Samhain — More

Samhain (Halloween) stands within the threshold of the dark part of the year.  In modern Britain, the clocks are about to return from Summer Time to Greenwich time, and  darkness to invade the evenings dramatically earlier!  Samhain marks the the completion of descent into introversion, from connecting with the yang energy of the sun, to finding grounding in the yin energy of the earth.    In the wood, it is the time when the sap no longer rises,  when the energy of the trees withdraws into the roots, and when next year’s seeds lie dormant.  Some mammals, such as bears, go into hibernation.  Smaller ones, such as ticks and butterflies, go into completely suspended animation. In many indigenous cultures it is also the time when the shaman visits and consults  with the ancestors, the living remember and put out food for them, and the nation formally honours them. Our ancestors are, after all, those who have already returned to the earth, and who from there can best advise, protect  and inspire their descendants during the “Dream time.” So Dante called on Virgil as his guide through the Inferno.  The time is not without its risks, whether  when it is the dead who re-enter our world to feast this one night with the living (beware the “hungry ghosts” among them!), or when it is the living who journey to the land of the dead, as Odysseus did before he could complete his journey home.   Such mythic journeys undertake, in the words of Friar Lawrence, “a thing like death…That copest with death himself to ‘scape from it,” and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a reminder of how risky such a journey may be.  Yet such encounters also carry a potential for really radical healing — healing at the roots, which is why literature is so engaged with them.