In many pagan traditions, Samhain is the New Year. In my own tradition of Druidry, this is not the case. As Druidry is a religion of Nature, all our holidays are but a time to gather to honor its tides, and the flow of the seasons. And our holidays reflect what is happening in the landscape. They are designed to bring us into a more conscious awareness of the cycles of change that are happening all around us in Nature.
For the druid, the new cycle of growth begins at Yule with the return sun at the Winter Solstice. The days begin to lengthen and we are infused with hope for a new cycle of growth. The long darkness begins to abate. Yes a long Winter is still ahead but after the tides appear to stand still, a tiny shift happens and we can begin to see a new current flowing in the landscape, each day bringing a little more light.
In the Druid tradition, Samhain is viewed as a tide. I often refer to this as the Samhain tide instead of just Samhain, as it denotes a period of time instead of just a moment. Nature isn’t beholden to our human calendar. While we may celebrate Samhain on October 31st, that isn’t usually the case for the druid. The Samhain tide begins when Natural death comes to the landscape. It begins when the first killing frost hits. While at Alban Elfed (Welsh/Brythonic pronounced elved, it is the autumn equinox, meaning “light of autumn,” the celebration of the harvest), we consciously kill as we harvest the food we have planted, slaughter the animals we have raised for food, or gather wild mushrooms in the forest. This killing is a choice. At Samhain, Nature does the killing. The growth cycle has ended for the year – no matter if we would have it be otherwise. It is done.
Yet as Nature brings death to the year of growth, a new cycle has decidedly not started. Nature doesn’t work that way where one moment it is one way, then the next it is another. Nature moves in tides. The returning of the sun isn’t for another few months. Yet the days are still growing darker. The power of darkness so prevalent in these Northern climates becomes palpable. It is the strongest force of Nature moving through the landscape – ignore it at your own risk. And it continues to gather strength until we begin to doubt the days will ever grow longer. We feed the fire and ride out this time of unknowing. The time of growth ended, yet no new cycle has started. In Druidry, the Samhain tide is viewed as a time of chaos.
Chaos is powerful energy. At the edge of chaos is where we find the most complexity in Nature. This is a scientific observation. And I also see this within my own soul – at the edges of it are all the complexities of relationship. Diving into the processes of my own psyche and into the processes of my own soul during the Samhain tide is so freeing. As I dream in the darkness, not needing to worry about beginning anything, simply mirroring Nature and what is going on in the landscape, I frequently discover much that was hidden. I don’t dream small. I dare to dream without limits. I can completely let go of preconceptions of what is possible in life. This is the gift of the Samhain tide. This is the gift of chaos.
We dive headlong into Cerridwen’s cauldron of transformation and we are transformed. We let go of the past. Like a serpent sheds its skin, we shed our outdated images of who we are. We let go of the preconceptions we have in our relationships as well, letting others be free from the boxes we try to hold them in. The Samhain tide is an opportunity to go back to source and come out the other side freed from chains of our own creation. Samhain is death. And death is the source of all that is. Metaphorically speaking, the Samhain tide is our chance to walk willing into death and free ourselves of the constraints of all the fixed patterns of our life. Samhain, more than any other of our holidays, is about freedom.
We are often like leaves shaking in the wind, holding on to all that is known. During this Samhain tide, I invite you all to let go. Nature will force us to anyway, but there is power in choice. So my pagan brothers and sisters, let’s flow with Nature, let’s stop fighting the currents, let’s dive headlong into the darkness and embrace this time of change. Let’s swim in the liquid Awen held within her cauldron. Let’s dream without limits and let go of the need to ‘know.’ Now is a time of chaos and unknowing. Let’s dance with forces of death. Let’s be free.
Blessings of transformation,