At this time of year, the Celtic festival of Samhain, meaning “summer’s end,” was held to mark the end of the harvest. It is timed at the midpoint between the fall equinox and the winter solstice. The geometric neatness of this appeals to me, as does the consciousness of our relationship with the earth and the ever-shifting seasons.
The festival included a harvest bonfire. Everyone present would bring a bit of the fire home to their own hearths, so they would have light and heat in the coming darkness and cold. There is a beautiful communal aspect to this ritual, celebrating the one and the many. It’s a way of reenacting this fact of creation, that each of us embodies the one and the many.
Samhain (pronounced sah-win) is also a “thin time” or threshold between the world of the living and that other world inhabited by the spirits of our ancestors. The Celts believed that at this time, the veil between the two realms is especially porous. The festival is an intentional opening of the doorway, an invitation of that realm into this one.
My fascination with thresholds compels me to wonder how aware I can be of invisible presences at this time of year. The Samhain threshold is a microcosm of the greater threshold time we live in, the simultaneity of both the crumbling old and the emerging new stories. If we can tune into the energies working on this specific day, within and outside of ourselves, that may serve to equip us in our ongoing encounters with the clash and dissonance of old and new stories.
What can we take away from this day, in terms of engaging with the unknown, with mortality, the passage of the seasons, perhaps even with what we most fear? And on the other hand, how can we tap into the powerful force of the ancestors who are always present, available to bless, guide and even to aid us?