Retreat Within

Samhain is traditionally celebrated on the 31st October. The ‘true’ time of Samhain is Nov 7th (for 2018) which coincides more closely with the astronomical midpoint between Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice. So we have a beautiful opening from 30th Oct to 7th Nov (which is also a New Moon) to mark this turning point on the wheel of the year.

Samhain marks the end of Autumn and the beginning of Winter. It is the descent into the yin part of the cycle of the seasons. We move away from the Yang of the summer & autumn months. It’s a perfect opportunity to check in with how you feel about turning within, rest and renewal, darkness and endings. You can see how your feelings & beliefs around this aspects can impact how you navigate this season.

The space is open for you to learn that the  descent is inevitable in the seasons as well as life and in this dark space you can find wisdom.

We can’t avoid the turning of the seasons or make it Summer again. The same is in our lives, we can’t avoid the spiral inwards. We are invited to be present with what is – a space to slow down, go within, rest, inner reflection and contemplation, a time to let go of all that no longer serves until we meet that still point within.

Celtic New Year

It’s also the Celtic New Year so as well as being a time of reflection, clarity, transformation and letting go it also embodies starting anew: a new year, a new journey, and a new cycle of growth and renewal.

Winter is a time to rest and reflect. It’s a time when we can allow our thoughts, emotions, and physical bodies to experience some downtime. We may find that what we needed on all levels during the Winter is quiet different to the Summer. Pause and listen.

It is a time for inner work, a time to take stock, a time to root deep within and weed out the beliefs and behaviours that no longer sustain and support us.

We are often told by society that being busy is best and something to be proud of, – a badge of honor to be worn (and told to everyone who listen “I’m too busy”). It can be viewed that taking time out is lazy, that there is something wrong with you if you want to go within, that the darkness, stillness & silence is something to fear.

Which is not true… in the darkness is our power, in the stillness is our inner guidance, in the silence we can hear our soul. Rest, recovery and reflection are important parts of creating an aligned life.

Winter is not meant to pull you down but to take you higher – to move you beyond the comfort zone of yourself. Winter is the contraction and then we can experience the expansion!

Can You Feel it?

The weather is getting colder. We are reaching for the scarves and coats. As we turn to nature we see the harvest is over as the crops have been cut down, the trees are shedding their leaves. We turn towards death and darkness. In this darkness, we get the opportunity to dream, tap into our intuition and vision new beginnings, projects, ideas etc. This time of year provides helps us to shed, release so we can create space for our new seeds.

Like all the points on the wheel of the year, Samhain is a transition, an initiation, a gateway and a celebration. It is the 1st sign of Winter and where we feel the call to turn within.

The Cailleach Stirring

Brigid by Ruth Sanderson
‘An Cailleach’ is an ancient pre-celtic figure – ‘Cailleach’ being the Gaelic word for a hag or old crone.

She is the last aspect of the Triple Goddess, together with the Mother and the Maiden she represents part of the circle of life. If the Maiden talks to us about beginnings, and the Mother of maturity, the Crone makes us think of endings.

In a society that worships youth and beauty, the crone aspect of the Goddess is the most frightening and misunderstood of the three, as she represents our destruction, decay and death. However, when we delve deeper into her teachings we can see that death was viewed as part of a cycle i.e. in nature, the death of Winter is followed by the promise of rebirth in the Spring so too in life when something ends there is space for a renewal and rebirth. We can also see how she offers us a gateway to connect with our inner wisdom as we face change and our fears so we can embrace life more fully.

Most Disney films and fairy-tales don’t do her justice either as she is often depicted as the old hag, the wicked witch or the jealous old woman, praying on the young. She is often portrayed as a woman past her prime, no longer fertile; vengeful and mean because her ‘juices’ have all dried up.

Yet, the crone has accumulated the wisdom, understanding and magic that can only come from experience of a lifetime – she is the enlightened one, the wise woman ‘An Bean Feasa’. She intuitively knows the truth of all things, she speaks her mind, she lets go of the need to conform to society’s requirements, she is still and watches and makes sharp observations of the world around her . All of which makes people uncomfortable.

She teaches us about wisdom, clarity, insight, stillness, patience, compassion and knowledge.  She teaches us to learn from the past, embrace the darkness and shows us how to let go. She shows us that death is only the beginning and we must embrace the change and pain as we gain wisdom from our experiences.

