Here we are again on the threshold of what is probably my favorite festive interval in the whole turning year.
Winter is not far off, and there's a chill in the air that cannot be ignored. Morning arrives later with every passing day, and dusk makes an earlier appearance, village street lamps turning themselves on one by one, hours before they used to. The shorter days and longer nights are all too apparent to a crone's fierce and gimlet eye, at least to this crone's eye. How did we get here so swiftly?
The last days of October have a fleeting beauty all their own. In the greater, wider and more rural world, crops and fruit have been gathered in and stored, farm animals tucked into barns, stables and coops for the long white season. Rail fences wear frost crystals, and nearby field grasses crunch pleasingly underfoot. For the most part, foliage has already fallen, but the great oaks on my favorite hill are reluctant to part with their summer finery and are hanging on to every leaf. A north wind scours the wooded slopes and sweeps fallen fragments into rustling drifts and heaps. Native wild things are frantically topping up their winter larders and preparing warm burrows for winter. The air is spicy and carries the promise of deep cold days to come.
Monday night is Halloween (meaning All Hallows Eve), and the day after is Samhain, meaning “summer's end'. According to the old Celtic two-fold division of the year, summer was the interval between Beltane and Samhain, and winter the interval from Samhain to Beltane. For the ancestors, the old year ended at sunset on October 31, and a new year danced into being.
Some of us love dressing up as witches and skeletons, have a passion for spooky "stuff", anything fey, mysterious and unknown. Others feel a bone deep connection with Celtic harvest festivals and those who came before us, are interested in how the human species has marked the passage of time over the centuries.The cyclical and festival observances that demarcated ancient notions of time represented pivotal cosmic points, fey intervals when the natural order dissolved back into primordial chaos for a brief unruly fling before regenerating itself, burnished and newly ordered for another journey through the seasons. All the old festivals celebrate the cyclical nature of existence, but Halloween/Samhain does so more than any other.
Three cheers for trick-or-treating, tiny guisers and goblins on the threshold. What's not to love about witches, ghosts and goblins, grinning jack-o-lanterns, the colors orange and black? As I dole out treats to wee neighborhood friends this year, I'll be reflecting on the old year and tucking it away under a blanket of fallen maple leaves. I'll be thinking good thoughts about the cycle that is coming into being and trying to remember that endings and beginnings are natural parts of earthly existence and not something to be feared.
Bright blessings to you and yours. May your jack-o-lanterns glow brightly and throngs of costumed guests visit your threshold on Monday evening. May your home be a place of warmth and light, and your hearth a haven from things that go bump in the night. May there be laughter and merriment at your door, and fellowship in abundance. May all good things come to you.