The Thinning Veil of Autumn

The Thinning Veil of Autumn

I’ve had a difficult relationship with Autumn all of my life, being a son of Summer and lover of Spring. I never trusted Autumn because as it approached it had one hand behind its back, holding Winter. However this year has been different. The storms have challenged my new-found love, but the beauty of the season is singing to me.

Here in the South of England there is magic in Spring, as everything begins to wake up after its Winter sleep. Then Summer arrives and with it the heat. Life matures in Summer, then Autumn brings with it a sense of the year slowly returning to the slumber and renewal of Winter. The trees withdraw their green, and the countryside is awash with yellows, golds and reds. Leaves flutter in the breeze and fall to the ground to nourish next year’s new growth. Then in late Autumn the trees stand with bare branches reaching into a night sky that is darker, clearer, deeper as the Sun sinks away towards the Solstice.

It seems that with each of the festivals of the Wheel of the Year there seems to be a new Meme on Social Media pointing out some aspect of the festival that makes it somehow not the ancient festival we were led to believe. The latest one was that our tradition of the Thinning Veil is not an ancient belief, with some academic Pagans suggesting that if someone tells you it was an ancient tradition of Samhain (like people have been saying for decades) to now treat them with scepticism.

Here’s the thing. I don’t care if it isn’t an old tradition. In fact it might be even more exciting if it wasn’t. Does the Veil thin at the time of Samhain any more that at other times of year? I don’t think it really does. I don’t think that we have to wait until Samhain to be able to talk to our dead loved ones. I have been talking to my Dad almost every day since he died in January. But, and it’s a big but, at Autumn and the time of Samhain all around us things are dying away. If our spiritual teacher is The Book of Nature then Nature is showing us that everything, in the end, dies, but that life is also always reborn in the Spring. At Samhain there is a palpable change in the air, in the light, all of which makes me feel that the Magic of this time of year is different from the Magic of Spring and Summer. Mists appear, rivers break their banks, the Autumn storms arrive, and somehow the cry of the Corvids just seem louder and more insistent.

Is the Veil thinner? Probably not. Is the Veil more noticeable? Definitely. Is that an old tradition? Well, it might be that our ancestors noticed that too. But maybe to us death is more hidden away behind hospital and morgue doors, maybe to those ancestors they were already more in tune with death than we are now. Maybe it take us to step outside in late October and feel that chill, hear those birds, sense those storms, see the changes in the trees and plants and think to ourselves, mmm, death is in the air. Little surprise then that we have taken that moment to mark a change, and to know that you aren’t the only person who has felt that change, so we come together in our circles, and share tears and connection with each other, and those we have loved who are no longer physically with us.

So when someone says the Veil is thin at Samhain, it probably means so much more than just trying to replicate an ancient tradition. If it is new then it is ours, and we can own that, and then move on without having to justify anything to anyone. What matters to me isn’t that it’s old, or even the name we call the festival. What I think really matters is that we mark the seasons, fully experience them, connect to the Wheel, to life and the Kin with whom we share this incredible, diverse, ever-changing planet we call home.

25 responses to “The Thinning Veil of Autumn”

  1. Yes, this. A thousand times this.
    Academic study is very important and provide great knowledge.. but I sometimes feel “Pagan academics miss the point when trying to explain modern spirituality.

    Feeling ande experience are so important… Ye we shouldn’t just parrot what others have said without finding out how we feel about it. But let do just tha fee it experience it and not be constantly told “its not how the ancients would have done it. I think we know that.. But we do feel an experience it.

  2. Well said. I personally like Autumn (as well as the group ” Mostly Autumn”) Summer can seem to busy as people try to enjoy the better weather yet Autumn seems more chilled, not just the weather, but also relection and colours of nature as winter approaches.

  3. Exactly! Our ancestors felt their way and probably had the same language limitations for expressing things that lie far beyond words.

  4. Hi i think it does not matter what people think as maybe our ancestors where more intune with the turning of the wheel of the year and maybe the the veil is no thinner just more easier to see at samhain .

  5. I think the only times it matters where these traditions have come from is if we are researching the ‘where’s’ and that maybe because some people are interested in the history. What truly matters is the ‘does it work for you?’

  6. It’s interesting. You say you don’t love Autumn and Winter but somehow your posts about them always seem to me to be the most moving!

    I understand why many have felt the need to find ancient roots for out traditions but agree, we don’t need them. That’s a forward looking idea though. A relatively new one and maybe we all just need to get used to it.

