Samhain, the time when the veils between the worlds are thin… I’ve been wondering about this term of phrase lately. Why, on certain dates of the year, should the veil be thinner than at other times? Is there even such a thing as a veil between the worlds?
More and more I lean towards the negative – that there is indeed no veil, that the dead and the living walk side by side. That there is no Otherworld, that the Otherworld and this world are all the same – it’s only our perception of it that makes it “other”. We like to separate things, we human beings, to classify and put them in a place where we can understand them from a stand-offish perspective. I would posit that, looking at nature, nothing is that simple, or can be tied so neatly to an idea.
Taking inspiration from the natural world around us, we see the living and the dead working together all of the time, whether it is autumn, winter, spring or summer. Things are dying around us constantly – there is no specific season for it. Animals die, plants die, cells die – it does not wait for autumn. I admit, in the Fall we see the foliage around us withdrawing into itself, the leaves falling, the grasses returning to their roots, energy moving in different directions, from out into the sunlight to deep within the earth. This is not a death, however it may appear – simply a reversal of direction.
Like the double helix, energy is always moving, and never in one direction only. When everything appears to be dying here in the Northern Hemisphere, it is beginning to come to life in the Southern Hemisphere. The tides and times of life follow no one set of rules.
I may die in the autumn, I may die in the spring. Whenever I do die, my body will in turn nourish the soil, plants, fungi, animals and legion of other living beings on this planet in that great symbiosis of simply being. It does not rely on a season. I do not cease to be, either. I simply cease to be in some form or other – my body will take on a new form. My soul – I believe that too will take on a new form, if nature has taught me anything.
In our agricultural year and society here in the Northern Hemisphere, we are at the end of our harvest season, and in that time we are able to take a break as the final crops have come in. But we are still making our preparations for winter. Is there really a time to rest, to relax, before the snows come? For some animals this is the busiest season, the squirrels squirreling away their stores, for example. I’m sure our ancestors would have been busy all throughout the year, just trying to stay alive.
I’ve often thought of autumn as a time of rest, of rejuvenation. I see now that perhaps “rest” wasn’t quite right. Autumn is more a time of reflection, of going through what we have learned through the year, and through all the years of our lives. It is a time to not stop, per se, but to take stock.
Along the way, our ancestors, who are with us always, can help us, guide us throughout our lives. Having a special time of year set aside to acknowledge them is a good thing, but I would posit that we should honour where we have come from, our stories and our heritage, all that brought us to this point in time each and every day. It is not a one-off thing. Like the holiday of Thanksgiving, I really enjoy and appreciate the sentiment, but carry that same sentiment with me throughout the year.
All that being said, this IS my favourite time of the year. I love the colours, the smells, the feeling in the air of the approaching winter, the stories of summer lingering upon our lips in reflection and contemplation.
Side by side with the ancestors, I honour the season, the tides and times of life, death, and rebirth.