As the wheel of the year turns this month, I am preparing to visit the time of year known where I currently live as Samhain, by others as All Hallows’ Eve and by everyone else, young and old alike as Halloween.
I don’t know about anyone else but for me time is flying. Maybe its just me getting older but I am much more aware now of the changing of the seasons and their effects on me as well as how I can best work with them rather than fight against them. Consequently I have been thinking about moving into this time of year and what it really means for me.
I’m definitely a summer person. I love sunshine and warm weather, being able to dress in T shirt and shorts and go bare foot almost everywhere. I hold onto this way of being until I am too cold to do so anymore, giving in reluctantly rather than gracefully. By Samhain summer is but a distant memory and for me it marks the final throws of autumn and I know winter isn’t far away. This is often a less energetic and active time for me, for it is a time where in my own web of life I find the energies of the North West, and the teachers of crow, winter, and death. For me Samhain becomes a time of letting go, not just of the warmth of summer and the delights of autumn with the beauty of the endlessly changing colours of the trees but of things that no longer serve me. This then is often a time of introspection, of observing what in my life is coming to an end and needs finishing off before I settle into the darker part of the year. The darker time ahead, if I have observed well and have let go of enough, now provides room for new thoughts, new learning, new ideas and often new understanding. This in turn helps me to create a fertile space for sowing seeds that can be fed and watered so that in the spring they may burst into life.
It is a time therefore for me to acknowledge the shift from the light towards the dark and to welcome in the gathering darkness not as something to be feared but as a friend. It is a time which I often mark by holding a fire ceremony either on my own with a burning bowl or with friends gathered around a fire. I always love working with the element of fire as it can really help transform the energy of whatever I am releasing or letting go of and for me at Samhain this is especially needed.
My most memorable Samhain to date though, was when I joined a workshop of djembe drummers to learn rhythms to play for dances that were being taught simultaneously to school children. In the darkness of the night itself hundreds of us gathered in the grounds of a natural parkland where the paths had been lit with night lights in paper bags, bringing in the element of fire and with glow sticks hung in trees like tiny fairy lights. All of us were dressed in white, drummers and dancers alike and the dancers all wore elaborate home made masks. As the drumming began and the sound of djembes echoed through the night we drummers walked and the dancers danced down the lit avenues surrounded by ancient trees and tiny lights. In the clearing we stopped walking, formed a circle and drummed and danced until we could do so no more.
Samhain is also a time for many of us, in many different cultures to remember or pay respects to our ancestors. When I visited Madagascar I was delighted to see that this time is a time of real celebration. A time when families get together and armed with a picnic, flowers, ribbon and candles descend en mass onto graveyards where the annual dressing of their ancestors tombs takes place. Streets are lined with stalls selling flowers, wreaths and decorations for those that haven’t brought them with them. Tombs are decorated with these bright, joyful colours, ancestors are included in the celebrations as families settle down to spend the day with them, eating, talking, sharing.
In the west if I were to go out and decorate my ancestors tombs, take a picnic with me and spend the day with them I might get some strange looks but there is nothing to stop me doing this privately by decorating photos of them, sitting and talking with them or journeying to meet them. Some of my teachers are my ancestors and they generously share their knowledge and wisdom with me throughout the year. Although I always thank them when working with them Samhain can be a good reminder for me to take the time to really acknowledge my ancestors and I can make it a special time too if it feels right, a time when they can become the focus.
What I will do this Samhain is undecided as yet. I tend to wait until near the time and then follow my instincts and intuition or if I have journeyed and asked for guidance then the teaching of my guides. All I do know is that no two years has it ever been the same.
Yvonne Ryves is a practicing shamanic healer, shamanic drum maker, holistic therapist and trainer. Yvonne lives in West Cork, Ireland, where she runs workshops and courses on a variety of aspects of energy healing and shamanic work including Reiki, Chios, Munay-Ki, Shamanic Journeying, Pendulum Dowsing and self-development. To find out about her book or to purchase it online click on the image below