Winter approaches with its chill breath. The harvest has been gathered, granaries and hay barns are full, and farm animals have been tucked into their barns for the long winter. Days are becoming shorter, and nights seem to last forever.
Native Americans call this the time the Long Nights. Daylight is paler and more slanted now, but these last October days have a translucent beauty of their very own. Foliage has already turned color and fallen; autumn's brisk winds are scouring the hills and sweeping fallen leaves into rustling drifts and heaps. The residents of field and glen and forest are frantically topping up their winter larders and preparing burrows for winter. The air is spicy and carries the promise of cold days to come.
Halloween (or “Samhain”, as the ancient Celts called it), means simply “summer's end”. According to the old Celtic two-fold division of the year, summer is the interval from Beltane (May 1) to Samhain (October 31), and winter the interval between Samhain and Beltane. This day is (along with Beltane) one of the most important days on the Wheel of the Year - the old Celtic year ends, and a new one begins as the sun is goes down.
To the ancients, time was cyclical and their cross quarter observances represented pivotal cosmic points beyond time, intervals when the natural universal order dissolved back into primordial chaos before regenerating itself. Thus, Samhain or Halloween night is a magical night beyond the confines of time, and one may (if she or he possesses such gifts and is inclined to use them) be able to view other points in time using tarot cards, runes or tea leaves.
Here again is most magical night in the whole turning year, one filled with jack-o-lanterns, costumes, scarecrows, trick or treating, goblins, ghost stories, divination and scrying. Wise to remember though that this is also a night of great power and one when the veil which separates our world from the spirit world is gossamer thin. . . Strange creatures are abroad, and uncanny events may befall us if we are reckless and venture out of doors without protections.
As I dole out candy to little goblins on my threshold this evening, I will be reflecting on the past year and tucking it gently away under a coverlet of leaves. I will thinking good thoughts about the year to come and remembering that death is a natural part of earthly existence and not something to be feared - whether the death be physical, the end of a trend or pattern, emotional closure of some kind, or merely the settling of issues which need to be laid to rest. Life is a grand continuous cycle of death and rebirth. Halloween (or Samhain) accepts, embraces and celebrates this magnificent never-ending cosmic cycle.
Bright blessings to you and yours. May your jack-o-lanterns glow brightly this evening, and may many small guests visit your threshold. May home be a place of warmth and light, and your hearth protected from things that go bump in the night.
Happy Samhain, Happy Halloween, and Happy New Year too!