Though the sun remains bright, the wind is picking up. The season, time itself, blows likes leaves through our hands. On Oidche Shamhna, the night of Samhain, we once again peer through the frame at our own dark nature.
Samhain, on October 31, marks the end of the Celtic year. Most people are unaware that the trick-or-treat, witches, mayhem, costuming and pumpkins of Halloween are vestiges of this great festival. But like so many things Celtic, Samhain has evolved to suit and to survive in our society.
Perhaps one of the reasons Halloween remains on our calendar is because of the pull of Samhain – the call to darkness, the shiver of mortality on an otherwise fine autumn night.
Samhain stands as a threshold - the year and the autumnal season fade into history at dusk on October 31. By dawn of November 1, winter and the New Year have arrived. On that threshold we can rest while all that is before and behind swirls out of our reach.
Though the essence of Samhain is chaos, that chaos is not entirely unbounded. The festival of Samhain is the frame through which we can recognize and honour disintegration. Like looking through a holed stone our attention gradually becomes focused on the Other, on the weirdness of the dark season. We can look out at dissolution, we can look in on our own confusion, but we will not fly apart, held safely in the frame. A fractured world can be traversed, a broken heart healed when it is viewed through a window that will not break.
In the old world it was the holed stone, “An cloc cosanta” or “luck stone” through which some sought a safe glimpse of the Otherworld. The natural world abounds in frames – be they of trees, shorelines or the hollowed stone arches where Nature holds her own space. In our culture, those frames are often built with a therapist or with family or a good friend – anywhere one can go to set for awhile and safely experience the chaos within and beyond.
Samhain is rich in its antiquity, in its darkness and even in its hope. Through it one can renew ties to loved ones departed and in turn, be seen and held by the divine light of the Samhain bonfire. Whether as a community or as an individual, as long as we recognize the need for change and the disorder it brings, there will always be a light in the darkness. May peace and health be yours in the New Year.