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Samhain – Halloween. The Beginning is in the Ending.

October 30, 2011


As I piloted the long-handled fruit picker high into the tree to reach the last of the apples, I found myself contemplating the end of the harvest season. The last tomatoes have been turned into sauce and sit in clear, shiny jars on the pantry shelves; the ones that didn’t get red before the first sign of frost will become green tomato pickles tomorrow. The rains are finally luring mushrooms from the ground and, now, the last apples have been rescued from the winds that would toss them on the ground for the deer. (Don’t worry, we share. The deer have gotten plenty, rising up on hind legs to pick them from low-hanging branches.)

Samhain (what most people celebrate as Halloween) is almost upon us. I slice open a sweet, crisp apple to find a seed and remind myself of what is, for me, the most profound teaching of this holiday: The beginning is always inherent in the end; the end, in the beginning. So flows the circle of life, the wheel of the year.  When we dress up in costumes at Halloween and take our children out to “trick or treat,” we are participating in a small remnant of a much older tradition that honors the point in the circle where ending meets beginning.

Samhain  [pronounced SOW-in (Ireland), SOW-een (Wales) or SAV-en (Scotland)]  is the traditional place in the old ways where the end of the circle meets the beginning, creating a brief “break” or passageway.  This is often referred to as a thinning or lifting of the veil between the worlds, allowing those of the Otherworld to wander freely in our realm and allowing mortals to travel through the veil to visit and ask for visions and advice about the future.

The word Samhain means “summer’s end” and is the last of the three harvest festivals. In the Pagan calendar as well as the Faerie calendar from which it is drawn, it is also the beginning of the New Year. October 31 is the end of the old year, November 2 is the beginning of the New Year, and Nov 1 is the space between that belongs to no time. In this space of transition, where the circle meets itself and leaps to the next coil on the spiral, the veil between the worlds thins, allowing the best opportunity of the year for conversation between mortals and those on the other side of the veil.

There’s a reason that skeletons and ghosts traditionally adorn our yards and windows at this time – they are emblematic of the dead and it is time for the old year to die. As we wander through our world of scarecrows made with dead corn stalks and ghoulish carved pumpkins, we can also remember the corn kernels and pumpkin seeds that sit in a cool, dark place, drying, ready to be planted again in the spring. The beginning is in the ending.

The dynamic tension created by this transition is what allows the thinning of the veil between the realms and makes this a perfect time for all of us to open our hearts and minds to the inhabitants of the Otherworld. Whether those we wish to contact are loved ones who have left their mortal bodies and crossed over or denizens of Faerie who we have met in dream spaces and taken into our hearts, Samhain is a perfect time to honor them and to be open to contact. Build a fire or light a candle, focus on the dancing flame and let it take you into a meditation that opens the veil. Take out your runes or tarot cards and ask the spirits from the Otherworld to speak through them. Take a plate of food to the cemetery to share the bounty of your harvest and honor the spirits.

Fire is an important part of this turning of the year because it burns out the old to allow for the growth of the new. If you can safely make a fire or even light a candle, write on slips of paper the items that are the “dead sheaves” in your life, the things that are still standing in your fields but serve no more useful purpose. Then burn them and return the ashes to the soil, enriching it with the transformed energy for the seeds you will plant in the spring.

Whether you choose to mark this turning of the year in costume at a Halloween party or in deep meditation and ceremony, remember that the fruits of the harvest contain the seeds of the new year.  For those of us whose hearts walk the paths of the Otherworld with the Fairies, we are the seeds of Faerie in the mortal realm. The beginning is in the ending.

— Bridget Wolfe

©Bridget Wolfe, 2011

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 30, 2011 7:05 pm

    Lovely writing as always, Bridget! Will we be seeing you and John at FaerieCon this year? I hope so! Had such a wonderful and enlightening time with you last year. I am still showing your film to my friends.
    Be Well, my friends, Susie

    • October 31, 2011 10:48 am

      Thanks for the kind comments. So glad you’re enjoying the film. We will not be at FaerieCon this year – too many commitments keeping us here on the West Coast. But we’re definitely planning on being there in 2012, hopefully with my new book of stories. Bright Blessings, Bridget.

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