The Journey from Samhain to Winter solstice

The period from Samhain (Nov 1st) until the Winter Solstice (Dec 21st ) is probably the most challenging time  of the year for  many people living in the Northern  hemisphere. Yet within the Celtic yearly calendar this time is hugely significant, in fact it is where the seeds of all the actions that will take place in the later seasons of the year are planted. It is a time of hibernation as the energy in the natural world is drawn deep within, a time when the  natural world begins its deep rejuvenating sleep.  For us humans the same potential exists!  However we, unlike the rest of nature, find it difficult to stop our endless doing and because of this we often miss the opportunity to successfully seed the coming year.

This year on Nov 3rd  myself and 8 other women met in circle in  a simple yet powerful  ritual celebration  which invoked the energy  of the    Samhain season   Together  we 9 women lit the Samhain fire using wood from 9 different trees thus invoking the feminine energy of this  season to awakening more fully in our hearts and our lives…  We were preparing slow down, to bring our energy inwards, to feel our pain, our grief and our wounds.  We were choosing to place those difficult and painful aspects of ourselves and our lives into the cauldron of regeneration. This is the place where old myths assure us; these aspects can be transformed by the power of fire and water into a nourishing broth for our soul’s journey during the wintertime.

This year I honoured the Samhain season by going on retreat to Inis Meain (the middle island of the Aran Islands) for 6 days.  My intentions were to just be, to dream, to read and to walk in the quietness that this place offered. Here the primal nature of this island was alive and intact in a completely un-self-conscious way.  While on Inis Meain, I slept deeply, dreamt every night, and allowed my breath to slow down, as I walked in the fertility and abundance which I encountered in this stony place.  I came away nurtured in body and soul.

Now we are approaching the final stage of that journey towards the Winter Solstice, the time of longest night and shortest day, the time of maximum darkness and minimal light.  As we move towards this point of transformation of darkness into light we are constantly challenged to let go   to sink and to surrender into this deep and encompassing darkness.  Within western thinking  death and  darkness  are  seen as oblivion yet  in  others times and cultures they were understood  as the  fertile darkness, the Void  from  which new light and new life will emerge.  Perhaps this is what the poet Rilke is referring to in these lines

“You darkness from which I come  

I love you more than all the fires

That fences the world…………

The darkness pulls in everything

 Shapes and fires, animals and I how easily it gathers them

Powers and people

And it is possible that a great energy is moving near me

I have faith in nights”  

quoted in Original Blessings Matthew Fox

Last year I had the  wonderful privilege  to be in Newgrange  monument  on Dec  23rd.   The original name of the monument in Irish  is  Uaimh na Greine  which  in English means the womb of the  Sun.  What a gift it was to be there when the sun entered the passage  and  shone into that dark womb, lit up the chamber and  ignited again an ancient light in my heart, transforming me and others present.

My deepest wish for each of us as we approach the Winter Solstice is that we embrace and sink into this darkness and death wherever we experience it in our lives, knowing that it is a safe place from which we will emerge reborn.   I will be   giving a talk   Significance of the Winter Solstice in Dervish Holistic Shop 7 Aungiers Street Dublin  7pm -8.30pm on Wed Dec18th

I  will also be co-facilitating the Winter Solstice experience in Glebe House near Newgrange on Friday night Dec 20th.

Details on

The perpetual Celtic Calendar created by American artist Cynthai Matyi and myself is available on line at or  It is also on sale in Dervish Holistic shop Dublin, in Carroll bookshop Dundalk and Smyth’s gift shop Dundalk

Blessings of the fruitful darkness to you

Dolores Whelan