Between two worlds, that of Summer and of Winter, rests Samhain.
Samhain, (pronounced “Sow-when”) is the most important time in the Ancient Irish (and Celtic) Calendar.
The time of Samhain starts at dusk, when the light and dark are in balance.
This was never regarded as a time of death, but a time of incubation for Mother Earth.
It was the onset of Winter that allowed the Great Mother to get ready the seed for Spring.
Samhain is the Celtic New Year’s Eve.
It is at this time, between worlds, that the veil is thin.
A time of possibilities.
A time to pay honour to those who are no longer with us in human form.
This was a time of endings and the promise of beginnings, a time for stillness and reflection.
It was understood that in the dark silence of Mother Earth, when all appears dead, comes the promise of new beginnings, the stirring of the seed beneath the ground.
It is on this night, some believe, that time stands still, allowing access to other worlds and into new consciousness.
As I walked the gardens today, taking these photographs, there was a real sense of endings and beginnings, of approaching a marker in time.
A sense of anticipation and readiness for the sabbatical that is Winter…for Samhain means “Summer’s End” and as the Celts believed, this was Winter’s Beginning.
As an integral part of their culture and interpretation of life, the Celts held strong the tradition of The Transmigration of Souls, a philosophy I believe in.
The Celts believed in two lands after death, the Underworld and the Otherworld.
The Otherworld was the abode of the dead.
This is interesting, as it strongly suggests a “life alongside the dead”…and in that an understanding of the “Night of the Thin Veil,”
Archaeological evidence has drawn attention to the richness of Iron Age tombs and the abundance of grave goods within them.
There is literary evidence from Caesar that seems to confirm at least part of the Celtic Beliefs system.
In his description of the Druids, he alluded to some of their lore that related directly to the movement of souls between one world and another or between one individual and another. He states:
‘…the druids attach particular importance to the belief that the soul (or spirit) does not perish but passes after death from one body to another’
(Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars VI)
Lucan (Pharsalia: I) stated that the Celts considered death as merely an interruption in a continuous life, as the spirit passed from one form into another, or from one world to another. Other writers, such as Diodorus Siculus drew attention to similar beliefs – that the soul was immortal and, as its body deteriorated with age, it simply moved to another, usually located in another world.
It is little wonder then that the Celts believed in the sacredness of times and places “in between”. And so we celebrate Samhain…