Isn’t it about time that we challenged these definitions? Create new and empowering ones not just for ourselves but for those come after us…

Sacred Sites

Places that are seen to carry the energy of the Cailleach in Ireland include:

  • Slieve Gullion in County Armagh
  • Cailleach Béara or the Hag of Béara where it is said she is to be forever awaiting the return of her husband Manannan, the God of the Sea.
  • Slieve na Cailleach at Loughcrew, Oldcastle, County Meath which has the hag’s chair
  • Carrowmore Megalithic tombs where she flew over the region with her apron full of stones and she accidentally dropped them and they scattered across the region.

There was a recent exhibition of ‘An Cailleach’ in Loughcrew by Jane Brideson which showed her in all of her powerful aspects.

Chant for Samhain:

“A year of beauty.
A year of plenty.
A year of planting.
A year of harvest.
A year of forests.
A year of healing.
A year of vision.

A year of passion.
A year of rebirth. ~ Starhawk

 

Samhain is a time to:

  • Reflect on what ‘seeds’ will gestate in Winter and blossom in Spring.
  • Remember our ancestors and honoring our dead.
  • Connect with our magic for manifesting
  • Honor the darkness
  • Remember our lineages
  • Bring the unconscious shadow into light
  • Create a bridge from the old to new beginning
  • Dream in your vision, your self, your life
  • Rest, hibernate and go within
  • Learn how to surrender to the cycle of life – life, death, rebirth
  • Dive into stillness, silence and nourish yourself in the period of darkness
  • Explore what you resist about this time of year – the letting go, surrendering, slowing down, rest, death, cold etc
  • Work with the thinning of the veils

Suddenly, all my ancestors are behind me. ‘Be still’ they say. Watch and listen, you are the result of the love of thousands – Linda Hogan

Journal Prompt for Samhain

  • What can I do to honor my ancestors?
  • What gifts have I received from my ancestors?
  • What lessons have I learned from my ancestors?
  • What needs to die within me in order to be reborn & welcome new growth into my life?
  • What would I like to manifest for myself in the Celtic New Year as we start a new Wheel of the Year?
  • How do I usually meet the turning of the wheel to the yin energy, of going within and stillness. Can I meet it differently this year? What do I need in order to allow that.
  • What are my beliefs or what have I been taught about growing older, embracing the crone, the darkness?
  • Think of someone close to you who has passed – what part of them or qualities do you carry within you?
  • What are the skeletons in my closet i.e. life, mind, emotions that I would like to release?
  • What are the shadows aspects of myself or the masks I wear that it is time to let go of?
  • How can I honor the witch, wise woman within?
  • What legacy do I wish to leave behind?

Ways to honor Samhain

There are lots of ways to honor Samhain. Choose one (or more) of the below or come up with your own way. Your intention and the energy you bring to it is more important than what you are doing.

 

  • Put photos of your ancestors on your altar
  • Watch ‘The Book of Life’ or ‘Coco’. Two beautiful animated films that represent the day of the day and why we honor our ancestors.
  • Clear out old clutter just the leaves dropping from the trees
  • Carve some pumpkins / turnips
  • Share stories of your loved one. If you don’t know any ask those in your family to share some so you can get to know them
  • Cook a family recipe that reminds you of a deceased loved one or create your own recipe  for your family to now start that tradition
  • Light a candle for your ancestors and have a conversation with your departed ones – say what you wish you could have said
  • Light 3 candles – one for your ancestors (the past, who have walked before you), one for the present (you, your family) and one for the generations that are yet to come and listen…
  • Honor the emotions at this time of year – grief, sadness, anger. Hold them with compassion and integrate the wisdom of these emotions into you and your life.
  • Cleanse your altar space for the new season and add images, statues, crystals, food, oils or herbs to it that represent Samhain, Ancestors, Cailleach e.g. pumkins, apples,squash, root vegetable, candles, leaves, colors – oranges, browns and black
  • Light a small fire (bonfire)
  • Learn about your family lineage
  • As the veils are thin it is a potent time for divination e.g. tarot reading, runes etc
  • Do an ancestor tarot / oracle spread to see what message do they have for you? How can you best honor them?

How do you celebrate Samhain?