I feel at once defiant and, somehow, especially pagan when I think that I can decide for myself what a holiday means.
Samhain is, in the first place, a seasonal holiday. Marking Samhain is marking the ending of summer with the last harvest, and the beginning of winter. Logically, it follows that it’s a time of laying up, and of culling.
We lay up because now is a time of abundance. Now is a time when we can prepare ourselves to face the cold and the darkness of winter. I know from numerous conversations that I’m not the only one who is not a winter fan, but looking at Samhain in this light, it’s clear that now should not be a time of dread, but a time of activity. Just as I wrote about the Autumn Equinox, now I should be making the effort to be prepared for the darkness (both outside and inside of me) that I know will come.
But, it’s also a time of culling. Historically, farmers were faced with the decision of which of their flock to try to keep over the winter, and which to kill. I’m sure it was a hard decision to make, because going too far in either direction could have disastrous effects.
I don’t have flocks to cull. But, in the sun and endorphin-laden days of summer I collected many ideas and projects that I’d like to further develop. Now, however, as my life is moving increasingly indoors and the time for dreaming is maybe being changed into the time of focused activity (in my experience, the best way to stave off depression during those long winter evenings). Now is the time to ask myself: on which projects will I focus in order to see the most results?
This is probably an inaccurate understanding of a year in the life of a tree, but I imagine it this way: in the summer, a tree pushes its energy outward, growing leaves, branches, collecting energy from the summer around it. Now, in autumn and over the winter, it draws its energy into its core to help it through the cold of winter.
When I say that now is a time of culling, I mean that it’s time for me to identify my own core.
Lastly, Samhain is a liminal time. It’s a time in-between. We are between summer and winter. Similarly, many people believe (and I at least want to believe with them) that it’s a time when the borders between the realms of celtic cosmology are thinned. It means that Samhain is a time when the ancestors can hear me perhaps more clearly. It also means it’s a time when omens (me hearing the Kindred) should perhaps be a bit clearer, too.
As I put together my Samhain ritual, it’s clear to me that the ancestors will be at the center of it. Further, I think it’s a time to take omens for the winter, not only to try and understand what the winter will bring, but to hopefully gain insight from the Kindred into what my ‘core’ is.