Dearest monks and artists,
Samhain marks one of the two great doorways of the Celtic year. The Celts divided the year into two seasons: the season of light and the season of dark. Some believe that Samhain was the more important festival, marking the beginning of a whole new cycle, just as the Celtic day began at night. In the silence of darkness comes the whisperings of new beginnings.
Two significant features of this feast is the beginning of the season of darkness and the honoring of ancestors. Crossing the threshold means welcoming in the dark as a time of becoming more closely woven with the spiritual dimension of life. Winter invites us to gather inside, grow still with the landscape, and listen for the voices we may not hear during other times of year. These may be the sounds of our own inner wisdom or the voices of those who came before us.
The Celtic feast coincides with the Christian celebration of All Saint’s Day on November 1st and All Soul’s Day on November 2nd which begin a whole month in honor of those who have died. We tend to neglect our ancestral heritage in our culture, but in other cultures remembering the ancestors is an intuitive and essential way of beginning anything new. We don’t recognize the tremendous wisdom we can draw upon from those who have traveled the journey before us and whose DNA we carry in every fiber of our bodies.
This is one of my favorite times of year with the darkening days of autumn and the spreading color across the trees. I have long loved the wisdom of the Celtic Wheel of the Year, but living here in Ireland I experience the turning points more keenly.
In the ancient Celtic imagination, this was considered to be a "thin time" when the veil between heaven and earth grew more transparent and the wisdom of our ancestors was closer to us. We are reassured that we are not alone, that we share the world with a great "cloud of witnesses" and "communion of saints" just across the veil. These next several days are a threshold space and in thresholds we are closer to the other world which is always here. The communal honoring of the dead continues for the whole month of November.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Photo © Christine Valters Paintner