  7. Although I feel the relief of cooler weather in Autumn, it still is worming it’s way into the cold bleakness of Winter – my worst tolerated season. S.A.D., frozen toes and fingers that never seem to warm up, the beautifully-leafed trees that finally just turn to rows of bare sticks, and the Sun at an angle in the afternoon that pierces your retinas! But I look and experience all this knowing in my cold bones and in my heart that all will renew and warm once again come Spring

  8. Hi Damh…totally agree with you. These seasonal festivals are nothing more, and nothing less, than the opportunity to stop, reflect and honour change. Whether the Wheel of the Year is ancient or modern really doesn’t bother me…whoever devised it, and whenever, has bequeathed us such a powerful gift and my following the druid path would be the less rich without it. If I’m honest, it’s probably the thing that drew me to the path in the first place.

  9. I connected deeply to the content you talked about. Thank you!

    No matter which path you walk in this lifetime, let us all care for Mother Earth as she cares for us ~ she is the eternal woman and the mother of all life, and those who seek her presence in their life need only ask—or more accurately, they need only to step outside into her domain and sense her presence for themselves.

    Warm Blessings

  10. Tradition? **blank look** How can a physical effect be a “tradition”? The Veil thins every year at Samhain and at Beltain all over the world, and those of us who do protection energy work know very well it lets in way more than just the voices of ghosts. The Veil thinning has everything to do with energy work–so whatever part of it people may experience might go along well with their Pagan religion or practices, but the thinning would happen anyway in the absence of all religion and practices. Which to me says that prehistoric peoples would have noticed it just as much as we do and probably more (since I believe they were more in tune with the physical world than we are). It’s not a religious belief, it’s a physical phenomenon.

  11. Morning and blessings!

    Your words about the veil thinning and wanted to share my view…I think the veil is always thin..that’s what a veil is..thin and sheer barley see through. But during Samhain since the traditional day of remembrance and a day of the dead that the people’s belief and therefore they put more energy into said veil giving more energy to our dearly departed. Hope you have a good rest of your week my friend.

  12. Beautifully said. I like to think of our traditions today as influenced and inspired by the ancients. We don’t live lives surrounded by as much harshness of life as our ancestors (depending on where you live, of course) and thus our rituals likely reflect our reality. We tip our hats to the ancestors and harken to what they left for us, but make it our own. That is a lovely “tradition”. Thank you for your insightful post. Hugs. Blessed Be, Brother.

  13. Your points are cogent and well stated, Damh. To me it really doesn’t natter how old the ‘tradition’ is – some of the old ones in other belief systems aren’t all that wonderful – what is important is that we who wish to embrace the deep meanings of the changes around us. This you do in this post.

    About thinness especially – well, it seems to me that is partly a matter of how open one is or wishes to be. The only real thin place I’ve been is Iona. All sorts of stuff flooded in and downloaded when I was there. Although I always felt perfect safe physically, I was also aware I could be mugged by a saint at any moment.

  14. The Wheel is changing due to human greed, exploitation of animals and destruction of natural habitats. Seasons are no longer in balance and Spring awakening more doubtful with every cycle.

  15. My first serious girlfriend was a pagan way back in the 1980s and we both lived in the Irish countryside and felt a deep connection to the land all around us. For me it has been the only way that feels right and as a child I spent more time in the woods than anywhere else. I like the idea of the green church that is always there to welcome you.

  16. I agree, it doesn’t really matter if it’s an ancient tradition or not. I believe that it was an ancient belief, and that that the veil is thinner at both Spring and Autumn… as these are liminal times of the year, just as liminal places are magical, so are liminal times.

    As we transition from Summer to Winter, it is a natural time to consider the life cycle, and death as a part of that cycle. Which also makes it a perfect time to remember those we love who have passed, and honour them and our Ancestors. If this is a modern tradition, it is no less a positive and valid tradition.


  17. I feel that the veil is always thin. But I have always felt something special happen at this time of year. It is just thinner. It pulls my awareness.

  18. Thank you for posting this beautifully written article. I have always connected way more with the “light half” of the year, when the days are getting longer and warmer. I really love Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, with Ostara being my absolute favorite sabbat.

    However, recently, in the past few months I have started to think about why I’m kind of resentful towards the “dark half” of the year. I had to look really deep within myself to understand this. It’s easy to love spring and early summer when everything is bright and hopeful. It takes courage to face fall, endings, and our own darker side. Even though it’s May now and we are past Beltane (literally the opposite from Samhain), I have found myself being very excited for the upcoming late summer (Lughnasadh), fall (Mabon, Samhain), and winter (Yule). I know that this year it will be different and I will be able to fully enjoy them!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.