There are some who see Samhain as the beginning of Winter, just as they see Lughnasadh as the beginning of Autumn, but that has never worked for me. To me the Solstices and Equinoxes mark the very beginning of the associated season, with the Fire Festivals the season’s peak. So for me the Autumn Equinox marked the beginning of Autumn, as the leaves began their turning. Now I look outside and storm Brian (he’s not a storm, he’s a very naughty boy…) stripped many of those turning leaves from the trees, leaving some to turn that brighter yellow of late Autumn. By the Winter Solstice they will have all gone, and after that the cold of Winter really starts to bite as we move towards what is the height of Winter for me, Imbolc (although being one who is not so keen on Winter, I will acknowledge the first tiny stirrings of Spring with the arrival of the flowering Snowdrops).
This brings me to the point of this post. Many of you will know (I’ve made no secret of it) that I am not a great fan of Winter. I’m a Gemini June baby and relish the feeling of the Sun’s warmth on my skin. I miss it so much when it’s gone, and it really is leaving now – just the barest glimmer left in the air in full sunshine.
Samhain, and the height of Autumn, is the time I say goodbye to the Sun’s warmth. It coincides with the end of British Summer Time as our clocks change, and that obviously brings a sudden end to the lighter evenings too. It really feels and smells of Autumn out there today. But this year I’ve decided to go against my natural inclination and embrace the dark and cold of Autumn and Winter, because of course I understand that the Earth needs that respite, as do so many of us.
When you’ve been working with the Pagan Wheel of the Year for a while it’s very likely that you will find aspects of your life beginning to slip into sync with the turning seasons. Spring brings with it a new vitality and you start things, or plan stuff for the approaching Summer, literally getting ready for the lighter evenings and warmer, longer days. And when Summer arrives it’s off to camps, or conferences, out walking in the countryside, picnics, visits to the ocean, holidays, a season packed with activity. When Summer wanes and Autumn arrives things begin to naturally slow down. Not too much, but it’s obviously there. Of course Samhain can be a packed and busy time for Pagans, but afterwards, those nights are long, the days shorter, it feels like it’s time to retreat indoors, to bring those activities to an end for the year, and to begin to allow new things to gestate, to form, and be ready to burst into life with the next Spring.
My life reflects that cycle. Of course there are always things happening throughout the year, but I am definitely more busy from March through to Samhain with gigs and travelling. The time from Samhain through to the Spring Equinox is often my time for thinking, for writing, for those creative processes that need the dark, just as the Mandragora needs Wintering before it will come to life. Right now I have just released a new album, Y Mabinogi – The First Branch – the first of four connected albums each telling a part of the Mabinogion. The time has come to begin the research for The Second Branch. What better time than the late Autumn and Winter to begin that process, and it has begun. The dark really does help me reflect as I read the stories of Bran and Branwen. The Corvids are circling everywhere right now. We had a Jay in the garden this morning. The trees stand bare. The Earth is beginning Her sleep.
So this year I will embrace the dark half of the year. I will enjoy the nights in with a glass of single malt. I will go against everything I have said about the dark seasons, and welcome them.
And I’ll let you know how it went next Spring.