There are quite a few festivals celebrating light, harvest and fertility within the Wheel of the Year, but now at Samhain, it is time to reflect on the darker side of life as the growing energies of the land dies off as Mother Nature begins to rest during the cold months to follow.
As the land turns inwards, so do we, choosing the warmth of our hearths against the dark early nights, reflecting internally. Around us the bright flowers and thick foliage of summer are dying and we are reminded that life, as we experience it, is as beautiful as it is temporary. But as we watch the plant life wither and die, we have faith that their seeds have been passed on, that their own dying bodies will decompose and provide nutrients to earth prepared for the next generation of seedlings to sprout in the following spring; we have faith that life will continue, that the light will come back with the sun’s seasonal return.
The changes within nature, the subtle energies and vibrations of our world shifts, and it is said that at Samhain the veil between our Earthly realm and the Spirit realms becomes thin, raising questions about our beliefs in life after death. It is a perfectly natural feeling to want to reach out to our loved ones that have passed on- there are often questions that never got asked, confessions that were never made, realizations never shared or good byes never had that leave us longing to find closure and peace, to feel close to those who are no longer with us.
There are endless theories about what happens to us when we die, and infinite questions the subject throws up including the concept of a soul (immortal or otherwise), planes or realms of life and death (and the grey areas in between), and whether the decisions we make in our lifetime has an effect on what happens to us when we pass on. I’m not even going to attempt to explain them or go through them all- I recommend that you should seek these things for yourself…that is part of learning your own unique path- start looking at different theories from cultures you feel drawn to, as well as ones that don’t quite gel to your own…it’s good be aware of other perspectives, and may help you to feel more at ease with what your own beliefs are.
It is interesting learn how different cultures have approached this subject over history, with their vast and varied funeral procedures and myths and deities dedicated to the afterlife- Samhain is a good time to do some exploration and to reflect on the boundaries between life and death, and what they mean to you personally. What are your current thoughts about death and any potential existence after it? How have your views changed over time, and what experiences inspired these changes? Who are the people that have influenced your ideas about death? Within Nature we see that death is a transition from the end of one cycle to the beginning of another, with life returning again in the Spring.
It might seem a bit macabre at first, but Samhain can also be a good time to consider your own funeral arrangements or writing your will; ultimately it is reflecting about what you would leave behind in this world after departing from it…how do you hope to be remembered? What memories and impressions will others carry on after your passing? What elements of yourself would you want to be included in the ceremony of your life? You may also wish to consider how Eco-friendly the breakdown of your physical body will be depending on your own preferences- there are a wide variety of ecological burial options available, including bio-pot trees where your cremated ashes can be planted with a seed of a tree. Blood donation or signing up to become an organ donar upon your passing are excellent ways of making a personal sacrifice to help extend the life of another.
Traditonally Samhain is also a time to honour our ancestors- and by ancestors, I mean family, friends as well as heroes of the past. We are lucky to experience an age of celebrating independence and individuality with an inceasing awareness, and call for open expression. We take time to honour the sacrifices our ancestors made for the freedoms we can appreciate today which enable us to celebrate diversity, equality and inclusivity. We remember those who have inspired us to be better people, and we pray for the many who have given their lives so that our’s would be more positive and liberated.
Samhain is a time to honour and celebrate the lives of those who have impacted our’s. We express our gratitude to remember our loved ones who have passed into the realm of Spirit, and keep them close in our hearts always. You may like to create a special shrine to honour your ancestors using candles, photographs or other symbols of those you wish to pay homage to. Another Samhain tradition is to set up a place at the table for your ancestors during feasting.
At Samhain we honour death as a part of the cycle of life, and while we focus on the ending of life we do not obsess or fear it- death has its own time and place and will come to us all at some point. Death calls for acceptance and understanding, not to be shunned or dismissed in hushed tones. We must do our best to ensure that we live in and apreciate the present, and not to take life for granted while we have it.