Samhaim: winter’s approach

Posted on 2 Nov 2015 in Breathe | 0 comments

Today is November 2, one day after Samhaim. Samhaim is a festival celebrated by the Celts that signifies the end of summer and the beginning of winter. It signals the storing up of a rich harvest and the preparation for a long journey into the encroaching darkness. We’ve dressed it up all funny with Halloween. It’s lost so much of its significance. I’m not a Celt, although my heritage is wrapped up in the Emerald Isle. I’m not a pagan, and so, the celebration of the holiday is a bit different for me. 

Did I mention that I really dislike Halloween? I’m not a huge fan of dressing up and running around without much inhibition. I’m not really a fan of the candy obsession and craze. It’s hard enough to avoid eating candy throughout the rest of the year, without having it continually in my presence and awareness. I’m also saddened by the obsession with the dark things in life. Those things that rob, kill, steal, destroy.

I want to return to the truth that we can claim from Samhaim. The taking stock of our harvest, sharing our first fruits with the Divine, storing up for winter and the encroaching darkness.

When I lived in Southern California, I never felt the rhythm of the seasons. It was perpetual summer. That didn’t really change until I moved to Ireland. There, I had the opportunity to be immersed, to be richly blessed by the pattern of the seasons. When autumn came, it was clear that summer was over. It was never 90 degrees on Halloween. The sun set early, it was time to cozy up to fires and drink warm beverages. When winter came, the world slowed down to a crawl, and people stopped to take notice of things like snow and hail and rain – and also things like family, and closeness, and sharing. Spring became the rebirth of all things, as green things sprang up from the ground, and color returned to the world. Summer was a part of all things, beautiful and rich, and full of life and excitement and wonder.

Samhaim provides us with a chance to transition from summer into winter by highlighting all of the beautiful aspects of Autumn.

First, we have the celebration of the harvest. What have you sown into your life? Not just financially, but relationally, spiritually, emotionally? We always reap what we sow – are you happy with your harvest this year? Did you create a harvest to celebrate? When you think back on your year and what you did with your time, is it something that you can be proud of? Now is the time to reflect and begin to dream of what you’d like to plant next year, when the ground thaws and it becomes time to plant. Now is the time to prepare your heart and mind for the next season of growth. Now is a good time, because the veil is thin in the autumn. As we shift from the light to the darkness, there is opportunity to step into the in-between places and plant seeds that we can nurture in our quiet places during the dark winter, pouring life and spirit into them so that they can grow.

Then, we have the gifts of the first fruits to the Divine. This is a part of sowing and reaping as well. As surely as we plant our seeds from harvest into next year, we will surely see a harvest from whatever we entrust to the Divine. When we give of our harvest, we remember that we can plant, and we can water, but it is the One who is Life who makes it grow. We can do nothing to force growth and plenty. We can only offer our trust and give back an offering of our gratitude when we’ve received so much. This is why November and Thanksgiving can be such powerful agents of transformation in our life. By focusing on those things we are grateful for and giving back from our abundance, we open our hands and make space for whatever is meant to be given to us.

The days run shorter and the weather runs cooler. Take advantage of this time to slow down and experience all the beauty in the stillness and the darkness. I’ve written before about Treasures in the Darkness and Journeys into Night. The night is the place where you can move either direction – from fear to faith, or from faith to fear. The cooler weather reminds you a bit of your fragility and the power of the elements to affect you. In the midst of the darkness and the cold, a light shines – the light of your life, the light of your family (chosen or blood), and the light of sacred spaces. There’s a sacred beauty to lighting a (metaphorical or real) candle and holding that sacred space of light for a season. There’s an intake of life and spirit that happen when the spark turns into flame, and shadows begin to flee. It’s also an opportunity to huddle together for warmth. In ancient times, there would be big bonfires, which weren’t just big fires, but they were communal activities, to bring people together. A time to connect, a time to be together. Don’t allow the weather or the darkness to isolate you or push you into hiding. Use it as an opportunity to huddle together for warmth and light. Hug someone! Draw someone close into your circle and create light and life together.

This Autumn, I’m hoping to hold sacred space for these things. I want to remember to huddle closer instead of pulling away. I want to remember to give out of the abundance that we have, instead of fearfully hoarding. I want to plant and sow good things for next year, and reap a harvest of plenty from last year.

I pray that all these things would find meaning for you and yours as well.

Blessed be. Blessed Samhaim to you and yours.

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