Saturday 29 October 2016

Samhain, Death and The Cailleach.

I have been keeping company with the Cailleach these last few weeks; she's the Hag, the bringer of winter, the old woman, the crone, and contrary to expectation (perhaps) she is one of the most welcome visitors I can think of. I love this time of year, when the glorious, uproarious, pageant of summer makes way for the soft, quiet falling of leaves. When the composting of all the brightness and loudness of growth starts to invite us downwards, earthwards, inwards, towards death.

It's the time for taking stock, not in a counting your chickens sort of a way, but in that looking under your skirts to see who's really there way. For being kind to yourself - sitting on the sofa with a book when it's raining, singing gentle songs to the mist in the morning, or going and gathering great armfuls of kindling in the bright soft afternoons, full of the rustles of dry leaves falling through nearly bare branches.

Death is inevitable, as immutable as change, in fact in many ways it is simply change. We see it as final and frightening and to be mourned and feared, but what's happening really? We are changing our state, crossing a threshold from embodied to not. It will come for all of us, but that does not mean it has to be unwelcome. Every part of life has it's deaths; from the big seasonal ones, to full moon and dark, the ending of the day or the turning of the tide.

Life, while we have it, is full of all those smallish but possibly painful deaths; relationships over, friendships petered out, jobs done-with, projects finished. There are all the things we have used up and thrown out, all the things we've eaten and even all the things we've wasted. Glasshouses full of the things we have forgotten to water.

But best are the deaths of those aspects of ourselves that we no longer need or better still the ones we no longer want, that we can relinquish freely and with an open and loving heart say "Goodbye, I hope you never come back." We can bow our heads quietly at dusk and say thank you for the lesson, thank you for the gift of my life, thank you for all that I am and all that I have.

Samhain is the time when we remember the dead, and in the remembering of the dead as a society we conjur shadows and shades, the ghosts of the past. Whilst these ghosts and shadows have been part of what has created our present, and whilst I encourage you all to remember your dead, with love if you can, I feel that it is the shadows of the present that we should be really looking at. It seems like the work of the moment is to let them out of the cellar, the cupboard, out from under the bed, and have a really good look at them.

We all know the truth of the pop-psychology that says that what you hide in your basement will go crazy and then run amok in your life - we see this writ large in our lives at the moment: There are a myriad of ways our cultural shadow is being shown to us every day, just flip to facebook, twitter, turn on the TV, be appalled at our behaviour.  And when you have finished weeping (and I urge you to make it a very short but effective weep, the kind that makes your face clean and your clothes wet, that wrings out the stored up griefs, too small to mourn on their own, the little ones that accumulate. The kind of weeping that torrents wildly though you and brings in it's aftermath peace.) weeping over fracking, nuclear power, refugees, the patriarchy, violence against women, the Dakota PipeLine and all that is happening at Standing Rock, the list goes one and on, so many reasons to weep. Then let's peck the flesh from these old bones and make them bare, let's look at what's hidden inside, let's really, really stand and face ourselves in the mirror

And then let us remember:
Everything is made up of the same stuff.
Everything is connected.

And so if each one of us takes a good look at what we'd like to let go of, especially core beliefs. Extra especially if those core beliefs reflect the culturally held core belief that our Earth is simply a resource to be used.

If we all ferret about under our metaphorical beds and find the things that need to come out and be looked at, and that then need to die. (Not everything under there needs to die, but I humbly suggest that it all needs to be looked at and given a good clean and a home on a shelf somewhere you can keep your eye on it.)

Perhaps we can grow something beautiful and useful out of the compost we will make.

To the ancient Celts, our ancestors in these lands, Samhain marked the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. They viewed days this same way, the day began as darkness fell, it gestated in the blackness, just as we do, and gave birth to itself with the returning of the light. So I leave you with this, for the New Year, as it sleeps quietly in the earth, I wish it for myself, and I wish it for you.

May a good vision catch me
May a benevolent vision take hold of me, and move me

May a deep and full vision come over me, and burst open around me

May a luminous vision inform me, enfold me.

May I awaken into the story that surrounds,
May I awaken into the beautiful story.
May the wondrous story find me;
May the wildness that makes beauty arise between two lovers
arise beautifully between my body and the body of this land,
between my flesh and the flesh of this earth,
here and now,
on this day,
May I taste something sacred.
—David Abram


  1. such a beautiful, wonderful post. you really touched my heart today. samhain blessings be upon you.

  2. Beautiful post, thank you. :)

  3. What a wonderful post! Many thanks and a Blessed Samhain.

  4. Very beautiful, death is the bitter truth people keep away from disclosing. When we learn about death, we learn about life. if one may notice - the are many similarities within the Nordic Erda, Hindu Veda and Celtic Philosophy. Really appreciate this piece. Be blessed.

    1. YES, when we learn about death, we learn about life. So true. Be Blessed too.

  5. Thank you. Needed this right now. Here's to the present and all her possibilities.

  6. Thought provoking Suze! and I love the David Abram verse ...much love & a belated Samhain blessings to you all xxx

  7. this came to me today by a circuitous path, and i am grateful. your words make me think. thank you.

  8. Thank you, after reading I made some significant changes by letting go. I've been horrified, mesmerized by the state of our US elections. I unfollowed many things on social media and now will only focus on helping where it's possible, like helping the pipeline protestors, local politics and a motto of a teacher of mine " use it up, wear it out, make it do or go without. Somehow, reading this jarred me to stop being tortured by the state of affairs. As far as consuming I feel I've got few places to go as I've been practicing this for quite a while and that has freed me to try to support things I really want to,see grow. I'll cast my vote green as in my state I have the luxury to not vote strategic. I wonder how many people have been distracted to tears.

  9. I feel that many people are not only distracted TO tears but distracted BY tears. We need to grieve in order to activate our desire to do something, but then this desire to help must be acted upon, nothing can be achieved by mourning the past, the present must be spend shaping the future. I'm so, so happy to read your words this morning, they give me hope that we can and will turn our attention towards positive action. Thank you.

  10. This Samhain I am close to my home due to a heart condition. So thank you for my seasonal walk through the woods to prepare myself going inward. I have become very aware of the changes to come lately, at least the final change in this manifestation. So this piece is very timely for me. I am a solitary Druid Pagan and there are times I crave the voice of another close to my path. Thank you so much.

    1. Many blessings to you at this time of spiralling inwards, may all be well in your world.