Energy of the Season:
Summer’s end draws back the heavy curtain for a moment, thinning the veils between worlds and expanding our awareness of the Divine. As the Wheel of the Year turns to darkness on the eve of All Soul’s Day, dusk marks the beginning of Samhain or Hallowmas, celebrating harvest and slaughter, death and rebirth, our link to the past and the ancient ones who made us.
On Samhain eve we dance to the drums that pound out Earthly rhythms. We shake off old patterns, moving to the beat of our instincts, much faster than our minds are able to even think. Almost transfigured, we see into the past before it is time to go into hibernation.
Bodies undulate unabashedly all around as the bonfire roars, throwing bones into the scorching heat of transformation. Healing begins as we look into the reflections of change within the flames; we begin to see ourselves and consciously sink into our ancestral roots to guide and transmute us. We intuitively call upon the wise guardians of our lineage long past, looking into their eyes for wisdom, clarity and release.
As the pumpkins, squashes and gourds are harvested, their seeds naturally fall to the ground from the once bountiful stalks. Lying dormant through the dark cycle, they will gather life force to breakthrough the soil’s surface come spring. We also plant our personal seeds during this turn of the wheel with intentions to begin anew, shedding old skin and eventually rising stronger from the ashes of our outworn ways in spring’s first light.
The cycle gradually darkens; we navigate the steps downward even further into the safety of Mother’s womb, bidding farewell to the setting sun and welcoming the rebirth we know is to come. It’s all part of the cycle of life, birth, death and rebirth.
Like the harvested and browning vines, part of us dies and turns to ashes, protecting and fertilizing the ground for planting later in the cycle. And as the dying chaffs lie in the fields awaiting transport to the Otherworld, the veils lift, opening the gateway for our ancestors’ momentary return. They come back through the dimensions to celebrate with us one last time.
We honor them here, on our terms, on our human turf, before they journey beyond our reach, before they ascend into the next house of existence. The celebration of Samhain is a feast of thanksgiving; all are welcome!
Lighting our personal candles at last, from the courage of the community flame, we silently walk the labyrinth, spiraling inward step by step. When eve turns to night and night to day, food and energy is stored for the long, deep season of winter. Once inside the cave, our candle flame flickers, its beacon lighting the way as we begin the slow journey homeward. This tiny flame of recognition reminds us why we are here in this place of peaceful rest and healing, exploring our shadow worlds until the Wheel turns again.
Goddess of Samhain:
Ceridwen, the witch hag and crone, is the Celtic Goddess of Samhain who holds the powers of the darkening moon, transformation and rebirth. Each year at this time she guides us into the Underworld to meet our shadow, to employ patience, reminding us of what is hidden while supporting us on our inward journey toward self-knowledge.
To progress, we must embrace all potentialities of our beingness, especially that which lies lonely in the darkness, waiting for a light to shine into its dusty corners. Ceridwen shows us how to gather the energy from our shadow, bringing it to light, becoming strong through our vulnerabilities.
A Welsh grain Goddess, she is the also the feminine archetype of inspiration, Celtic mythology, and creativity. Ceridwen rules the cycles of life: birth, death and rebirth; human gestation; and the Wheel of the Year, as a chalice of both endings and beginnings in our seasonal cycles.
The dark goddess’ inherent symbolism supports transformation and is represented by the story of her son, Afagddu who was born hideously ugly and uninspired. In her desire to heal him of these ills, she creates a batch of wisdom and inspiration in her magical cauldron using fresh herbs grown during each of the eight seasons on the Wheel of the Year. In honoring and embracing each of the cycles, this transformational potion was brewed and stirred for a year and a day to be properly alchemized.
Ceridwen hired both a blind fire tender and a boy named Gwion to help stir the pot. While stirring, three drops of the potion dropped onto on Gwion’s thumb. Unfortunately, the first three drops contained magic and the remainder in the cauldron was poisonous. Like anyone else, Gwion licked off the steaming potion and instantly received the gifts of wisdom and universal knowledge, leaving Ceridwen without a solution.
Incredibly angry after loosing all her work to save her own son, she chased Gwion all over the countryside. He ran and he ran, along the way shape shifting into many forms. He became a rabbit, and she transformed into a greyhound. When he dove into the river, becoming a fish, she was suddenly an otter. Then he changed into a bird and she a hawk, somehow always knowing what was next. At last he shape shifted into a grain of corn, and just a quickly she was a hen and ate him. For nine months the grain grew in her pregnant belly and she swore to kill him upon his birth.
As Ceridwen gazed upon the baby boy, too beautiful to harm, she decided instead to wrap him in a sealskin bag, and threw him into the sea. Soon rescued by a Welsh prince who eventually named the baby Taliesin, he lived on to be one of the greatest Celtic bards of all time.
Hail to Ceridwen! We stand at the cross quarter of Samhain, at the precipice of our own personal darkness, calling on you Ceridwen for strength and guidance in our next step. We honor your expertise and courage in your constant embrace of the shadow in all things.
May we become, as you, a master of our human cycles, the harvest and the planting, both beginnings and endings. Like you we hold the potential to be a lover of our shadow and to fully embrace each facet of ourselves as they relate to the elements, the directions and the constant turn of the wheel.
Hail to the Northwest, the water as it moves from the surface into the depths of the underground aquifers. When it reaches our inner most cave, we thirstily drink in the unknown, that which is a blend of light and dark, water and soil. We taste the gritty clumps, yet when shaken and stirred in the cauldron of our inner waters and emotions, we are able to stomach the poison. Inherently we know how to transmute its killing effect, turning life to death, and then into rebirth.
Welcome dark goddess. It is time we welcome ourselves into the darkening moons of cool transformation.
The information here has been compiled from various personal experiences as well as teachings and information from Kathy Jones’ book “Priestess of Avalon, Priestess of the Goddess,” Mara Freeman’s book, “Kindling the Celtic Spirit,” and Frank MacEowen’s book, “The Celtic Way of Seeing.”
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