Here we are again at the door of Samhain or Halloween, my favorite night of the turning year, and how did we arrive here so swiftly? Winter is peering over the windy hills, and there's a chill in the air that simply cannot be ignored. Crops and fruit have all been gathered in and stored, farm animals are tucked into their barns, stables and coops for the long white season. Morning arrives later and later, and evening is early visitor. The shortness of our days and the length of our nights is all too apparent to a crone's fierce and gimlet eye, or at least to this crone's eye.
These last October days have a poignant translucent beauty all their very own. Foliage has already turned color and has fallen for the most part, although the great oaks are reluctant to part with this summer's finery and are hanging on. Autumn's brisk winds scour the hills and sweep the fallen leaves into rustling drifts and heaps. The residents of field and glen and forest are frantically topping up winter larders and preparing their burrows for winter. The air is spicy and carries the promise of cold days to come.
Halloween (or “Samhain”, as the Celts of old called it), simply means “summer's end”, and summer is over. According to the Celtic two-fold division of the year, summer was the interval between Beltane (May 1) and Samhain (October 31), and winter the interval from Samhain to Beltane. For the ancestors, this was one of the most important days on the Wheel of the Year - the old Celtic year ended at sunset, and a new year began. Some of us simply like the old ways, and others are fascinated by the myriad ways in which the human species has understood and observed the passage of time.
Ancient notions of time were cyclical and festival observances represented pivotal cosmic points beyond linear time, fey intervals when the natural universal order dissolved back into primordial chaos for a brief unruly fling before regenerating itself, polished and newly ordered. Samhain or Halloween is a magical night beyond the confines of conventional time. According to old lore, one may (if she or he possesses such gifts and knows how to use them) be able to view other points in time using tarot cards, runes, tea leaves or other modes of divination.
Three cheers for trick-or-treating, tiny guisers and goblins on the threshold. As I dole out treats to young neighbors this evening, I will be reflecting on the old year and tucking it gently away under a coverlet of leaves. I will be thinking good thoughts about the year to come and trying to remember that death is a natural part of earthly existence and not something to be feared, whether the death be physical, the end of a pattern or emotional closure of some kind, or merely the settling of mundane issues which need to be laid to rest. Life is a grand continuous cycle of death and rebirth, and Halloween (or Samhain) accepts, embraces and celebrates the never-ending cosmic cycle.
What can I say about this day (and night) that I have not said before, possibly a thousand and one times? Bright blessings to you and yours. May your jack-o-lanterns glow brightly this evening, and may throngs of merry costumed guests visit your threshold. May your home be a place of warmth and light, and your hearth protected from things that go bump in the night.
Happy Samhain to you and yours! Happy Hallowmas, Happy Galan Gaeaf, Happy Halloween, and Happy New Year too!