A Perspective on Samhain

There are countless books, articles, and blog posts written on the subject of Samhain. You can find ample information telling you how to practice and what it means.

I won’t add to all of that.

However, I would like to offer a perspective to consider as we move into the New Year.

Samhain is about letting go and preparing for the new. In many traditions, it is seen as the New Year. And what do we do on the New Year? We look back, we plan ahead.

When we consider the cycle of the seasons as the gestation, birthing, growth, and waning of life, then planning ahead takes on a different approach. The coming days, through the rest of autumn and through winter, becomes time when we gather our energy, grow ideas, make those under-the-surface plans. But most importantly, we rest, cultivating the energy for action when the days get longer.

Samhain is also about honoring those who came before us, whether we are related to them or not, whether we knew them or not. Their energy is still around us, their wisdom and lessons and mistakes are there to learn from, when we center into ourselves and the wider world, opening ourselves (safely, with protection) to what is there to be spoken.

However, each moment can stand individualized, and with each individualized moment, a part of us is left behind, an imprint of that time, that second, that lesson. One might argue that this is what ghosts are, an energetic imprint on a time and space that can resonate so strongly, that it is available to be witnessed by those outside of that time. That, though, is conjecture for another blog post.

If we adopt the idea that we are shedding parts of ourselves, and gaining new aspects of ourselves with each passing moment, then we can see ourselves as our own ancestors, as well as those who have come before us.

In honoring our past selves, we are also honoring our future selves, which I think is part of the beauty for Samhain acting as the New Year. It is a cycle of future and past conjoining in one moment that arrives and meets, departs, and meets again.

This time of year, I find myself ruminating on the number five, on the Hierophant in the tarot, and what it means to rediscover the self within the stories that compile our culture. For me, this is the time of remember who I am, who I was, and settling in the new version of the world that has taken hold.

We are ever in a cycle, and each time we return to the same spot, though from a higher vantage point, we are learning more, we are gaining more insight.

This is not just true for the individual, but this is true on a social level, and thus, our stories are so essential for us to move forward and evolve, and yet keep to our roots.

I will admit, this is dangerous language, because the “roots” can be taken in so many ways. But the roots are there for what supports the whole, for what allows for the health of a culture to thrive and survive. If there is a sickly part of the root, then it must be removed lest that sickly part take hold of the rest of the plant.

With this in mind, part of examining the New Year, is examining where we have come from, examining our roots. Our roots are beyond lineage, they are the stories that make sense to us, that have been told to create our understanding of the world. They have been reconstructed and retold over and over again.

The Hierophant is about looking at those stories and asking ourselves if those stories support who we are, if they support the world we want to create, or the type of personhood we want to bring forth.

Samhain, then, is a look at our past selves, the version of ourselves that has told us stories time and time again, and asking how those stories support or hold back what we are trying to develop. What is it you are allowing to survive that may not help the whole?

When we are observing ourselves, and observing our part in the whole, as the Hierophant invites us to do, and observing the stories we have ingested, then we are participating in the work that our ancestors have done.

Part of this is understanding where our ancestors, past selves, and our cultural ancestry has come from, and how it has built, evolved, missed the mark, thrived, grown, and repented. I don’t mean repent in a religious context, but rather has tried to undo the harm that has been caused or attempted to fix mistakes that were made.

This is a time of honoring and humility, so we can move forward to be better. Shame has a purpose, and that purpose is to make us aware for the wrongs that we have done. However, persistent shame, unrelenting, unforgiving shame does no one any good. It leads to oppression, and more damage done. Again, this can be seen in the stories we personally tell ourselves, in cultural stories, and religious texts. In our ancestors’ actions, in our ancestors’ lessons.

If we can isolate that shame, if we can grow around it like a thick bark, like knob, then we can isolate that shame. We can create a protective layer that serves as a reminder of that which we have done, and yet learned and grown from. If we perpetuate the shame, we are only reliving the experience, causing more damage to ourselves instead of taking the actions to heal from it.

We use this time to honor our ancestors so we can grow and strengthen our future. Use this time to see where you have come from in the past, the place that our ancestors have gone through, and the lessons they have learned. We honor them so they can pass their lessons on to us. We honor them so we can heal ancestral trauma. We honor them so we can reduce harm for future generations.

Honor the past so that we may honor what has yet to come.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: