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The Turning of the Year – Samhain 2013

October 30, 2013
Photo by Amy Freund

Photo by Amy Freund

The Turning of the Year

Walking silently in the woods is not an option this morning. Last night brought a light frost so grass and fallen leaves crunch as I head into the woods with the sun’s first rays. Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween, is here again and I’ve wandered to the woods to begin my process of honoring this ancient celebration.

The hazelnuts have long been gathered by the squirrels, no berries linger on the huckleberry bushes. Harvest season is over; it’s time to celebrate and honor the bounty the Earth has given to nurture her children through the winter dark to come. In many traditional cultures, this is the transition of the yearly cycle from end to beginning again. The corn stalks may be dead but the saved kernels will be seeds for next year’s garden.

Traditional cultures around the world not only marked the solstices and equinoxes in their journey through the Wheel of the Year; they also paid tribute to the in-between times, the half-way points. November 1 is the midpoint between the Fall Equinox and the Winter Solstice. The three Nights of Summer’s End. Samhain, [pronounced SOW-in (Ireland), SOW-een (Wales) or SAV-en (Scotland)] marks the end of the old and the beginning of the new. It links us with the world of spirit at the turning of the year. October 31, when we celebrate Halloween, is the last night of the old year. November 2 is the first night of the New Year and the night of November 1 is the night between that belongs to no time.

Our modern Halloween and its symbols is rooted in traditional observances from Celtic and Northern European harvest ceremonies to the Mexican Day of the Dead. It is a sacred time, when the veil between this world and the Otherworld is so thin that the dead can walk with us and warm themselves at our hearths. It is also the time when some mortals, especially shamans, seers, and poets, are able to find entrance to the Otherworld through special doorways that open only at this time.

Grocery store entrances and roadside fruit stands overflow with pumpkins waiting to be carved into frightening visages. There’s a reason that

Pumpkins waiting to be carved. Photo by Amy Freund

Pumpkins waiting to be carved. Photo by Amy Freund

skeletons, skulls, and ghosts traditionally adorn our yards and windows for Halloween – they are emblematic of the dead. It is time for the old year to die and for the living to honor endings and death. 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. As we hang cardboard skeletons on our doors and place skulls on our altars, we remember that we are the seeds our ancestors planted.

The origin of this festival in all cultures that observe it lies in the honoring of our ancestors, in the respect for the cycles of life. One day, our children and grandchildren will be honoring our memory. It is, perhaps, reflective of the loss of a tradition of honoring our ancestors and our history that brings us in modern culture to a holiday whose main focus is candy, scaring each other, and seeing the dead as ghouls.

This year I am choosing to honor not only the Nature Spirits, as I always do, but also my human ancestors. On my walk this morning I’ve invited companions: my grandmother, who was my refuge and taught me unconditional love; my aunt who encouraged me to excel at whatever I wanted to be; my father who taught me the love of fishing and sitting quietly on the water; and my grandfather, who I never knew, but whose towering memory infused my life with a love for the spoken and written word. Tonight I will invite my ancestor companions to warm themselves at my fire and I will share food from my harvest with each of them. I will tell them the ways they contributed to the garden that is my life and I will listen to see if they have any messages for me.

I will also gather remaining debris from this year and throw it in the fire. I’ve saved some corn stalks to serve as symbols of things in my life that no longer serve me, things I need to let go.  Projects that I’ve abandoned, dreams that no longer propel me, anger or hurt that will fester if I allow it to stay through the winter. Walking a path tuned to the cycles of nature helps with that process. My tongue has fond memories of the green beans from the garden but the vines that produced them no longer bear fruit – it’s time to put them in the compost, knowing the seeds I saved will start the cycle again in the spring.

However you choose to mark this turning of the year, remember the primary teaching of the natural world: that all things move in cycles. Samhain, summer’s end, the end of the harvest, brings the beginning of the time to journey within, to dream new dreams. Celebrate the brilliant colors, the bountiful harvest, the sweet joys of summer’s light and bounty. Honor the ancestors who brought you to this cycle. Burn or bury the debris that no longer serves you and let it be food for the earth. Then you’ll be ready to settle into the dream time ahead.

Bright Blessings.

–Bridget Wolfe @2013

For enchanting ways to connect to the world of Nature Spirits and open doorways to Faerie and the Otherworld, please visit

One Comment leave one →
  1. Chris Young permalink
    October 31, 2013 8:53 am


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