Everything begins in the dark.
Instead of fearing the shadows that creep during this time of year, we can invite them in and learn from them.
What is Samhain?
Samhain is an age-old Irish tradition of honoring the end of harvest season and the beginning of the dark season.
The Celts brought the tradition to the West during the great Irish migration of the 1800s, and it became known as Halloween or All Hollow’s Eve. Tradition tells us that Samhain is the time of year where the veil—the “threshold” between the living and the dead—is the most thin, and therefore, a potent time for magic and ancestral connection.
This is also the time where mischief abounds and the lines between reality and illusion are blurred. We can see this today in our tradition of Trick or Treat, especially when older kids may egg houses or toilet-paper your front yard.
In the Celtic tradition, Samhain was also the time where fairies and ghosts played tricks on the living, and people wore costumes to disguise themselves from these other-worldly creatures to keep safe. Homes would be adorned in lighted candles to keep the darkness at bay and to give our ancestors a guiding light to return home. Turnips, instead of pumpkins, were actually used to hold lit candles; pumpkins later became more useful when the Celts realized that it was easier to carve a pumpkin than a turnip.
As the pagan way of life was quickly Christianized, Samhain gave way to All Saint’s Day. However, many of the rituals survived, and we see them still to this day on Halloween. It’s quite interesting to learn from where these traditions originated, isn’t it? I think so!
Why is Samhain important?
Now that you know a bit about what Samhain is, let’s discuss its importance.
Traditionally, Samhain marked the end of the agricultural year, a time where the autumn harvest was brought in and arrangements were made for the upcoming winter. Samhain also symbolically marked the beginning of the dark season, a time of deep personal introspection and a shift in energy.
Like every season of the year, we, too, change with Mother Nature: from high energy of summer to a slowing down as winter approaches, only to kick back up again in spring and bloom with the flowers. Personally, I think this change is most evident in the dark season, when the pace of life slows down (or forces us, if we don’t comply), when we’re encouraged to process heavier feelings, and learn to see the beauty of the barren darkness around us.
Speaking of feelings, this is a potent time to address them! One beautiful practice comes to mind when we think about the dark season, and that is shadow work. This is the practice of acknowledging unprocessed traumas, triggers, wounds, and past hurts that are manifesting as blockages and disease in our body and life, currently. Shadow work may be done through meditation, journaling, somatic healing, or journeying—and it can be done on your own or with the guidance of a therapist, teacher, or healer.
Even though the practice of shadow work will be a lifelong practice, it really hits the pinnacle during this season. Why? Because we’re quieter. The energy around us is more still, there are less distractions, and it often feels like the natural world has quieted down. We can see this in animals hibernating and in the way early mornings and evenings have an eerily quiet embrace to them. We, too, are then urged to find more stillness in our everyday rituals. It may be in more introspective meditations or practices of deeply listening to our intuition where the treasures of our shadow work are reaped.
The dark season is truly the season of descent. Our subconscious mind is the fertile land of our own healing, in that it houses our clarity and wisdom. In order to hear it, see it, and attain it, we must be willing to walk into the dark depths of it. This is also the place of our fears, so it’s common to feel resistance to entering the darkness of our subconscious mind. However, our fears are rich in personal insight—they have much to say, if we are willing to listen! And if we can approach our fears out of curiosity and childlike innocence, we can finally extend forgiveness and compassion to ourselves.
How to tap into the magic of this season.
I highly recommend meditation as the practice of choice during the dark season. This will help you practice becoming silent and listening to your intuitive signals and conversations. That silence lends to a plethora of self-acknowledgements and insights that are the cornerstones of our own development and healing. As is the case during this season, expect to bump up against resistance during your meditations. Your ego may come howling in, begging to be acquiesced to; or you may walk into certain emotions or memories that trigger resistance. Lean into these sensations as much as you can, and allow them to wash over you like a tidal wave. All of our emotions desire to be felt—light and heavy, alike.
Likewise, another beautiful practice during this season is acceptance. Humans are notorious for fixing things; we have become adept at fixing ourselves. While this may be of service some of the time, when it comes to self-development and healing, fixing is useless. We are not projects to be finished and then displayed. We are messy, chaotic, stumbling, changing human beings who are always on the road to progress, failure, and learning. We are not here to be fixed. Therefore, we have an opportunity this season to accept ourselves and reclaim all of the pieces of ourselves we have tucked away, deleted, disowned, and thrown out. A big part of shadow work is acknowledging that we are all of our emotions, and that this is okay. We are still loved, valued, and worthy.
Finally, welcome a sense of curiosity this dark season. Instead of saying “I wish I wasn’t like this (insert some adjective of yourself),” say, “Hmm, I wonder why I feel like this;” and then dive into that thought or emotion with a desire to learn, not fix. We often get locked down by only seeing ourselves through a literal lens. The dark season is a high time of symbolism! So, turn to some of your favorite divination practices or rituals to help you see the deeper, hidden meaning.
Some of my favorite are:
>> Tarot readings
>> Acting/theatre/alter egos
>> Art (paint, pencil, sculpture)
>> Shamanism practices of journeying and sand painting
>> Ancestral healing
>> Cultural rituals (from your place of birth/culture or that of your ancestors)
Everything begins in the dark.
Before we are born, we spend nine months in darkness in the womb of our mother. In a sense, this dark season is a type of return to this womb-like space. It’s a time to come back to yourself through the path of darkness, knowing that you are always safe and protected. It is often our mind and our unprocessed fears that keep us from exploring the richness of our dark spaces.
Is there actually anything to be afraid of?
Like the Celts of seasons past, light a candle in your hearth and welcome new beginnings waiting to be born.