Coming to Poland as a child was to always encounter life as a different proposition – a world of strange melancholias and lofty metaphysics. There was nothing spookier, nor truer, than going down to the cemetery for All Saints’ Day, to lay a candle on the graves of loved ones; to be left in the silence of flickering lights and falling leaves, and to remember not only those gone, but ourselves too. It has always struck me as something that we could all learn from, a way to put death, or loss, in its place.
Death is, after all, what anthropologists understand to be the great ‘other’, something that we must all have a cosmological answer for. All Saints’, in the Catholic iteration, was created in the 7th century by Pope Boniface IV in honour of the Christian martyrs persecuted by Rome, but the roots of the ritual lie in a deeper consideration. In the pagan rites that preceded the holy day, death was something that needed