I am sitting at our dining room table, the fire lit in the woodburner behind me warming my back and the sweet scent from the orange and clove candle flowing through the room. It's just before 5 pm and I have just come in from shutting the hens in their coop, having taken themselves to bed already. It's dark, cold and damp outside and I am glad of the warm and welcoming, cosy room where I can settle down to write my thoughts and reflections about Samhain, the ancient festival on the Wheel of the Year that falls today.
Samhain marks the completion of the harvest, the culmination of the growing year when the harvest is all in and nature's seasonal cycle of birth and growth reaches the end point of decay and death. We are now entering the darkest segment of the year when days are significantly shorter than nights and this descent into the darkness can be a gloomy time that can make us feel sad, mournful and anxious, with a longing for the joys of summer and long, easy days filled with bright and warm sunshine.
Yet, this seemingly lifeless and dark period is a necessary part of the growth cycle; it is the dormancy that precedes growth and indeed, in Celtic traditions, Samhain was the most important of festivals, marking the end of the year and the beginning of the next, like New Year's Eve. Using nature as our guide, we can learn to appreciate this descent into darkness as a propitious time for reflection, gratitude, wisdom, respect and honour.
At Samhain, the call to come back to ourselves is strong; yet, we don't always hear it above the noise of modern life, full of the distractions and complications that distance us from our true selves. If we can look beyond the commercial and artificial feast of Halloween, with all its gore, horror and waste, we discover in the festival of Samhain, because of its ancient roots in nature and the cycle of life, an invitation to look into our own deepest darkness for the seeds of new beginnings. The start of this dark phase offers us the opportunity to slow down, rest, reflect on the past, honour those who have come before us, give thanks for a plentiful harvest, let go of what no longer serves us and dream of new beginnings.
I like to think of this time as an opportunity to call upon and connect with my inner wisdom to guide me through the darkest months of the year. I find it helpful to use nature outside to support that process and also to create an environment around me that will nourish and comfort me as I delve deeper into my own darkness in search of the seeds of tomorrow.
Outside, I spend time mindfully watching the leaves softly fall off the branches to show me that letting go is a natural process necessary prior to a period of dormancy and to benefit future growth. As I prepare the garden for its time of rest over winter and fill the compost bays with dead material, I remind myself that today's decay is tomorrow's nourishment and that nothing in nature is wasted. I am also aware that some of our hens have gone through a significant moult and have stopped laying now until the Spring, renewing their feathers to protect themselves from the cold and giving their bodies a rest.
Inside the house, I have decorated the windowsill in the dining room with some of our own homegrown pumpkins and some foraged conkers, acorns and oak leaves. I have also decorated the seasonal tree in the sitting room with tiny, handmade fabric pumpkins and felt acorns.
Surrounded by imagery of the natural growth cycle coming to the end, I feel ready to embrace the journey into the darkness, knowing it is fertile with much potential, for the seed that is now hidden will germinate when it is time.
"May the slide into darkness bring you light, May the memories of what has been keep you strong for what is to be, Blessed Samhain to all folks"