Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Call of the Cailleach: Samhain Reflections
Samhain this year, I have been reading a great deal of Scottish lore where I came across the Cailleach Beara--the Winter Crone--Grandmother of Gods and humans. Samhain is the end of the reign of Angus and Brigid and the beginning of Grandmother Cailleach’s reign. What struck me most about this myth is that, although the Cailleach is fearsome, she is also the epitome of wisdom and, I can’t explain this, but I feel from her a certain tenderness. Yes, we are tested in winter by her iciness and incessant howling--by, as the lore goes, the eight hags that serve her and deepen the winter chill--but we do survive and we continue to survive. We learn things in the depths of darkness, we come to appreciate more fully the light, and in those howlings from the dark woods, there is deep, deep magic.
Because my birthday is exactly two weeks before Halloween, this time of year has always been special to me. When I start to see the colorful gourds and jolly pumpkins in the grocery store, I get giddy. I ponder near months in advance what my costume will be. As I drive around town, I drive my family crazy pointing out all the most glorious turning trees. When the first chill of autumn wisps through the air, I feel an awakening--I feel my spirit enliven and my mystical yearnings begin to pulse. I’ve often tried to figure out why this season is so special to me, and the only thing I have come up with is that it strikes me as the last hurrah before the cold of winter--like nature going out in style. It is a time of pure, unfettered fun and every day filled with anticipation for the big sendoff of Halloween.
Halloween is a big, big deal and, for some reason, my family has always been able to do the decoration with absolutely no stress or squabbling like we inevitably have around the rest of the holidays. We also always cook up some ghoulish treats for the night--like Mummy Eyeballs which are really deviled eggs, or Spinal Cord Spirals, which are really tortilla wraps. Then there is handing out candy to the beggars, parties, and scary movies every night for at least the week before. Funny how, now that I am a Pagan, I enjoy all of these things even more because I know there is a real spiritual significance behind them--and always has been. Now, as a Pagan, I have been able to add to the festivities the decorating of the Samhain altar, writing letters to my departed loved ones, leaving a light in the window for them on Samhain night, and using my poetic gifts to write a ritual to do either on my own or in a group.
Perhaps the autumn magic I always felt in my bones even as a child was the soft yet persistent call of Grandmother Cailleach drawing me to my Pagan path. As the season progresses, the nights lengthen, and her call resounds ever more loudly in my soul, may I have the wisdom to heed her and to follow fearlessly wherever she may lead.
So be it.
Blessed by the Mystery