, the saints honoured on All Saints Day – November 1st. And the rest of the silent majority get in on the act on All Souls Day – November 2nd.
So we’re really talking a Festival of the Dead here. And why at this time of the year? Well, souls schmouls and saints schmaints – because the cultural roots of all of these goings on go down a lot deeper. Down into a distant Celtic past. That territory is pagan – and that means light, sun-worship. And this time of the year – well, we’re all very aware of it – the light is high-tailing it out of these northern climes. And with the onset of some serious darkness, well, the Celts believed that at this time of the year the bourne between this world and 'the beyond' got real thin. Thin enough for spirits – for the ‘departed’ – to pass through.
So think of October 31st as a membrane. A membrane ‘they’ can come through. Come through and get in amongst us. And they do. You’ll see some of ‘them’ on several of the London Walks ghost walks that night. Indeed, only on London Walks Ghost Walks.”
A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at www.walks.com.