Samhain: what will we find in the dark this Winter?

It’s 6.30 am here in dark, rainy, leaf-strewn post-Hallowe’en Glasgow, Scotland – and I have been catching up on one of my favourite blogs: Linda Leinen’s “The Task at Hand: a writer’s ongoing search for just the right word”.  Her latest post is The Sandburg Season, a meditation on the American poet Sandburg’s prescient commentary on the state of America in the 1920s, Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind”. She, like the poet, contemplates the state of the nation in the aftermath of the ravages of the latest devastating hurricane to hit the USA – at this time in USA’s history a grim prelude to the upcoming election on 6th November, a mere six days away.

Samhain Blessings!
Samhain Blessings!

Reading this deep, rich post and the wonderful range of replies has put me in a meditative mood. It’s now 1st November – Samhain – Samhain has been celebrated in Britain for centuries and has its origin in Pagan Celtic traditions. It was the time of year when the veils between this world and the Otherworld were believed to be at their thinnest: when the spirits of the dead could most readily mingle with the living once again. It is a contemplative time; a time for honouring the renewing power of darkness, and for facing the humbling fact that everything passes, including us….

Later, when the festival was adopted by Christians, they celebrated it as All Hallows’ Eve, followed by All Saints Day, though it still retained elements of remembering and honouring the dead.

The core sentiments of the Sandburg poem recalled for me Shelley’s “Ozymandias”. (So out of tune was I with my early secondary education that, having been sent home from school to learn Wordsworth‘s “Daffodils” by heart, instead I learned “Ozymandias” …..I should have realised then that I was in for a complicated life!) Both poets comment on the vanity of human endeavour in the face of the irresistible forces of Nature and of Time. So I was very struck by Shelley’s great poem appearing via one of Linda Leinem’s commentators, Steve Schwartzman. I sense a community of reflection out there, as we descend into the dark: ready for our symbolic death into Winter, knowing the rebirth into Spring will also come.

We need the dark, as this festival of Samhain reminds us. Within the year’s natural cycle, the diurnal alternation of light and dark brings restful silence at night and the restorative power of sleep, without which all creatures including us would burn out and die before their time. We are in danger of forgetting this – at our peril – as an increasingly technology-driven culture sweeps the world, creating the illusion that we can live sustainably and healthily in defiance of the ancient rhythms set by the great cycles of nature. The Great Round of  conception, birth, maturation, decline, death and rebirth applies to everything, from gnats to galaxies. Human endeavour is not exempt.

Perhaps our whole culture/civilisation is in its Winter phase – the signs of descent are everywhere, should we care to look…….and in the meantime, I am with Linda Leinen: “Most of the time, I just try to do what I can.” Renewal, whether we live to see it or not, is always round the corner….


What are YOUR thoughts and feelings regarding the Descent into winter? It would be interesting to have them!


500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
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4 thoughts on “Samhain: what will we find in the dark this Winter?

  1. Thank you Anne, always the good reflective thoughts to be considered.
    And yes, the ebb and flow of the seasons, and us as a part of the whole.
    I`ll believe it is the same of experiencing the changes in the body from the childhood, the adult life, and then the last (and hopefully)a peaceful and a more objective old age.
    I have often thought upon what “state of Mind” am unto through the daily life in the meeting with others?
    The winter time will be very cosy in the north, it is as if we does as the Bear, to go “within” for a rest, and to dream(when to be eldery).
    It is an old saying which tells of “the real culture and art” have been done in the winter time. The family, friends and neighbours gathering in the dark winternights around the fireplace of telling stories, old legends, ancient tales, and to do needlework.
    The modern world have “lost itself in time and space.” Rather peculiar it is, because it is not far back in time, approximately 100 years, of us to be connected in an all different way of living.
    Much have been for the better off course, but much seems to become worse.
    In the metaphysical way is it told to be “a cleansing.”
    I do believe the Earth-life will be a school of learning, or else of us not to be here in the first place.

    Heartily, Inger Lise
    BTW: An american friend of mine have recommended a book titled:”The Open Door” by Theon Wright. And I have bought the book through the internet bookstore Amazon.Com. It is a used pocket-book printed in 1970.
    I have begun of to read the very interresting material.
    Sitates the front cover: “The remarkable story of communication with non-physical personalities through a series of sustained experiments carried on by three generations of the same family.” And it began in 1898, and brought forward with the letters, which the family kept as a secret for a long time. They did not what to do with it.
    It is reminding me of the start of The Teosophical Society back then.
    And the book is absolutely worth the reading(at least to me)LOL.

  2. Anne, this is just such a lovely post. I’ve had to laugh at myself. I know I mentioned to you the importance of “lying fallow”, and the phrase kept resonating with me. I finally went and looked and discovered I’d posted a blog last Advent with precisely that title. It certainly gives new – and humorous – meaning to the words of St. Paul – “forgetting what lies behind, I press ahead”. Forgetting what I’ve read is one thing. Forgetting what I’ve written is another.

    But in a sense, it’s good. One of my little mottos is “write, and let go”. If we cling too firmly to past words, future words are blocked, and the rhythms of writing are disturbed. It’s an interesting thought: if writing is a human endeavor, then the rhythms of human life should apply there, too. I suspect they do.

  3. Yes, probably a great deal more than we think. Thanks so much Linda, for your great blog. I’m sure it inspires other writers too.

    Speaking personally, my ability to forget almost everything these days I’m sure I make work to my advantage, in ways I don’t even know!

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