Welcome to the season of Samhain – the beginning of and the first season of the Celtic year.
This year the actual New Year begins November 13th on the new moon. In Ireland most people celebrate Samhain, especially its association with the ancestors, around October 31st, November 1st, the Feast of all Saints, and November 2nd, the Feast of all Souls. At this time of the year we humans are often more aware of and connected with our ancestors.
I recently came across the article “Why we celebrate Samhain” by Celtic artist and performer Treasa O’Driscoll, written in 1991.
“The festival of Samhain was first celebrated by people whose attention was directed to a supernatural world, to the Gods, to a world of productive, generative, creative forces. The earthly world was seen as an expression of this other world, seasonal changes in nature reflecting spiritual changes in people’s inner life. The Druids created rituals at the seasonal festivals that supported the connections between heaven and earth. Fundamental to this original Celtic view of life is the knowledge that when the material world withers the spirit awakens.” (1)
This implies that the season of Samhain is an opportunity for us to align ourselves with the rhythm of the natural world and to draw our attention inwards towards the spiritual aspect of ourselves.
Here in the northern hemisphere, as the days become shorter and the nights longer and with darkness and death visible everywhere in the natural world, reflecting and dreaming would be natural activities as we nurtured the seeds of the coming year’s possibilities deep within ourselves – as the seeds of the natural world are nurtured deep within the earth.
The season of Samhain is a profoundly important season.
We humans must learn how to engage successfully with the energies of Samhain so that our journey through this season will result in transformation and new life. Right now our western society is in a Samhain time. However, personally and as a society we lack the essential knowledge of the challenges and the gifts of this season, nor have we developed the skills needed to successfully negotiate this season.
So what are these skills? They include a willingness to become still, to listen deep within, and to develop the feminine qualities of being, of surrender and active waiting for subtle signs. In this season letting go of what no longer serves us is another essential task.
This is beautifully described in the following section of the poem ‘Brigit’s Well’ by Richard Kearney.
“I will rest now at the bottom of Brigits Well
I will follow the crow’s way/Footprint by footprint
In the mud down here./I will not come up
Until I am calmed down
And the earth dries beneath me
And I have paced the caked ground
Until smooth all over
It can echo a deeper voice
Mirror a longer shadow”
To follow the path suggested in this poem can be very challenging for those of us who constantly want to be active and DO and be in control!
However the energy of the Cailleach (or the hag) aspect of the Divine Feminine that is dominant within this season insists that we allow her to guide us as we move deeper into the void until we reach the place of surrender and stillness at the winter solstice (Dec 21st). Only when we arrive at this point can the new possibility present itself to us because at this time of immense darkness begins the birth of the new light and the new life and new possibilities, as is expressed later in this poem…
“Then the fire may come again
Beneath me this time
Rising beyond me No Narcissus – flinted spark
Behind closed eyes
But a burning bush
A fire that always burns away
But is never burnt out “(2)
My prayer for myself, for you and for each person on the planet at this auspicious time is that we enter and engage with this time in a transformative way.
May we each have the courage to allow ourselves to sink into that deep creative place, where transformation and new life are to be found.
May the blessings of Samhain be with you.
Le gra agus beannachtai
(1) Why we celebrate Samhain, Treasa O’Driscoll, the Celtic Connection, November 1991
(2) Richard Kearney, “The Irish soul in Dialogue”, Stephen J. Costello, p. 147