Reflections on Samhain

Samhain Altar – photo © Leigh G

Darksome night and shining Moon
East, then South, then West, then
North,
Hearken to the Witches’ Rune —
Here we come to call thee
forth!

Whether you mark Samhain, the time of the thinning of the veil, on the 31st or calculated by the astrological signs (which puts it on November 6th this year) one thing is the same, the marking of the Dark half of the year and the honouring of the Ancestors. Contrary to popular belief by those who misunderstand us we never ‘celebrate’ Death at this time, it’s not a celebration but an honouring of those who have crossed over into the Summerlands and are hidden from our mortal sight.

We mark the season and the cycle of the earth – that of the Goddess descending into the Underworld following her Lover and Son who was sacrificed at Lughnasa. She takes with her the life of the land which is manifest by the dying off of the plant life as all of nature prepares for the long winter sleep, going ‘inwards’ into the Earth. Winter of course is said to start on the 1st November although quite often it appears the message didn’t get through! We can still enjoy warm sunshine and the last of the leaves on the trees are a deep golden colour as they fade slowly to Winter’s dead browns and blacks. The nights however are a different matter. The cold slowly descends as the sun goes down so each day is a reminder of the natural tide, the descent to coldness, decay and harship of the winter months. Even in urban areas frost and snow can create havoc (the standing joke in this country being that one snowflake and the entire transport system is gridlocked lol) On our little plot of land, which unfortunately is set on Oxford Clay – the season is marked by the dusting down and repairing of the winter rugs for the horses, and the deepening mud in some of the gateways. We are on clay ground, it gets saturated and turns to mud. Every step is made doubly difficult when the clay builds up on boots and makes every step like walking through treacle. The place was used, way back when the Lord of the Manor was still living up the road, for the digging out of clay for making bricks, we still have a very old section of wall that some expert came to look at quite a few moons ago – the remains of the drying sheds. On a practical level that means that the place is full of little banks and low areas, a pond, and the top field that is the horses winter grazing and what remains of the original level of the land.

The Dark Half of the year is a time of deep introspection and reflection. Traditionally many Intiations are performed at Samhain, and this sets up the candidate for the start of their long journey to Self Knowledge. This is a journey that is as individual to every Initiate who walks that path. Often I see on forums questions about ‘what happened to you after your Initiation’ and the answer to that is irrelevent. What happened to me will not happen to you, your path is different, your circumstances and your nature different. The challenges I meet along the way will not be the same as yours because the Universe, Deities..source challenges each of us according to our needs.

The natural tide of descending darkness is also a time when we may find the strength within ourselves to overcome these challenges, human psyche echoing Nature’s determination to survive the difficulties of the season. We develop our connections to Diety and to our path from the challenges we are presented and – hopefully – meet and overcome, learning as we go. That is how we progress to Self Knowledge, it’s not the challenges you somehow expect, it’s the ones that knock you sideways and leave you sitting gasping for air that are the true tests of your path and your mettle. It’s the lessons you learn from the hardest and darkest points along your way that leave you Knowing yourself on that deeper level. Those you cannot prepare for.

For me, silly as it may seem one overwhelming challenge was to invite our Coven over to our plot of land to celebrate a Sabbat. The reasons why I’ve been reluctant are many and varied and stem from things that hark back to my childhood, but this year circumstances decided that I was going to meet this challenge once and for all. A combination of pre booked days off work, and illness of a much loved member who’s house we normally use meant that we were stuck without a venue. Step in one slightly over anxious Covener.

So, the horses winter grazing aka the ‘top field’ was utilised, I spent a happy hour hauling logs from a naturally fallen branch up to act as Altar and quarter markers, sat for a time and connected with the land – I do work there but not in that spot although that could change..

 As evening fell and the dark rose we got the horses in early, because horsy help is not really required when lit fires and lanterns are in evidence! (The Little Red Mare has an absolute fascination with fire which is positively terrifying to behold, she charged a bonfire one year when we’d just got her, nearly going through the fence to do so)

I put out lanterns along the path to guide our guests to the space and I think it added to the experience, the walk to the area through the dark and the rain (it poured – I mean really poured) following the lantern pathway into the night…

The Circle itself was – I hope – enjoyed by all, we were able to have a fire which we try to do for all the Fire Festivals, the rain having eased of to almost nothing for the duration, and although the Ritual was very much off the cuff it worked, people spoke from the heart, connections were made in the dark and the damp. Our entire plot of land is more or less dedicated to animals, from the retired greyhounds my Mum looks after, our horses, the fact that wildlife runs riot where it pleases and most often comes demanding food, we were sure to include the companionship of animals into the rememberance and honouring.

The following morning it was evident that something had been pecking at the pomegranite left out for just that, and I suspect once the smell of fire has left the area the local foxes and sundry other wildlife will come and investigate this new fixture to their landscape.

I hope you all had a Blessed and Reflective Samhain – remember this is also a tide that runs throughout this season, admittedly the veils are said to be thinnest at that one night but as we have read in other blogs, that one night can be later than the date most folks work to. Nature does not run to a calendar least of all the Gregorian one!

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About okarnill

Just another british Witch who follows the path of the wise. Like millions of others I live my life the best I can within my Wiccan beliefs. I am also a horse rider, a dog trainer and an artist. My home is a sleepy village in the UK where I share my life with my partner and all manner of creatures, cats, dogs, horses, hens, rabbits, and much treasured wildlife.
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