Sunday, November 01, 2009

Samhain and A Sort of Beginning

I knew it was a good idea when a nearby tree offered up a near-perfect stick.

This might seem an odd way to start a post with Samhain in the title, but I think it will make sense eventually. Being of at least half, perhaps as much as 3/4, Scottish blood, I find myself easily drawn to pagan Celtic lore and ceremonies. This is especially true as I open to the importance of balance. As such, Halloween is coming to be more powerful to me as the eve before Samhain (pronounced sow-en) than the more recent christian derivation or even the modern dress-up and gorge on candy or booze fests.

I decided this year to make a special effort to celebrate this end-of-harvest and Celtic New Year day. I had originally intended to have a bonfire on the bank of the lake last night but, as it is wont to do up here, the weather intervened and it was a shitty windy evening. I came home already thinking to next year and perhaps inviting some family and friends if the weather was decent. But today was a calm and rather lovely, although still rather cold, day do the urge to do something this year returned.

I used some logs which were originally cut for the old house wood heater which is burned so very very rarely nowadays, to build a firepit on the very edge of the bank of the lake. I had to carry the logs quite a little distance so two trips, bearing 4 logs each time, was nice exercise and kind of rough on my niggling lower back. The last 7 logs went over in the back of Dad's truck. Just as darkness was set in, around 7 pm now that the clock has fallen back an hour, I had My little box of fire alight. I realized I would need a poker stick so I went to a nearby fallen dead tree where, lo and behold, I was able to snap off a thick but gnarled branch of the PERFECT height to lean on, which also had a spot at the top which fit my hand ideally. Obviously the spirits were pleased so I spent the next two and a half hours enjoying the flying sparks, fresh air, and a moon oh-so-near full, all the while pondering the year past and the one coming, the revitalizing winter before that which now seems begun, and souls close to me which are now passed from this world.

The evening was definitely chill, harvest is WELL done with now, but near the fire it was just a fantastic night. I could well imagine a larger fire, perhaps two or three or more, with family, friends and neighbors milling around and sharing the special night. I am hoping that within a few years, this day will mean inviting the community to share an evening on our farm, reversing the trend of isolation and stand-offishness towards "outsiders" which can be quite heavy in part of my family. I want our farm to be important to the community, from a leadership and spirit standpoint.

In truth, I was quite intent on this plan for another reason, so I think I would have had the fire tonite anyway, even had it been -15C. The reason for this is that I learned of a close family death yesterday. It seems that my brother and his new wife had been pregnant and there was a they lost what was to be their first child (for which I know they have been hoping so much...) and I lost my first niece or nephew. As Samhain is a time of a blurring between life and death, I felt a strong impulse to use this powerful day to celebrate this and all such brief lives, and to grieve with my brother and sister-in-law...even over thousands of miles. I know God or Mother Nature or whichever, have their reasons for such things, and balance can be a grim business at times.

For this reason, and for others, this tradition will continue at our farm until (God forbid) it is no longer possible to do so. I hope that it will grow and grow.

Peace and comfort to all, especially to we Northern Hemisphere folk who are now entering the darker half of the year. And peace to you, little niece or nephew.


linda said...

I'm really sorry to hear about the loss of the baby. That is a very sad piece of news. My well wishes to you and your family.
I also took some time yesterday to honor life and death through some alter making and candle lighting for my grandmother whose birthday it is today. Yesterday was Day of the Dead. Ironically, today is her birthday. I agree that ancient traditions are much more powerful than commercialized ones but the merging of several seems to work its power on me.

Jerry said...

Thank you, linda.

Conny said...

Jerry, thanks for your kind comment on my blog re: non-Canadian hockey fanatics. I responded (kindly as well, I think)with what ended up being an Ode to Drew Remenda, my favorite Canadian.

I look forward to reading the rest of your blog. Cheers ~ Conny

Jerry said...

Glad to meet you Connie. I hope you enjoy it!

MoonRaven said...

I want to echo Linda's sentiments--I'm sorry for the loss of a possible niece/nephew for you and your family.

At the same time I want to wish you a belated but sincere 'Happy Samhain'. It sounds like you had a very appropriate celebration of it. May the darkness nourish and comfort you in the winter ahead.

Jerry said...

Thank you MoonRaven. I hope the same for you as well.