Friday, October 27, 2023

Friday Ramble Before Samhain (Hallows, Halloween)

Here we are again, nearing the eve of Samhain, possibly my favorite night in the whole turning year. The festival begins at sunset on Tuesday (October 31), and the village adores the occasion. 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?

In the great wide (northern) world, crops have been gathered in and stored, farm animals tucked into barns, stables and coops for the long white season. Rail fences sometimes 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.

Tuesday's festival 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.

However the ancient Celts construed the light and dark halves of the year, we are already well into the dark half of the year here. It is not light until well after seven in the morning. and dark a little after five in the afternoon. That is quite a change from the balmy summer days when we were out in the garden a few minutes after five in the morning. 

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.

Samhain celebrates the ancestors and loved ones who have left this life and gone on ahead, and I miss them so much. Those who passed beyond the fields we know in recent years were some of the wisest, kindest and most vibrant spirits I have ever known. They walked in this world loving it fiercely, appreciating its grandeur, grace and reciprocity and cherishing its innate abundance and wildness. Alight from within, they fairly blazed with life and passion, and they lighted up every room they entered. Places were always dimmer and a little darker when they left. 

On Tuesday night, we will think of departed loved ones, particularly my soulmate who left this plane of existence a little less than four years ago. Places will be set at the old oak table in the dining room, and there will be tea and cakes for all (doggie biscuits and cheese for much loved departed canines). In the afternoon, Beau and I will take a long walk among old trees and falling leaves, and my love will be tucked warm in my pocket (in spirit) 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, witches and goblins on the threshold. What's not to love about grinning jack-o-lanterns, the colors orange and black and purple? As I dole out treats to wee friends on Tuesday 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 if you prefer. Happy New Year! May throngs of tiny guests attend your threshold on Tuesday evening. May your home be a place of warmth and light, and your hearth be a haven from things that go bump in the night. May there be laughter and merriment at your door, music and fellowship in abundance. Bright blessings, and may all good things come to you and your clan at this turning in the Great Round.

1 comment:

Jim Cummings said...

Beautiful as ever…..Your holding (lightly) of loved ones in the physical spaces you shared is a wonder to behold. And now we enter the Solstice Season, the sun already startlingly close to as low as it will get, the sunrise well settled in the edge of its winter zone. Ahhhh…..into the dark of the year.