A guest post by Maria Ede-Weaving…
The year is releasing itself, letting go with the kind of intense beauty that never fails to inspire awe in me. There was a time I used to dread this season, sensing the darkness closing in; the claustrophobia of the encroaching winter. Now I see how beautiful this time of year is. The sun is low in the sky producing a golden light whose filter adds an even greater warmth to the colour of autumn trees; the sunsets are vivid and mists gather in the folds and recesses of the land, hovering over water meadows and sliding down cliffs, reaching out across the sea until the boundary between land and ocean is no more and we can no longer tell where one world ends and another begins.
This blurring of the boundaries between worlds is very much a theme of the Pagan festival of Samhain which now approaches. As the year releases its grip on life, the harvest gathered and stored, the nights lengthening, we turn away from the light and growth and move towards the darkness and repose. It can be a challenging time because the darkness is not only about stillness, rest and germination – it is also the place where our fears lurk; our eyes do not adjust easily to its shadows and our anxieties twist and distort their shapes.
There comes a point when the darkness and stillness of winter have a peace about them; we get a real sense of life waiting beneath the soil for re-emergence; there is a restfulness – a natural, easy pause after the out breath of the year – that centres and calms us. Samhain’s energy proceeds this time and is much more vivid and intense, much the way that spring’s energy is, only then, of course, the energy surges outward, carrying into the world an expanding tide of life. I find autumn as intense but the energy is one that has built throughout the summer months to this moment of powerful release.
Birth and death can be chaotic and dangerous transitions; they connect us to our most primal instincts and emotions, powering through us, gripping us. Despite our efforts to remain poised and in control, we can find ourselves broken apart by the experience. Samhain functions like the breaking of an emotional dam, it is the release of orgasm, it is the death rattle of our last breath and the shocking gasp of our first – and all of these moments teach us that losing control is a necessary function. We all have to make peace with the fact that ultimately we are not in control. Life moves through us, at times with an intensity that shakes us; losing control demands that we place our trust in that intensity, learning to accept that it has the power to change us; that its presence in our lives is sometimes necessary for life to move on. We understand this most clearly when we find ourselves in experiences that speak of those vivid energies of spring and autumn: when we fall in love; when we are forced to begin again; when we are ill; when we are dying to our old selves and venturing into new ways to be.
Samhain may well stir our deepest fears of death but its lessons are invaluable and its powerful energy cathartic and potentially creative. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes in her wonderful ‘Women who run with the Wolves’, the Cailleach, or Death Mother -whom we meet when we explore this festival’s Mysteries – teaches us the wisdom of the bones. Estes writes that ‘in archetypal symbology, bones represent the indestructible force…the indestructible soul-spirit.’
You can dent the soul and bend it. You can hurt it and scar it. You can leave the marks of illness upon it, and the scotch marks of fear. But it does not die, for it is protected by ‘La Loba’ in the underworld. She is both the finder and incubator of bones…
…within us is the old one who collects bones. Within us there are the soul-bones of this wild self. Within us is the potential to be fleshed out again as the creature we once were. Within us are the bones to change ourselves and our world. Within us is the breath and our truths and longings – together they are the song, the creation hymn we have been yearning to sing…
Samhain teaches us how to recognise what must die and what must live in our lives. It can bring some tough realisations but its transformative energy gives us the opportunity to live a more authentic life.
Estes writes that ‘La Loba’ sings over the bones; her singing fleshes out those bones and, in time, reanimates them. So, what song will you sing this Samhain?