Friday, October 26, 2018

Friday Ramble Before Samhain/Halloween

Here we are again, nearing Samhain/Halloween, possibly my favorite festive interval in the whole turning year.

On morning walks, there's a chill in the air that cannot be ignored. Daylight 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. Foliage has already turned color and much of it has 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.

This Gaelic festival (and cross quarter day) marks “summer's end', and the beginning of the dark half of the year. 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. It was also the gate between one year and another. For the ancestors, the old year ended at sunset on October 31, and a brand new year danced into being.

Some of us love spooky "stuff", the fey, mysterious and unknown, the old ways. A few of us have Goth aspirations, like Halloween "clobber" and dressing up. Others are fascinated by the myriad ways in which 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 Samhain/Halloween does so more than any other.

A handful of dearly loved friends and traveling companions have passed beyond the fields we know in the last year or two. They were some of the wisest and strongest spirits I have ever known, and places will be set for them at our table next Wednesday evening. They walked through this world loving it fiercely, appreciating its grandeur, grace and reciprocity, cherishing its innate abundance and wildness. Lit from within, they fairly blazed with life and passion wherever they went, and they lighted up every room they entered. Somewhere beyond the here and the now, they are still alight, and I have to remember that.

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 next week, I will be reflecting on the old year and tucking it away under a blanket of fallen maple leaves. I will 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.
Happy Samhain, or Halloween, bright blessings to you and your clan. Happy New Year! May your jack-o-lanterns glow brightly next week, and throngs of tiny costumed guests attend your threshold. May your home be a place of warmth and light, your hearth a haven from things that go bump in the night. May there be laughter and merriment at your door, music and fellowship in abundance. May all good things come to you and your clan.


Wendi said...

Thanks for this. I love seeing things through your eyes.

Barbara Rogers said...

You've covered everything so well here...and I feel dazed and remiss that I have no decorations (well, one tiny pumpkin) for the holy days of Samhain. I think today will be the day I finally get something done about this! Thanks for reminding me of the spirits of those who have gone before...their light still shining fiercely somewhere/somehow. Very comforting.

Anonymous said...

I love your description of the changing seasons. Just yesterday I was thinking that we don't put up any Halloween decorations. When I looked out the window I saw all the spider webs woven along our front yard fence and realized that the spiders had done it for us!