Samhain, gateway to Winter


Celebrated by the Celts, Samhain is the festival that marks the end of the harvest and the beginning of the darkening months of the year. At mid-point between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice, we are now entering darker times as we journey through the last quadrant on the Wheel of the Year before the Winter Solstice when the light returns. The clocks went back at the weekend and I have noticed how the energy of the sun is now much weakened, like it is getting tired and ready for its last breath.

While I was out gardening yesterday in the weakened sunlight, I was aware of a shift in my own consciousness. As I removed weeds from the ground, banished them to the composting pile and covered the soil with a layer of mulch, I was conscious of a pull inwards closer to my very own inner compost heap. What could I let go of? As I worked, discarding the unwanted plants to the top of the pile and taking from the bottom of the pile shovelfuls of rich, black compost to add to the bare earth in the beds and around the fruit bushes, I was struck by both the magical process of transformation that happens in the compost heap and the significance of this very important layer of darkness that I was adding: it will nourish the plants whilst they rest during Winter so that they can rejunevate in the Spring. Samhain invites us to retreat inwards and calls us to a period of personal reflection to explore and embrace our own darkness. The words of Carl Jung “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious” come to mind here. Despite my usual inner resistance to face my own shadows (preferring instead to stay within the well-lit and known areas of my inner realm!), I accept the gentle nudge towards increased self-awareness and wisdom that Samhain offers us at this time of year and I trust the process.

It is in that spirit that, today, I begin the 30-day Natural Mindfulness Experience, an online group challenge led by Ian Banyard of Cotswold Natural Mindfulness. During that time, I commit to invest up to 20 minutes every day during November to be out in nature, in a mindful way, focusing both on what is happening inside of me and outside of me. I know from previous experience that practising mindfulness outdoors heightens all my senses and makes the connection to my own nature, or my soul, very immediate. Whilst delving into the unknown can be filled with fear and trepidation, it can also be an incredibly rich and nourishing experience as it brings us closer to our own true nature.

As we pass Samhain and move ever so closer to Winter, what will you do to delve into your unknown?