Friday, October 29, 2021

Friday Ramble Before Samhain/Halloween

Here we are again, nearing the eve of Samhain/Halloween, possibly my favorite festive  observance in the whole turning year. Sunday is the day this time around, not that we need to be reminded. Jack-o-lanterns, witches, scarecrows and straw bales adorn thresholds all over the village, and wispy ghosts dangle from almost every tree.

On morning walks, there's a chill in the air that cannot be ignored. Daylight arrives later with every passing day, and sunset arrives earlier, 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 canny 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.

Sunday's festival (and cross quarter day) marks “summer's end', and the beginning of the dark half of the year according to the ancient Celts. According to their 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. Others adore the spooky, the fey, the mysterious and the unknown. Some simply 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.

Many loved ones have passed beyond the fields we know in recent years, and they were some of the wisest, kindest and most vibrant spirits I have ever known. I miss them still. 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. Places were always dimmer and a little darker when they left.

Somewhere beyond the here and the now, my departed loved ones are still alight, and I have to remember that. Places will be set for them at our table on Sunday night, and there will be a special one for my soulmate who departed this plane of existence a little less than two years ago. Beau and I will take long walks among old trees and falling leaves on the weekend, and I like to think my departed love is tucked warm in my pocket and enjoying the season as he did in life. Our rambles have always been wild medicine of the very finest kind, and they are seasonal rites too.

Three cheers for trick-or-treating, tiny guisers, ghosts, witches and goblins on the threshold. What's not to love about grinning jack-o-lanterns, the colors orange and black? As I dole out treats to wee neighborhood friends on Sunday night, 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, 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 on Sunday night, 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 at this turning in the Great Round.

2 comments:

Barbara R. said...

And sending you wishes for Happy Samhain...may you have positive connections with the ancestors! As we approach the cold grey times, remember how colorful autumn was!

Beth Owl's Daughter said...

May your Beloveds in the Summerlands enjoy their visits with you. I give thanks for the light and beauty that you yourself radiate, in your every illumined word, in every masterful photograph.

Warm hearth and blessed Samhain, sister Cate.