Monday, November 2, 2009

All Souls' Day

In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Gawain leaves on his quest on November 2. Medieval audiences would have recognized this day as All Souls' Day, and this heavy foreshadowing wouldn't have been lost on them. All Saints' Day celebrates all the saints, while All Souls' celebrates those who have died in the past year. As Sir Gawain leaves, his castle-mates would have been expecting to celebrate his life the following year.

All Souls' would develop into the kind of day that drove Martin Luther crazy. On All Souls' Day, people would be encouraged to spend money so that their loved ones would get out of purgatory sooner. According to medieval theology, a soul wasn't ready to go to Heaven right away.

In most Protestant churches, All Saints' and All Souls' have merged into one, and that makes sense to me. Still, my inner English major will always have a sense of these alternative liturgical calendars. I like having more to celebrate, more ways to remind myself that there's more to life than what occupies most of my time (work--both on the job and at my house). I like having holidays that remind me that we're only here for too brief a time. It helps me to treasure the fleeting moments that I have.

1 comment:

Shefali Shah Choksi said...

WONDERFUL! i did Sir Gawain & the Green Knight with the class just a couple of weeks ago, but they didn't get this!