Today, we're going to explore the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, and use this seasonal shift as a stepping-off point for personal reflection.
Today marks Samhain, which is sometimes referred to as Celtic New Year, and the word itself is believed to mean 'summer's end'.
As such, this festival serves as a marking point within the year, telling us that summer has now ended and that we will soon be emerging into the cold, dark and frosty depths of winter.
It is at this time that we may like to ask ourselves, 'What have I harvested from the year that has almost passed?' and 'How can I nourish myself, mind body and soul, preparing myself for the descent into the slow stillness of winter?'
The autumn equinox has passed and the winter solstice is still to come, and we may feel that we are standing at a crossroads as we take a moment to pause and
ponder at this threshold of the year.
Today's liminal festival of Samhain marks an almost 'in-between' time, where we can find ourselves thinking about what lies behind us, and what is still to come.
At Samhain, or Halloween, we may reflect on days gone by and the loved ones we have lost, and some of us may even like to set the table with an extra place as a sign of our remembrance of friends and family who have passed over.
At this time, too, there is a sense that the boundaries between autumn and winter have become more porous, and this seasonal transition is echoed in our sense that the border between our world and the Otherworld has become more permeable, like a portal that we may more easily pass through.
Whatever we think about this, I believe that now is the perfect time to think of the wisdom that the past months and years have taught us.
As blustery winds blow golden leaves from the trees and nature slows down its pace, our mind may naturally turn to the lessons we can learn from the ancestors who came before us too.
As we step through this seasonal doorway into the darker months, signs of loss, endings and decay are all around us in the natural world, and we may feel that this time of year is bleak and unwelcome. Even November's full moon is known as the Mourning Moon - and as a part of nature, it is perhaps unsurprising that our thoughts seem to echo what we see happening in the natural world.
However, though we may mourn the loss of autumn colours and the warmer days of summer, nature does not. Old leaves make way for new growth, providing nourishment and giving life to the new leaves yet to come.
Life is still buzzing below the surface, and at the root, there is a deep wisdom that is beautiful beyond any poetry that any human hand could write.
If the natural world teaches us anything, it is this: that we must not fear the wild cycles of life, that each season has its own bounty and gifts and lessons, and that although we may soon be entering winter, springtime is never far away. The rhythms of nature are as regular and reliable as clockwork.
For hundreds of years, too, Samhain has seen us carve pumpkins, or jack o' lanterns, placing a candle inside the hollowed-out gourd. At this time, too, many bonfires have been lit, with the element of fire invoked as a symbol of light shining in the darkness, and a visual reminder that the sun will soon return.
Fire, too, not only reminds us of sunlight, but also of its ability to purify and protect, to symbolically burn away what is no longer needed, and to cleanse us with its sacred smoke. The humble pumpkin, then, prompts us to ask ourselves, 'What are we ready to leave behind us, and what seeds need to be protected and nurtured over the coming months?'
Many of us, too, may be familiar with seasonal customs like Trick or Treat, and Apple Bobbing. I love the rich symbolism of apples in the autumn. A fruit long associated with the Otherworld, the mythical isle of Avalon literally translates as the 'Isle of Apples'.
Believed by some to have been a real place, there are many who believe that place to be Glastonbury, as the Tor was once said to have been surrounded by water.
Whether a real place or a place that exists in the depths of the mythic imagination, Avalon was said to have been a place of beauty, healing, and abundance, where apples grew in plentiful, never-ending supply.
Now, as the clocks fall back and the year grows cold and dark, it is this sense of hopefulness, of fruitfulness, and of the sacred seed contained within the apple that I like to hold on to as we move into the winter months.