AUTUMN makes me giggle for no reason, and it is my absolute favorite time of the year. Why? Well, it seems to hold such promise in its air and a bit of a rumbling danger underfoot, as if to say, “You there! You are bound for a wonderful adventure!” The natural elements give me a bit of a squish, an Earth hug if you will, telling me that no matter what, everything is going to be all right.
Most of my summer is spent in an idealistic state, but autumn steps in and brings forth a kind of realistic boundary to the future. It reminds me not to get ahead of myself in an unhealthy way. Goals are meant to be set, kept, and scored. But the season obliges us to click our heels a little down the alleyway, non? [Enter] SAMHAIN!!! *slaps table repeatedly* Hear, Hear!
Still reeling from Mabon (Thoth is such a character, right?!), this article focuses on the further descent of goddess, on her way to the rich stillness of the underworld. I reflect on gratitude and connect to spirit's life-giving truths.
By way of definition, and to explore the abc's a bit: Two thousand years of après-harvesting and raucous festivities pass down to us, to respectfully honor and continue the spooky glory. How great is that?
1888, from Irish samhain (Gaelic samhuinn), from Old Irish samain, literally "summer's end," from Old Irish sam "summer" (see summer (n.1)) + fuin"end." (pronounced Sah-ween) Nov. 1, the Celtic festival of the start of winter and of the new year.
© 2001-2017 Douglas Harper
Samhain originally showed in pre-Christian history as a new-year post-harvest festival, and the communities would build winter housing for their returning warriors and meandering shamans. Given the light shone increasingly weaker, I suspect the shamans of the tribe expected the looming darkness to bring its goodies-in-hoodies, as only darkness can bring, thereby naturally repeating the ancient traditions of honoring the dead.
The locals buried apples on the threshold of the house as offerings; built bonfires to light the way for the deceased; ate silent "dumb" suppers and, originally they carved turnips, each a personalized offering. Yes, the dead received passage with a low bow and utter respect. Now that's treatment.
We mark All Hallows' Evening today as an echo of BC history. The commercial side to Halloween complements the great fun of dressing up (I do love some of the props!). In addition, every handful of pumpkin goop and packaged costume or piece of candy corn has Halloween's dense history within them, so strong were the practices of yore.
For my Paganism student readers, you might have already found the documented belief that a membrane-like veil separates the world of spirit from the physical world. Late autumn is the time when it thins the most, so spirits, fairies, and departed ones we wish so much to see again can pass through this veil. Naturally, this also makes Samhain an ideal season for magic and divination. The costumes and social activity grew from the same traditional roots, and Halloween releases our wild side.
Many pagans revere both agricultural cycles and the process of nature; this dichotomy manifests in this sometimes two-sided celebration both the reverend and silly have their place on October 31. Just don't lift that membranous veil too high!
Out of curiosity, what do you do for Samhain? If I could only return to my Irish soil in a time machine and get me a Rowan tree bonfire! Meh, my Hibachi will do…
easier to leap over, that's for sure :)
Lineage is paramount in these celebrations. Try to get your elders involved, even in some small way. If you can raise your veil to meet the familial numinous blend, if only for a moment, gather the sacredness of life and surrender it for the benefit of all. And without being too precious about your incantations, remember who's in charge and bow in gratitude for your lives. That is Samhain. That is the gist of living…
I don't know about you, but my head is a bit clearer in the fall, less full of mind-chatter and slightly more at ease with itself. Less judgmental and endearing, I can walk around in a generally open way, relatively free from the expectations I tend to put on others or myself. My body remembers that as a youth autumn meant the school year had already gotten underway, so practical preparations would fill the time slot of an otherwise overactive imagination. Simpler facts would guide me by the needs of a formal education. But that didn't keep me from sneaking out to watch my buddies Pow-Wow from a distance. As a non-native I had to keep my distance from the formal ceremonies, but you cannot take the wild origins out of the body, they're ever at the ready, no matter which practices you groove on.
One keen autumn memory sticks out for me. I think it was just around the time I had already been in school for a month or so, right at that tender age of seven. I was leaving fairies and dwarves to their forests and inviting the reality of a mature world. I grew up at the base of a mountain with an inlet of the Pacific Ocean rolling just below it.
The weather always invited a good time, yet it would shift and shimmy with impressive downpours. We were lucky to have the ravines for drainage (a shout out to the flood victims, hang in there beautiful people!). Regular and true throughout the year, water unforgivably doused the land, making it evergreen beyond compare. The best playground on Earth, I think.
Thrashing about in large wet piles of recently fallen leaves was something I had always done and this one day the leaves were present but only a part of me wanted to roll around in them. The other more "mature" part of me kept the act from happening. I remember a glad sadness that I would not engage in such childlike action. No aftermath bath or succumbing to the fated flu that I always had caught a week later. Death to a part of me? or the sneaky common sense of a young adult… I don't know which and perhaps the answer is both. Swiftly, the fall from innocence relaxed into its knowledge just as the fire-red maple leaf turns itself over to the ground below—and so the "splitting" had begun.
These days, I effortlessly return to innocence, to get back into the autumn leaves and Halloween fun. I have Nature to cruise with, and she constantly provides me with great company, inclusive of the dead!
This article is dedicated to your and my ancestors. I am the matriarch to my three girls :)
I honor my gammy, mother, and two sisters, all passed… one was an HPS on Vancouver Island (I know she'll be clicking her goddess love heels for us all!).
Spell to Heal Grief
Samhain is the most sacred and often the most celebrated of the sabbats. In its sanctity comes a part that's difficult to celebrate: remembrance. When we remember, we feel. When we feel we often grieve. Sometimes it's grief for someone dead; other times it's grief for what once was, for what never was, and for our own failures. These are all natural parts of the season, just as much as the joy and mystique.
Grief has its place in all of this, but sometimes mourning takes too much of our energy and instead of acting as a way to teach us what we value, it completely colors our worldview. This spell puts grief in its proper place—informing us of what we've lost, so that we know what in life to cherish.
For this spell gather one glass of water, one piece amethyst, rose quartz, and hematite. Soak the stones in the glass overnight. Using each stone one at a time, shake a little fluid over your head each morning, saying each time:
Lovely gem to wounded souls
find and fill the aching holes.
Set to write what grief has rent;
further anguish please prevent.
Have a safe and love-filled celebration. Oíche Shamhna Shona Daoibh!