There is no way around it… But through. As the days become shorter to give way to wintery darkness, I feel, rather, I know some deep change is about to happen. So did my ancestors, as they harvested the last of the crops and faced the big Unknown of the cold season. Whatever the three harvests had collected would determine their fate: either plenty and merriment by the fire of the hearth, or great losses, hunger and death.
Samhain is a time of liminality indeed. A time to reap, but also to start sowing the next crop, to slaughter most of the cattle for meat, except for a few selected breeders. A time to trust in the deep, ever fertile silence of the Earth.
As during Bealtaine, the veil between the living and the departed ones is thinner, and the spirits are said to roam freely across the land, visiting their loved ones or haunting the less cautious on the streets. Either way, the ancient knew their only possible answer was hospitality. They would host dumb suppers, in Ireland for instance, my chosen hearth culture, and in my own country, families would give food to the poor, in the name of the dead and by the grace of God.
Whenever opposites grow closer, truth is also unveiled. During this time, the old Irish would seek divination and most laws of the land were suspended. “The letter of the law is death”, of course, while Chaos, manifest in guises and mummers, freed the bodies to reap, more than grain, unspoken wisdom. After all, we are told this was the time when the Morrigan mated with the Dagda to grant him victory in battle, all the while shaping the landscape around them.
Evidence seems flimsy as to whether the end of Summer marked the beginning of the new year in Celtic societies, other than the Isle of Mann, perhaps. To me, many years before I even considered walking this path, this time of the year has always invited me to let go of each unacknowledged death in me. To douse and then start anew with fresh flames in my hearth. Today Samhain also speaks to me of my inherent, radical kinship with all beings, in ours and in any other world to come. It reminds me I should be grateful and generous, for I am related to all things, always dependent, always vulnerable. And it takes great vulnerability and conscious exposure to the darkness of Winter for great things to arise whenever the Sun returns. Samhain became my gate to every new year, for it reminds me I am wiser for already having been to the abyss and back. I saw the dark, so nothing else around me ever looked the same again.
And there is no way around it, but through.