Samhain (pronouced sow-ein) is one of the eight seasonal festivals that make up the wheel of the year, an ancient way of observing the yearly cycle, and the transition of the sun and the seasons. Samhain is celebrated at the end of October/beginning of November (the origins of modern day Halloween) and marks the final harvest period of the year and the birth of the Winter. At this time of year we can observe the natural world preparing for the Winter months that stretch ahead. Trees lose their leaves, plants die back, and animals stock up and may begin to migrate or hibernate.
Samhain was considered both the end and the beginning of the Celtic New Year, honouring the understanding that all new life and beginnings, emerge from endings.
For me, acknowledging the 8 festivals throughout the yearly cycle provides points at which I stop and observe what is going on in the outer world as well as my inner world. A moment to reflect on how things currently are, how they have been over the last season and how I would like to move ahead into the new one.
My most precious insight from observing the wheel of the year is the element of change within it. Light and dark, growth and decay, beginnings and endings. In the modern world we are often expected to be as productive and efficient no matter the season. A striving towards a fixed state of happiness, vibrancy and certainty that isn’t present in the natural world, certainly not all year round.
At Samhain, the hours of darkness outweigh the hours of light as the Sun’s strength and energy wanes. It marks the end of the growth part of the year’s cycle. The seeds of the harvest have now fallen and lay dormant deep within the dark earth before they emerge in Spring.
Observing the energy of each season can guide us to reflect on those themes in our own lives. At Samhain these may include endings, letting go, losses and the lessons we have learned from adversity. We may feel called to embrace rest, wind down and nourish ourselves whilst dreaming of what the seeds of next year’s growth may hold.
Some seasons may feel easier to connect with than others, depending where we are at. Some may pass us by without much significance while we feel much more aligned to others.
We have felt especially connected to Samhain energy this year, crafting jewellery from Yew and Elder wood, gathering apples, cooking hearty meals and exploring damp and mossy woodlands.