Autumn and Samhain: Going Within
October marks my favorite time of year, especially here in New England. The weather shifts from occasional reminders of warm breezes into the crisp, cool air of Autumn. The turning colors of leaves on the trees remind us that everything is temporary and to enjoy this beautiful time while it lasts. Isn't that what life is about?
Having just passed through Autumn Equinox on September 22nd and Harvest Moon on September 24th, we experience the fruits of our labor and abundance of Spring and Summer (Yang) while we feel the shifting into shorter days and longer nights of Autumn and Winter (Yin).
We also embark on the day that is traditionally celebrated in the Western world as Halloween, which was originally a Celtic festival called Samhain, a celebration marking the time between Autumn and Winter: the "darker half" of the year. Traditionally, this day was and is still seen as the time when the "veil thins" between Ordinary Reality and Non-Ordinary Reality - or the Otherworld. This thinning of the veil and shift into the Dark or Unknown is seen as the "Celtic New Year."
This meant that the Fae, Ancestors and Spirit World would be more easily seen and felt during this time. Historically, the Spirit World was honored by offerings left to ensure a Winter without hardship. Spirits of the Dead, the Ancestors, were thought to visit homes seeking hospitality, while place settings at tables were left for them. Dressing up was an activity done as part of the festival to disguise the living from the Spirit World. In medieval Ireland, Samhain was a time for the end of warfare and the beginning of tribal gatherings.
As a shamanic practitioner, I have always deeply enjoyed this time of year. As a child, I could see and feel the shifts and sense the "thinning of the veil" between this world and the Otherworld. It is an opportunity to acknowledge Ancestors, the Spirit World and the Divine, natural cycles of Mother Earth through ritual and ceremony.
The ancients venerated Nature and knew that working with Her would bring about survival and a flow of life. Ceremonies and rituals would intend to honor the changes and cycles, while at the same time bridge communication with the Spirit world in how to best ride out inclement weather or how to find sustenance for the community. The ancients relied on animals and plants as well as warm, secure lodging to survive. Connecting with Spirit would assist them in this survival process to find these supports until more temperate weather arrived. The ancients must have been held in awe, as we are today, about Nature’s sheer force and power.
It was recognized that Yin symbolized the Unknown: what is hidden. Some may call it the Womb, the Void, the Inner Being of Consciousness. Today, shifting into the dark half of the cycle of Nature, where the living goes within, dormant, or even dies, can provoke fear of this process. The season of Autumn commences the cycle of “going in.” Even in the present times, we hunker down, snuggle up, and essentially copy the act of Nature’s hibernation. Compared to the abundance of Summer and the Yang of warmer, more active lives, the darker half of the year can be labeled as “bad.” Looking through the eyes of Mother Nature, everything just IS. Like most human constructs, “good” or “bad” categorizations are black and white definitions to help us feel safe.
It’s my belief that mystery and darkness is not something to fear but to remain curious about. Could it be that the power of our own unconscious is what humanity fears the most?
Just as the infinite wisdom of Mother Nature, deems, the Womb of Yin is where the seeds are germinated for the Yang of Springtime - where they are kept safe and in quiet, sacred space until the time is right to begin action.
Now is a good time to perform a shamanic journey to be shown a ceremony to best make friends with these unconscious parts of ourselves that are asking for our own attention and love. We can do this while honoring this time of year as we enter into the dark half, the Womb. Nature is celebrating the act of Going Within. You might ask your Helping Spirits: How can we honor the Yin, the Feminine in us all?
Blessed Autumn Equinox! Blessed Samhain!