There is a part of me that is slightly smug about the fact that the old festivals have not rolled over and played dead after the Christians took a big stick to them. Yule has become Christmas and for all of the ‘away in a manger’ stuff there is still plenty of holly, ivy and Yule logs on everything festive. They can’t quite get rid of May Day with its overtures of sex and fecundity. Easter hasn’t even had a name change and since when did Christ eat chocolate eggs? Sure, they say it’s all about the resurrection but the egg was a sign of rebirth before that, even before the Cosmic Egg of the Egyptian religion. The Harvest Festival still takes place in church and schools and you can never escape the meaning is of the earth giving us its (her) bounty.
The one that makes me the smuggest is Halloween. Yes, there may be All Saint’s Day straight after it but I feel as if that was a reaction to the raw energy created on the night before. I have been watching and listening to quite a few debates about this festival where people (mostly churchy folk) have been saying the supermarkets must stop stocking such scary stuff. They don’t like the devils and ghouls and ghosts and moving hands and spinning heads and….Osiris loves it all. We have a skeleton outfit for him to wear; we have carved three BIG pumpkins (One of them we picked from the pumpkin patch at Over Farm. I have never seen so many pumpkins in my life. He had to look for squashed fairy hands under the pumpkins to win a prize), we have a HUGE bowl of sweets ready for any trick-or-treats and a selection of Halloween sparklers.
When he’s older I will tell him about the veil between the worlds becoming thinner and I will tell him about Ceridwen and the magic of the Hag but for now we will play games and scare each other.
I found out about Samhain one night at West Kennet Long Barrow one spooky night. A group of crazy hippies went up there to spend the night and to take mushrooms. I think we had a kind of ‘horror movie’ idea to spend the night in a tomb. After the initial giggling we started to try and scare each other talking about the bones that were just through the wall and all the bodies that had lain where we were sitting. A few of us got a bit creeped out but mostly we just laughed. We were a musical bunch and soon we got the drums out, the didge, shakers and singing voices.
I wandered off on my own outside and walked down the back of the long barrow. It was a cold night and dark, the ground uneven beneath my feet. I felt my head clear a little and I sat looking at the stars in the black sky. I felt a presence, even though I was on my own and I knew who it was because she told me her name loud and clear. She has many names, Ceridwen is only one. She whispered in my ear about the wisdom that comes to a woman in her autumn years, about the Great Work of the Grandmother, the woman who washes and dresses the dead, even as she washes the babes when they are born. A woman’s hand will great you on the way into this life and wash you down on your way out. The dead are still with us in our hearts and minds; when the veil is thin you can move that memory into this realm…And then I spoke to my dead friend…
Afterwards I wondered back along the ridge of the long barrow, no longer cold, and heard the sounds of my friends singing and drumming. I knew this is how it had always been; the music calling to Her to come and be with us. You move away from the warm circle round the fire to have your own communication with Her and you return to your tribe filled again with the certainty that She is within you, part of you…you.
Magic Mushrooms grow at this end of the year so that we can use them as a shamanistic tool to take us through the layers of our consciousness. I do not think that it is a coincidence that such a magical tool exists at such a magical time of year. The shroud of the unknown and the dark is daunting but with a full heart and a brave mind one can reach out to the Others.
I do not fear death. I know there is a girl waiting for me in the Summer Country.
So I shall be spending Halloween with my children tonight but after they are asleep I hope I will find a moment to go outside and sit under the moon to have my own communion with my Goddess. She has a lot to teach me.