As we approach the time of Samhain, which is both the end and the beginning of the Celtic year, let us reflect on that period of time just passed that we call the Celtic Year. In many ways it was a strange year, especially in relation to the seasons and the weather. Many storms, strong winds and extremes of temperatures in parts of the planet unaccustomed to such weather extremes alerts us to the changing reality of life on planet earth. Here in Ireland the past few days have been very cold with brilliant autumn/winter sunshine … perhaps a reassurance that all is well as we in the northern hemisphere head into winter, the darker season of the year with its shorter days and longer nights. Samhain is a time of letting go, of surrender into the inevitable decline of light and the dominance of darkness as we move towards the winter solstice (that moment when the darkness is momentarily triumphant)
The energies associated with the season of Samhain are those of letting go of the outer focus and of activity and an invitation to settle into a more interior rhythm of life where the focus is on introspection, active waiting, acceptance and surrender of each moment. Holding this focus requires the courage to believe that Being rather than Doing is a healthy choice for us Human Beings at this time of the year. This belief is of course very counter cultural in a society addicted to Light and to outer activity.
Samhain is the season of the reign of the Cailleach, the dark older form of the feminine energy, whose task is to hold us with great compassion as she helps us to sink into the dark inner place and allow death to come to those aspects of ourselves that no longer serve us. She offers this not only to us humans but also to the societies and structures that we have co-created.
She is often referred to as the tough mother love, which may sometimes seem harsh, but which, in reality is the loving energy that supports the evolution of people and societies, by refusing to indulge the addictive behaviours.
Each year brings such a bouquet of gifts to each of us. Some of these gifts enter our lives as challenges, which require that we embrace them, work with them, so that their true gifts may manifest in our lives. This is also a challenging concept in a world that expects instant gratification to be the norm.
Samhain is the festival which draws one year to a close and opens the way for the New Year to begin. It is the most important festival of the Celtic Year and reflects the wisdom of an Irish proverb
“Tus maith leat an obhair “which translates “A good start is half the work “
The festival of Samhain extends for 3 days or 3 nights (since in the ancient traditions of this land time was measured from night fall to night fall because of a central belief that darkness precedes light and death precedes birth (rebirth). This festival is a rite of passage which allows us to leave behind the previous year with all its issues (resolved and un-resolved) and step courageously into a new year with all its dreams, possibilities and challenges.
The first day of the festival is the day in which we complete the year just ended? An important aspect of the releasing and letting go is to acknowledge the learning and the blessings received from the people and events of that time. Acknowledging and naming these blessings allows them to be absorbed into our own being in a deeper way, building an inner strength for the journey ahead. Expressing gratitude for those blessings is like adding an interest bonus to our inner capital. Mesiter Eckhart, the Christian medieval mystic, said ”If the only prayer you said in your life time was Thank you it would be enough. Gratitude opens the heart so it can give and receive more freely”.
The second day of Samhain is the day of healthy Chaos, of fun and games, dressing up and trick or treat. The introduction of this chaotic energy shakes everything up in the community in a safe and healthy way so that when we reach the third day of Samhain nothing is the same as it was and we have a new energy with which to embrace the new year.
The third day of the Samhain festival is the day when we set the intention of what we wish to engage with and eventually bring into manifestation in the coming year. We need to take time to reach clarity about what we will dedicate ourselves and our energies to in the coming year acknowledging what it possible for us at this moment given our personal circumstances. Then we set our intention and treat them as seeds which we need to nurture in the dark winter time so that they grow underground and will emerge with the springtime. I thank Emer Clogherty for this insight about the functions of each of the 3 days of the Samhain festival.
Samhain is the time when the veils between this physical world and the other spiritual dimensions of reality are very thin there is an opening at this time which allows easier access between the worlds. In many spiritual traditions it is the time of the ancestors, at this time we can get in contact more easily with our own ancestors, those family members who have died and whose souls now live in other dimensions. It is a time when we can reconnect with the lineage of people whose lives on earth assured that we would also have the privilege of living a life on planet earth at this time.
It might be a time when we could choose to make contact with some of our ancestors to thank them for their lives and for the gifts and talents they passed on to us. Forgive them for their weaknesses and the effect they had in our lives and seeking whatever support they can offer to transform those patterns, so that we can live even fuller lives in the service of our communities and of the earth.
At this Samhain time you might choose to do one or more of the following ritual practises
** Acknowledge the significant events of the year just ended, giving thanks for the learning and the blessings.
** Acknowledge those issues that have not been resolved /completed and allow them to rest in the darkness where the energies of Samhain will work on them.
** Reflect on where you are in your life at this moment and given all the realities of your life. Ask yourself what are the seeds of new life new adventures that you wish to plant and nourish during the season of Samhain so that they can emerge in springtime.
** Ask what are the skills do I already have to support these new ventures and what supports do I need to ask the universe for ? I conclude this blog with the blessing that Druid Julia Freeman sent me some time ago
That you may find the stillness of Love at your core
And she reminds us thatthe Divine Feminine says
I am your rock of strength I will hold you in the darkness of your journeying.
Le gra agus beannachtai, Dolores Whelan