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Samhain: Dark Matters

Merry Samhain to all! I say that quite deliberately – it may not be the most obvious seasonal festival for merry-making but I think it should always be an integral aspect of any seasonal consideration. We refer to them as seasonal celebrations for a reason!

All over people will be celebrating in their own way (and special wave to the other hemisphere where it’s Beltane rather than Samhain). Those following slightly older traditions will be out guising, others will be pursuing its more contemporary cousin trick-or-treating, and many more will be indulging in the complementary “shut the curtains, turn the lights out and pretend we’re not home” method.
Does it matter that these are frivolities whose meaning has largely been either lost or warped?

The more magically minded may be acknowledging the turning season, the death of the oak king and ascent of the holly king; others will be remembering those that have passed and looking to what can be learned and gained from loss; while yet others treat it as an occasion for honouring all who have gone before, whole bloodlines and the essence of ancestral spirits.
Does it matter whether the provenance for these practices may be based in romantic reinvention rather than ancient mystery? Is it important which, and how, and why you opt to pursue?

Others still, probably lesser in number, will channel Samhain as a time to reach for the darkness, truly parting the veil, the narrow window when the darkness reaches back. Many of the practices that have often been deemed taboo, illicit, immoral (or at least questionable) in the New Age spiritual rebranding of magic, but whose roots go the deepest in the dark and are increasingly being rediscovered and explored…
Does it matter if we court controversy, whether we are drawn in by morbid curiousity, sensationalism or academic enquiry rather than an all-encompassing divine mandate?

Yes, it matters. It absolutely matters. It matters that when we choose to acknowledge, to honour, to celebrate that we understand, on a personal level, the what and the how and the why as it relates to us. Whether it’s something you’ve adopted (perfectly legitimate) or something you’ve devised yourself (equally legitimate!) the essential driving force should be that it adds meaning and value to your path and your practice, not something undertaken by rote based on a blog post you read somewhere (even if it’s mine).

For me Samhain is an exceptionally special time of year – I will indulge the guisers (but not the trick-or-treaters, no party piece means no reward at mine I’m afraid) for a bit, (hopefully) dash off to the Beltane Fire Society torchlit parade to acknowledge the turning of the year and then, assuming I’m not completely wiped, take some time when I get home to honour what Samhain truly means for me*.

*As a matter of metaphorical reference I tend to take a Granny Weatherwax approach to this – stand on the threshold and face the darkness, accept all that it stands for and means, turn towards the light and step back