Tonight is Noson Galan Gaeaf in Wales. This translates from the Welsh as Winter's Eve: Nos(on) is the night (before), Calan (or Galan when the spelling of the word has a mutation applied to it) means the first day and Gaeaf is Winter. It originates from the ancient celtic festival of Samhain, celebrating the end of autumn and harvest season and the beginning of Winter.
If we divide the year into light and dark, we are now about to enter the darkest segment, between Samhain and the Winter Solstice, when the light returns to us once more. For me, this time of year draws parallels with the time, each day, just after sunset when the light has retreated and it’s “getting” dark. At the beginning of this year, I set myself a challenge to photograph the sunset each evening to create a record of the wonderful sunsets we get here. Not only do I now have a wonderful collection of all the sunsets of 2020 (well, most of them… I have missed the occasional one!) but I have also made a special connection with that time of the day, being outside at the same spot each evening, capturing the sky when the sun has just fallen below the horizon. This little project has helped me be present with that moment each day when the light is fading and the darkness is about to take over.
Transposing the imagery of the day into the year with its four seasons and eight points on the wheel, at Samhain or Calan Gaeaf, we are at that point when the sun has just fallen below the horizon as we move further into the depths of Autumn and towards Winter. The nights are long but not longest yet; days short but not shortest. The fading light is inviting us to slow down, to physically retreat indoors and emotionally go inwards. Can you hear the call?
The start of this dark phase offers us the opportunity to rest, to reflect on the past, to let go of what no longer serves us well, to connect with and be guided by our inner wisdom and to dream of new beginnings. Darkness is fertile with potential and we do well to let go of our fears and follow our intuition to explore old behaviours or patterns of thoughts that are limiting us so that we can change and grow. Like seeds that need the darkness of the soil to be able to germinate, we can use this dark time of the year to sow new visions, ideas and directions and let them incubate during the dark months of Winter before they are ready to emerge as decisions, plans and actions in the Spring. Out of dark and difficult times often comes inner strength, wisdom, maturity and power. I often think that the challenges brought to us in 2020 with the Covid19 pandemic, which has undoubtedly resulted in much hardship, loss and change, present us now with an ideal opportunity to do things differently for a fairer, more inclusive society that is also kinder to the whole living world, a chance for the kind of reset that is only possible when things have been changed forever. Covid19 has brought to the surface what is not working well in our society, its vulnerabilities and weaknesses like the fragile supply chains, the just-in-time planning strategies that leave no room for hiccups, the deep inequalities amongst citizens and a National Health Service so depleted in resources that it struggles to cope with an increased demand. I dream of lessons learnt, new possibilities revealed and a will not to return to “normal” but to change things for the better. Maybe I am a dreamer… but dreams are important because they lead us to what is important to us and following them helps us reach our full potential. Wouldn’t we navigate this tough period of lockdowns, restrictions and uncertainties with more ease and less angst if we could see our world could become more beautiful for having been broken?
Samhain is precisely the time for transformation, for alchemy. In the garden, decaying material is cleared away and thrown onto the compost pile where it will start the process of transforming itself into next season’s growing medium, full of the nourishment the seedlings will need to flourish. Similarly, when we delve into our own darkness, our unknown, we find the lead that will become our gold. Here are some useful questions to guide us as we go deeper inside ourselves to search for and identify our lead: What weighs you down? What limits you? What stops you from moving forward? What ties you down? What dampens your fire? What blocks your joy? What destroys your inner peace?
May you welcome the fading light as an invitation to slow your pace and rest. May you find hidden blessings within you.
Calan Gaeaf Hapus!