Can you hear me calling you? Can you hear me calling and crying your name in the dark? Can you hear me calling you? Can you hear me calling you? Can you hear me calling and crying your name in the dark? I am the Shadow who calls to your Soul….
So sings the Cailleach on my song Samhain Eve, weaving her cries between the fear expressed in the main vocal, pleading for her to pass him by for just one more year.
Samhain approaches. I remember when I first discovered Paganism Samhain was explained as, amongst other things, the Celtic New Year. I was happy with that. It made sense when I looked at the way the Old People started their ‘day’ at dusk; that we still count our days in nights ie. a ‘fortnight’ being two weeks. It is understandable then that the year should also begin at dusk. Now, as I look outside, I can see the evening of the year falling – it’s darker, colder, and somewhat calmer than a few weeks ago. There is a distinct smell in the air, of decay, of rotting leaves, a smell that, like a good incense, makes me feels relaxed and peaceful. It’s the smell of the Earth. Now it seems that some confusion has fallen over the true meaning of Samhain.
I’ve seen some people get quite irate if reference is made to Samhain being the Celtic New Year – saying that we don’t really know what it is, so any claims as to its authentic meaning are, well, meaningless. I suppose if one approaches spirituality as an historian would that could be right, but I’ve always approached my spirituality as a poet. Some might accuse me of escapism, and in a way that is true, but not to run away from real life, or as Druids tend to call it ‘the apparent world’, but to add to it. Recently my attention has been drawn to the monotonous and plastic constructs of our modern lifestyles, and this has confirmed to me once again that if we turn our backs on our imagination, our instincts, our animal natures, we simply play at life rather than engage it fully. Paganism is a natural spirituality that simply cannot breath if we approach it expecting tangible facts and historical proof. It’s the letting go of the need for facts, and opening to the potential of Nature as Wisdom that, to me at least, lets Paganism and Druidry breath freely.
The idea that Samhain might have once been the old New Year, and the understanding through myth, poetry and story that the Celtic peoples began their days with dusk, just leads me to relate to Samhain as a time of new beginning. All of the waste from the year, all of the pain and sorrow, the mistakes, the losses – this is the one time in the year when I can really offer them to decay, where I can express that I’ve learned all I can and need from these experiences, and that now I offer them to the earth as my own fallen leaves, to compost, and break down, to leave me with new bare branches on which fresh green can grow.
So may it be.