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Life Arts    H4'ed 11/13/19

Celebrating Solstice and Samhain

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The poems I have been writing lately are medicine poems for me, and I hope, some of my readers. This is a difficult time of year leading up to the Winter Solstice. Every year my wife and I celebrate Samhain (pronounced Saw-en), the Celtic New Year, on October 31. We typically send out invitations to our Samhain ritual-celebration, but this this year we were not feeling very outgoing and were leaning toward skipping the ritual when a young couple, friends of ours, asked if we were offering the ritual this Fall. They participated in the one before last with their, then one and a half year old, Rose, who lit the fire! I will never forget the look on her luminous face as the fire caught and began to climb through the compact teepee of sticks and branches. It was an expression of pure wonder.

During this celebration / ritual we honor the darkness and we honor the ancestral spirits. I won't describe the ceremony here, but the last thing we do is light a candle from the fire. With that candle, we light a house-candle that has been set up in the west-facing window to guide new (benevolent domestic) spirits to the house to help us through the new year, which begins as if a tiny seed is planted in the deep night of Samhain. The window is opened slightly to allow the spirit to enter the house whenever it arrives.

It is normal to focus on our private most intimate spaces after Samhain. That darkest of transits that we are all in the middle of right now, is essentially a dark-night-of-the-soul, when we venture within, as deep as we can, to ponder what we are here for, or even who we are under the stars and the moon. All the crops have been harvested and it is time to concentrate on the wee seed of our essential selves that we consign to the nurturing dark. After Samhain there is a stretch of almost 2 months, until the Winter Solstice, when something cosmic transpires. The light returns! Our deepest hopes and dreams along with the quintessential soul of the new year, are touched by the returning light of the sun.

On the night of the Solstice (December 21), to the extent that we are receptive to these kinds of events, we could be sitting in the womb of the great mound at Newgrange, which was conceived and built 5,000 years ago, to guide the first rays of the rising Solstice sun into the (18-foot high) bee-hive chamber at the heart of the mound, where our Neolithic predecessors who (far wiser than we), were waiting in powerful ritual space to receive the light.

Every year we are granted this opportunity to participate in this cycle of cosmic renewal. As citizens of a troubled Western industrial Super Power, with little or no exposure to the profound annual initiation that I just described, many of us struggle through the dark underworldly-ethos of this time of year with no clue as to how we might watch for and anticipate the subtle, timely benefits of pulling in, conserving our energy, cherishing the tiny seed of renewed dreams and possibilities, aligning ourselves with the proven wisdom of the ancestors while girding ourselves for this unavoidable journey through darkness.

Me? I hold that close-up image of that little girl's face when she was surprised by the fire that she lit (with our helping hand) on Samhain night a little over 2 years ago. It is her look of surprised wonder that guides me now. May it guide all of us!

Dream strong dreams. Journey well.

(Article changed on November 13, 2019 at 22:28)

(Article changed on November 13, 2019 at 22:35)

(Article changed on November 14, 2019 at 11:31)

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Gary Lindorff is a poet, writer, blogger and author of several nonfiction books, a collection of poetry, "Children to the Mountain" and a memoir, "Finding Myself in Time: Facing the Music" Over the last few years he has begun calling (more...)

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