Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Around Samhain

It is the most magical, crazy, shivery night of the year. It is the topsy-turvy, inside-out, upside-down time, when the past lies ahead of you and the future walks behind you, breathing on your neck. It is a night when the doors between the worlds swing open, when the dead walk among the living and the living move among the dead.

The last night of October is the start of Samhain (which is pronounced “sow-in”), the great Celtic festival when the dead walk among the living, the fires are extinguished and rekindled, the god and the goddess come together in sacred union, and as the year turns from light to dark, the seeded earth prepares to give birth again. It’s a time, when the Celts knew what they were doing, to watch yourself and watch comings and goings from the barrows and mounds that are peopled by ghosts and faeries. It’s a time to honor the friendly dead, and the lordly ones of the Sidhe, and to propitiate the restless dead and remember to send them off and to set or re-set very clear boundaries between the living and the hungry ghosts. It’s a time to look into the future, if you dare, because linear time is stopped when the hollow hills are opened. As Celtic scholar Marie-Louise Sjoestedt wrote, “This night belongs neither to one year or the other and is, as it were, free from temporal restraint. It seems that the whole supernatural force is attracted by the seam thus left at the point where the two years join, and gathers to invade the world of men.”

If you have never learned to dream or see visions or to feel the presence of the spirits who are always about – if you have never traveled beyond the gates of death or looked into the many realms of the Otherworld – this is the time when you’ll see beyond the veil all the same, because the Otherworld is going to break down the walls of the little box you call a world, and its residents are coming to call on you.

"I always quote myself," said Oscar Wilde, "it adds life to the conversation." In the passage above, I am quoting my own Dreamer's Book of the Dead. I have noticed, recording my own dreams and reviewing those of hundreds of others sent to me privately or posted at our forum at over the past week, that many of us already seem to be dreaming towards Halloween/Samhain.
In my own dreams last night, I attended what at first seemed to be a festival of new wine in an Old World setting, with people dancing around merrily with open containers, drinking freely and sloshing wine on the earth for the spirits, and over each other. As we danced under a vine-draped arch, I noticed an animal skin overhead and assumed it was a wineskin. The neck was chopped off and wine splashed down over us. Laughing, the dancers leaned back their heads to catch the gushing liquid in their mouths. But as I was embraced by a woman like an Earth priestess in the clearing, I noticed that the "wine" on our skin felt sticky, and wondered whether we had been drenched by the blood of animal sacrifice, as in the old times.


Worldbridger said...

I can't help wondering if the present day, watered down version of Halloween hasn't created such a static discordance that it has all but vanquished the original purpose and power of this time of the year.

I mean, when I was a kid at least you had a chance of losing a finger or two!

Robert Moss said...

I think, in the age of electrified cobwebs and candy overloads, we have lost the meaning and purpose of Halloween as a culture. That does not mean that the dead aren't as active (or more so) as they used to be, with most of our doors wide open to whatver wants to come calling :-)

Worldbridger said...

I agree with you Robert, but what I also meant was that the present situation actually creates a kind of psychic static that makes it more difficult for the dead and the living to communicate.

Basically it is a kind of distraction.

Like watching a spooky movie on TV, with the volume turned up so loud that someone whispering in your ear is not likely to be heard.

Robert Moss said...

That's an excellent analogy.

Lou Hagood said...

Thanks, Robert, You reminded me of a Day of the Dead night spent with the locals in a cemetery in Oaxaca, Mexico waiting for visitations.

Justin Patrick Moore said...

Also, in the ancient cultures Samhain itself was actually celebrated on the full moon. It was not a static day like "October 31st" on a calendar they didn't even use. This year the full moon, and Samhain proper, will be on monday Nov. 2nd. I believe this would be associated with the Hunters Moon and/or Falling Leaves Moon in Native American traditions.

On A related lunar note, the previous posts about bombing the moon, and the daimon of the moon, inspired me to pick up a book I've had on my shelf for years and have never read, "Moon Magic" by Dion Fortune. I wasn't suprised that the first section of the book deals a lot with dreams, and uses the words ebb and flow liberally.