Monday, October 23, 2006

The Dark Season

I give worth and honor to the Grandmothers and Grandfathers who have lived before us, and who still live in a state of mysterious perpetuity inside the Land we all walk upon. They passed their life-force and wisdom on to us, their children, through the ritual of love and birth and blood.

This is the time of Samhain, the fulfillment of the moon of Samonios. While most modern Pagans only celebrate Samhain on a certain day, i.e. October 31, November 1, or the like, the historical reality was a bit different. According to the Coligny Calendar, a native Celtic method of time-keeping that was discovered decades back in France, the month of Samonios, which marked the beginning of the new year, was the time in which the festival of Samhain was celebrated- and the beginning of Samonios could fall on different days on different years, due to the fact that it is a lunar calendar.

Samhain originally probably wasn't a "day", but a fortnight-long festival. The Full Moon that began Samonios occured on the 8th or 9th of October, meaning that the fourteen days that followed it was the time of Samhain's festivities. Tonight, there is no moon; the moon has gone dark, making this the "Returning night" of Samonios.

Modern Pagans can celebrate this season at any point, realistically during October or November, so unless you are a historical calendar reconstructionist (like me) it matters not. Samonios will always fall in October/November, and on the average, it manages to land near the end of October.

When to celebrate Samhain is not such a big problem; if you are in touch with the world around you, you already know: you celebrate when the cold really comes back, and when you "feel" the world turn towards darkness. The cauldron of the year finally boils down to nothingness in the Dark Season of Samhain, bringing about a profound spiritual event- the destruction of the world and all the worlds. As all the worlds were born from their living source ages ago, so one day, the ancients believed, they would all fall apart and become overwhelmed by "Fire and Water"- the elements in their destructive form. After this came a period of rest- the Holy Night of the Gods, before the worlds were regenerated from the womb of Sovereignty.

Samhain is a chance to consciously participate in the reversal and overturning/destruction of the worlds. It is the time we celebrate the end of things, and the dark night that follows, waiting for regeneration. The end of things isn't a mere "stop"; it is a radical reversal, as the horn of Misrule sounds. It is, perceptually, a wild and phantasmagoric event. It is a radical reversion to the hidden and mysterious roots of all things.

A human being experiences their own Dark Season when they die- and death is a sudden inversion of life, as the mindstream of the dead person is thrust into the Great Otherness, and visions of many kinds, ranging from the peaceful to the frightening are experienced. Much wisdom waits to be found in the moment of Truth that death brings to us, but we must learn to deal with fear and the "other side" of life, before we will be prepared to "recieve" the death experience properly.

There is no "good and evil" in any of this. Death is not "evil" while life is "good". Life is the name we give to the perpetual nature of our existence, whether as human beings, or as the Sidhe-spirits on the "other side" of this world; "Death" is the name we give to the point where we move from one of those conditions to the other. Death is the "point between" one kind of existence and another; "death is the center of a long life", as they say.

We have to keep our minds on our own deaths, every day of our lives. It may sound macabre or morbid, but I assure you, it is a great key to wisdom. If we consider our own bodies dead, lying silent in the ground, being consumed by the earth and by animals, or if we see ourselves glowing bright orange and black as we are consumed by flames on our own pyres, we will be forced to consider what is important in our lives. We will also reconsider what we think is important now. I have searched long and hard for what outlasts death, and my search was successful- the love we have for our wives, husbands, lovers, and children, and the affection we have for our friends, those meaningful and powerful bonds are what we "take with us".

The secret was so simple, and it was hiding in plain sight- you can really FEEL what is important in life, and it happens freely, with love and joy at human company. It bathes us with its power, and so many of us don't recognize it. There is no money or possession that can make us happy or accompany us at the level of our spirit, but love, love is the heart of every joy that will last. I can tell you now- the "Great Mystery" eluded me until I saw it in the one place I was meant to see it- and far from hiding in some cavern in the Underworld, I saw it in the face of my newborn daughter.


The Dark Season allows those whom death has taken to the Otherworld to visit us, in a very real and immediate way. When we turn our thoughts to our own mortality, and when our eyes see the coming of the winter, the end of the year and the mystical moment "between" where the new year waits for its regeneration and birth, and when we see that same pattern reflected in our own mortals lives and deaths, we are putting ourselves into a very receptive state of mind, a state of mind where all our assumptions about the world break down.

Who really knows the meaning behind it all? To be born, to live, to die, to be reborn- why the great Round, the Great Cycle? Why the endless fear, wonder, the questioning? Death shatters our illusions, and life gives us time to consider the nature of illusion. We are becoming stronger and wiser through seasons of life and events of death. When you hit that "space between" in your own mind, when you doubt the things you always wanted, always accepted, that's when the ancestors can speak to you from the "other side" of life.

The ancestors have become wise, gone among the Sidhe, the Dead, and seen their mortal illusions fall away. In that timeless condition, they dance their planxtys, and reach out for communion with us, as it is their nature to do. We are all connected, the living to the "dead", and the "dead" to the living. Perhaps they wonder at us and our world like we wonder at theirs; or perhaps, they are far more aware of us than we could be of them, a timeless mode of perception that they share with the Gods.

Not all of the dead become so wise; but those who do become our timeless and tireless protectors and guides. When death rises up to overwhelm the world, or even our mortal bodies, we are thrust into an inverted, frightening, and surreal "space between"- and in that indeterminate space, a gap opens up, mentally, that lets the wisdom of those who dwell in that space come to us.

I pray that we will all recognize it, and give up on trying to fix ourselves down with too many "solid" notions and assumptions about ourselves and the world- we are all greater and more fluid powers than we realize.

The Dark Season teaches us this lesson: life is water, not stone. Death reduces bodies to dust, just as water reduces rocks to sand. The worlds have fallen into the darkness of the unmanifest, now in the Season of Samhain, and in the strangeness of that place, the wisdom of our ancestors drones on, sacred chants of the people Below the Hills. The worlds have been washed away, and their noise has fallen silent. We couldn't hear our own inner voices, or the voices of our ancestors before, but now we can.

Now is the time to hear it- go outside at night, light your candles and fires, put the apples that are the food of the dead at the roots of trees, and really listen to the darkness. Soon, a vision of great fire and light will flood over the world and all things will begin again, and wisdom will be there with it, waiting to be heard and discovered, forever.

1 comment:

Lara said...

I know i'm digging up old stuff again, but this part is real gold and is very much worthy of repetition -

"I pray that we will all recognize it, and give up on trying to fix ourselves down with too many "solid" notions and assumptions about ourselves and the world- we are all greater and more fluid powers than we realize."

Exactly!