Rosemary for remembrance at Samhain


The Wheel of the Year has turned some more and we have now reached Samhain, the major festival in the Celtic calendar that marks the end of the cycle of birth and growth and the start of the dark half of the year. Summer is well and truly over and the final harvest is all gathered in. The life cycle is complete; it is the point of death and decay. Nature now enters a quiet, fallow period with the seeds of the harvest fallen into the nurturing folds of the dark earth and waiting, dormant, for their time to begin the cycle again in Spring.

The landscape around us has turned golden and rusty, each windy day adding new piles of coppery leaves onto the ground. The heart-shaped foliage on the ornamental vine is turning a deep red and is such a joy to look at, especially when the setting sun sends its last glowing rays on it. A seasonal spectacle of nature that easily takes my breath away! I have put away in the greenhouse all the succulents and pelargoniums to keep them safe from the cold and rain of winter. The windowsill in the sunroom is full of curing pumpkins and squashes and drying borlotti beans, albeit only a tiny crop of these this year. We have had an abundant pear and apple harvest and are enjoying drinking our own pressed juice (I'll dedicate a new post on that process soon). With an unseasonally mild month of October, our garden still boasts a few summer blooms: the dahlias and the cosmos are still flowering and I am grateful to be able to cut some for vases in the house. I even picked a few sweet peas last week, which frankly look out of place amongst trees and shrubs now more yellow and brown than green and shedding their leaves. I continue to pick tomatoes from the polytunnel and for the first time it looks like there won't be any green ones left this year. A table in the tunnel holds the seedlings of next season's crops of spinach, spring cabbage and winter lettuce, joined by trays of just sown peas and sweet peas.

At Samhain, with Nature's life cycle reaching completion, we are standing on the threshold between the old and the new. Full of magic, mystery and intrigue, this time of year invites us towards personal reflection and introspection to deepen our relationship with ourselves, to let go of what has died off, to lay our sorrows to rest and to unburden ourselves of what no longer serves us well in our life. Now is the time to acknowledge and clear away the old so we can make room for the new beginnings, ideas and ways of being that the winter season will help us nurture and nourish.

In this liminal space between what was and what will be, with the veil now at its thinnest between the world of the dead and the world of the living, we are called to remember those who are no longer with us and the gifts they have brought to us. This is likely to bring up a range of emotions depending on the kind of relationship we had with those who came before. Nonetheless, they left their mark and Samhain reminds us to acknowledge their contribution to give meaning and purpose to our life - whether we choose to carry it forward with us or let it go. Lighting a candle is a lovely ritual to honour and remember. Placing photos of our departed ones by the candle further deepens our connection with them and helps keep their memory and their impact alive within us. Rosemary is a symbol for remembrance and I added a few sprigs to a little posy of bright orange marigolds onto the autumnal display on the windowsill. Marigolds (Tagetes) are known to represent the fragility of life and in Mexico where they celebrate El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) at the same time as Samhain over here, these bright and pungent orange flowers are scattered on an altar to celebrate those who have died and to lure their spirits to visit on that special day. I have dedicated this little arrangement to our beloved black cat Oscar as, sadly, we had to say goodbye to him three weeks ago. He left this world at the age of 11 after a short illness and, together with his sister now gone four years, he lives on in our hearts forever, as dear pets always do. I have purchased a packet of Scabious seeds, a gorgeous dark crimson variety called "Black cat" and I have placed them by the rosemary and marigold posy, a symbolic gesture to welcome the spirit of Oscar, should he visit this Samhain. Perhaps a little bit of him will blend with the seeds and he will live on wherever I sow them in the spring. Who would you gather sprigs of rosemary in memory of?

After death, rebirth. This soulful, darkening season calls us inwards towards our roots, our centre and our authentic self. We can take guidance from the gracefully falling leaves by gently letting go of who we were and contemplate what we want to become. Navigating this transitional space can be a confusing, painful process that demands great courage to surrender to the darkness and embrace uncertainty; yet, it is a necessary step that keeps us moving forward towards fulfilment. Do we not owe it to ourselves to discover the seeds of our own riches and full potential and follow our dearest dreams and desires? The darkness, devoid of any distractions, encourages us to listen to ourselves and trust our own intuition to find the seeds of wisdom we wish to germinate in the coming year. We find them by looking in, not out. This in turn brings us the clarity and strength that will nourish us on the next part of our journey on this earth. First, the dark... then, the light.

May the spirit of Samhain guide you to your centre.

And stay there a while... Let the past drift away and fade. Stand in and enjoy the present. Welcome and embrace the future.