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Every Monday morning at 6:49 and 8:49, IPR News Radio looks into the night sky with Mary Stewart Adams, former Program Director and founder of the International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands, who has been telling stories of the night sky on IPR since 2013.

October Keeps Its Promise: this week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

Oct 2021 msa.jpg
In October, the living can bring comfort to the dead, as Hilary Mantel writes, by sending love, “through the space between worlds, drawn by incense and candlelight.” October sky over Lake Michigan, MSA

October keeps its promise of being one of the most dramatic months of the year for vibrant color, in bold defiance of the season’s waning mood. No wonder, then, that this is the season for celebrating the deep mystery of life in contradistinction to death, marked by the return of the constellation Orion.

Even the stars scatter in advance of Orion, as he rises in the East to dominate the colder months, and whose reappearance each year coincides with the plant life dying away, the animals preparing their winter hovels, and the daylight growing less and less. Orion seems to hold sway even over the forces of the Sun, our life’s star.

But all is not lost in the cold and dark carried toward us by Orion’s return, because, in reality, the human being stands in exact contradiction to this waning mood, and can become inwardly much more vibrant now, as if the fading colors of the outer world are matched by the inner vigor of being human.

This is why former cultures observed this season as the one when the living can provide help and comfort to the dead, but not without a little mischief first.

This is dramatically described in Hilary Mantel’s terrific series “Wolf Hall” about the life of Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to Henry VIII. She writes: "(At) Halloween, the world’s edge seeps and bleeds. This is the time when the tally-keepers of Purgatory, its clerks and jailers, listen in to the living, who are praying for the dead."

This is a powerful backdrop for considering how, when we put on costumes and play tricks in this season, it’s as though we do so to confuse those guardians of the space between the worlds, so our love can make its way beyond them.

October keeps its promise of providing this opportunity, so must we keep ours.