It'll be alfright on the night
Chris Lowry on the mysteries of Hallowe'en, when the veil between the natural and supernatural worlds is thinnestSandra Ramdhanie is a psychic, para-psychologist and expert in all matters pertaining to the supernatural. And her birthday is today, Hallowe'en. Coincidence?
Sandra doesn't think so. ``It's always been said that if you're born on Halloween, you'll be psychic,'' she says. (One of the other signs is to be born feet first, as Sandra was.) ``This is the time of year when, as the old saying goes, the veil between the two worlds is very thin.''
She explains that the Celtic festival of Samhain, along with its springtime counterpart Ceit Samhain on May 1, celebrates the seasons of change.
``The earth energies are different at these times. To an extent I was sceptical about whether there was actually any truth to this, but I've discovered that the amount of spiritual activity reported leading up to Samhain and Ceit Samhain goes up by six times,'' says Sandra.
And it is not just the Celts who get supernatural stirrings at this time of year. Cultures all over the world have rituals and festivals at the end of October/beginning of November, says Sandra. The Mexicans have the Fiesta de los Muertos a carnival of the dead, just like Samhain while Indians celebrate Divali, a Hindu holiday, on November 2.
The traditional way to mark Divali is to light candles and kerosene oil lamps, similar to the old Irish custom of keeping a candle in the window at Hallowe'en to guide any lost souls.
With such worldwide unanimity about the significance of these dates, it is hardly surprising that Christianity jumped on the bandwagon. Catherine Lenehan, who describes herself as a seer and clairvoyant, explains it was a case of the ancient church saying ``if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.'' Early Christians knew, she says, that they couldn't suppress a festival that was so powerfully embedded in the community's psyche, so they decided to take it over.
Catherine explains that the Celts had a fascination with circles, believing that life was a circle, as was the cycle of years. Accordingly, they divided each year into four parts the seasons and had a festival for each. Samhain ``symbolised the fruitfulness of the harvest, the dark nights, and a time of withdrawal and renewal,'' she says.
Hallowe'en is also a busy time of the year for mediums. Whether this is because of a genuine closeness between this world and the next, or because people are just culturally conditioned to think in that way, isn't clear, says Lorraine Collins, a bereavement counsellor, spiritual healer and medium.
HER own impetus to become a medium came as a result of the sudden death of her nephew, who died seven years ago at around this time of year. Her mother also died in late October, something Lorraine had foreseen only a short time before.
Lorraine's business card features the mysterious prefix N.F.S.H., which she tells me stands for the National Federation of Spiritual Healers. She points out that, amongst other things, this requires a two-year period of training in Lorraine's case under the guidance of Brendan O'Callaghan at the Irish Spiritual Centre and helps a potential customer know that he or she is not in the hands of a charlatan.
Lorraine says she is there ``to take the hocus pocus out'' of her brand of spirituality. So there is no spooky atmosphere or dark curtains ``though I am fond of candles, simply because I like the light.'' But she must encounter scepticism nonetheless; what, for example, does her sister make of the contacts with her dead son that Lorraine has been able to establish?
``Oh, she has no doubt that they are genuine, and I think they are a great comfort to her,'' Lorraine says.
The gift of psychic powers seems to manifest itself at a young age. Lorraine has had it since childhood, while Sandra Ramdhanie astonished her parents as a one-year-old by declaring that she was in fact an adult, male Chinese doctor.
Sandra, who says she has been reincarnated a number of times, apparently went on to prove this by displaying a professional degree of medical knowledge.
Certainly, her paranormal gifts do seem to have been pre-ordained: not only was she born on Hallowe'en, but she was the child of an Indian father and an Irish mother. ``The blood of the two most psychic, and most crazy, nations runs in my veins.''