October is my favorite month. I love the shifting light and the crisper air. The changing color of the leaves reminds me of the natural cycle of life and how it flaunts its beauty at every stage and opportunity.
There is a stillness that begins to gather as we spend more time moving toward generative darkness. If we are mindful, we can slow down and embrace the teachings of the shadows, without which light would have no meaning.
On the 31st, we will celebrate Samhain, Gaelic for “summer’s end”, the Celtic festival marking the end of harvest and the descent toward the dark half of the year. It marks the mid-point in the year between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice, the point at which we begin to travel back toward the light. As an agrarian people, the ancient Celts regarded the end of the harvest season as the end of the year and, for modern day Pagans, Samhain is the equivalent of New Year’s Eve.
You may be more familiar with Samhain as it is commonly celebrated, as Halloween, having drifted from its pagan roots. Traditionally, Samhain is a time of remembrance of our ancestors and all those who have come before. It resembles the festival of Dia de Muertos more than its modern-day parade of costumed children engaging in trickery and collecting candy.
Samhain honors the cycle of death and rebirth. It is one of the times of the year when “the veil is thin between the worlds”, allowing us greater insight and intuitive knowing. We remember those we have loved and those we have lost. We make altars with offerings to honor those who have come before us, reminding us of our connection with the cycles of life and death and the thread that binds one generation to the next.
While the true meaning of Samhain has been transformed over the years to entice the pagan populace to convert to Christianity, we can still see its influence in the feast of All Hallows’ Eve, when Christian martyrs and saints are remembered.
This year, once the candy has run out and the porch light has been turned off, take a moment to pause and remember your own linage. What gifts have been passed on to you from those who have come before? What traditions has your family passed on for generations? What family stories will you share with your children to help them connect with their ancestors and their history? Can you feel their loving guidance on this night? As long as we remember, they are with us still.
Blessings on your journey,