Samhain is one of the between times

I love threshold times. I think the Gaels were right about these times being magical. There is something about twilight and being up in the morning twilight and at the evening twilight where you can feel your are tiling into something else. Right now I walk to the bus in the not quite dawn light. Things are quiet and hushed. The birds are just starting to sing and greet the dawn. The air is clean and things smell fresh. It somehow feels like you are walking between worlds. It’s not light and it’s not dark, it’s between.

Twilight at evening is the same way. The energy of the day is dissipating. The squirrels and the birds are settling into their nests with an occasional coo from the doves and if you are lucky a far off owl is waking up. If you are lucky enough to live where there are bats. They are coming out to hunt insects and spreading their quiet wings in the not quite dark.

This is between time of year. It isn’t Summer and it isn’t yet Winter. It’s halfway between the vernal equinox and the winter solstice and just like Beltane it’s crack between the seasons. In California it’s a time before our rainy season starts and when the Santa Ana winds blow down the canyons and warm the beaches instead of cool them. When the winds blow from the desert and not the ocean. The sounds change because the leaves are now rattling and stiff and make a different sound than spring and summer leaves. They crackle and scud along the sidewalks and yards. The air is softer and not the crispness of winter.

If you have Gaelic/Celtic ancestors your ancestors would be ready to join you at supper for the end of summer . In ancient times you would have taken their skull for the their place of honour in a niche in the wall to join you at the table. The Celts believed that the skull was the seat of your knowledge and soul so honoured relatives and revered enemies taken in battle skulls were kept and the being that resided in them honoured. It’s where the concept of a worthy adversary came from. If you were honourable in the way you conducted your battles then even if you lost you had a place of honour. These were eventually replaced by the carved turnips and then when the pumpkin made its way over the pond the Jack o’ Lantern. That’s why the default carving on a pumpkin is a face. He’s just another big headed/skulled Scot. I can say that my family had huge heads. I had the biggest graduation cap in the whole senior class in high school, big square head. (also the funniest bit in the movie, “So I married an axe murder” to my sister and I).

There is a hush at this time of year as the earth quiets down. It gives up the last of the harvest, the root vegetables like turnips and potatoes are ready. The animals that were selected to be culled are killed for their meat and to sustain the clan. The earth is preparing for the death of the light and of things that live on the earth. It’s preparing to tell it’s stories. It’s preparing for rest.

So we stand at the threshold of a new year and just as the Gaels believed in the day starting with evening and not morning the year starts in the beginning to the dark of the year on Samhain eve. The word for summer in Scots Gaelic is Samradh and the word for monster of giant is samhanach. And the word for November is An t-Samhain in Gaelic**. And I’m going to yell here so cover your ears, “THERE IS NO SUCH PERSON< DEITY <ETC AS LORD SAMHAIN! NOVEMBER IS NOT A DEITY!” Getting down and feeling better. Sigh… As far as I can tell some anti-paganism, anti-wiccan anti-everything but some Christian fool made that up for one of those awful tracts they hand out instead of candy and some illiterate pagan parroted it.

**See among others, Dwelly’s Gaelic Dictionary but Dwelly’s is the best and the biggest.

See for more information on Gaelic Holidays – F. Marian McNeill’s 4 volume “Silver Bough”.

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