Friday, October 25, 2019

Friday Ramble - Before Samhain/Halloween

Here we are again, nearing Samhain/Halloween, possibly my favorite festive  observance 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 are enchanted by the turnings of the Great Round or respect the old ways. Some of us love spooky "stuff", the fey, the mysterious and the unknown. A few have Goth aspirations, like Halloween "clobber" and dressing up. Others are fascinated by the myriad ways in which the human species has measured the passage of time over the centuries. The festival observances that marked 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 (or Halloween) does so more than any other.

Several dearly loved friends passed beyond the fields we know in the last few years, and they were some of the wisest, kindest and most vibrant spirits I have ever known. 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. The same rooms were always a little darker when they made their exits. Somewhere beyond the here and the now, my friends are still alight, and I have to remember that. Places will be set for them, for all of them, at our table next Thursday evening.

This fall, my beloved is undergoing chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer, and we three feel rather fragile at times, but we take long walks among old trees and falling leaves whenever we can. Rambles with Beau are wild medicine of the very finest kind, and they are seasonal rites too.

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.

4 comments:

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

thank you for these words

Barbara R. said...

As always, you have touched my heart with your words. May your holy days and nights be blessed as well. I too remember my friends and loved ones, and welcome their laughter into the nights of this time.

Mystic Meandering said...

Sending you warm wishes to you and your beloved. Hope all goes well with the chemo...
Samhain Blessings to you both!

Guy said...

Your words reminded me of The Gate by Merwin a beautiful poem.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/how-poems-work/article4129599/

All the best, hopefully the treatments go well.

Guy