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Samhain: a New View
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Author: Radko Vacek
Posted: October 28th. 2012
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The Holy Day of Samhain has far more importance than usually realized. Celebrated by the mainstream society as Halloween or the evening before All Saints Day, its full significance only comes to light through knowing essential metaphysics. I briefly cover three of those essential associations here.
The first of these associations is the origin of Samhain as the old Celtic New Year. This original fact has been expanded to make the day the New Year among contemporary Pagans. As are all New Year observances, Samhain as well is a time to prepare to go through a year all over again. The prefix standing for "over again" is, re-, so you might expect words starting with this prefix a lot in this article. Right on! Yes, Samhain is associated with a new view, of the pentagram! This article explains how you may picture this Holy Day as an upward-pointing pentagram of five "re" verbs: "react" at the upper left point, "resolve" at the lower right, "relax" at the uppermost point, "revise" at the lower left, and "restore" at the upper right.
Any New Year is a threshold, one of those magical times most favorable for making crucial transitions. It is a day to review the actions over the past year. Unless you are totally apathetic, you cannot help but react, usually both positively and negatively. Identifying those actions that did not go well, to which your behavior contributed, you reflect on what you could do to make things go better. You then resolve to remedy specific behaviors during the coming year.
In my poem, The Creature, posted on Witchvox, the humor derives from the caricature of the person at the magical threshold, here one's own front door. The turning point of the story is in the tenth stanza, as the poor fellow ponders whether or not ignoring the rapping, a likely standard of his action from the past until that moment, now is a behavior to start reacting against, as possibly "being inhumane to some creature poor in pain?" He does react by opening the door wide. Since he does not die as a consequence, this might well be a point when he resolves nevermore to let crazy confusion and fear of rude intrusion stop him from taking the chance to help someone in need.
The magical thing about carrying out a resolution is that, not only does it redirect the course of the future for the better, but also, in one sense, it uplifts even the past! The whole story, from the very beginning, gains a new sanctity of purpose, so that even the bad of the past no longer is in vain, but now serves the purpose of helping to actualize this ideal. In this limited sense, even the past may be changed when we actualize resolutions.
Besides being a threshold to pass through with resolutions, as the Holy Day of New Year it also must be a time to recharge our biological batteries. Yes, no matter how much we may want to move ahead, we first need to relax, recuperating from the stresses of a whole year! The ultimate state of relaxation is sleep; so do not feel guilty about getting sleep to recover. Is it not amazing how restless our brains are? Only for a while are we in deep sleep, for soon we start dreaming. Our dreams include much imagery. Dreaming very much is envisioning! As students of the sacred mysteries, we learn about what the nineteenth century Romantic poets were focused on: the power of visions. Visions today are results the day after tomorrow! Far from being merely random, cerebral activity, vivid dreams and daydreams may act on the more distant future, in actually revising reality! So, Samhain also is your chance to revise reality to a limited extent.
In a very broad way, you can revise reality around Samhain. Images of hags and death abound at this time for a profound reason. Around their New Year observances, mainstream society uses images of Old Man Time to stand for the old year coming to an end, and a newborn for the new year. They might have used a skeleton, but such a spooky image gets banished to Halloween. The birth of the new necessarily goes hand-in-hand with the death of the old. What is the significance of the witchy hags? The witchiness comes with the nature of Samhain as a time of thresholds, for thresholds traditionally facilitate the working of magic. But why the depiction of witches as hags? Is negative stereotyping the only reason?
There actually is redeeming value for us Pagans in the hag imagery. The reasons are sound for thinking of the Mother Goddess, Earth or Nature, in terms of the magical hag. In spite of the influence of scientific rationalism, the diverse life that Earth has brought into being still strikes us in some ways as quite magical! But why the image of the hag? There are two fine reasons: factual and symbolic.
We are okay in considering Earth our Mother, but She first gave birth to life at least three billion years ago! As old as She is, the image of the hag fits her nature now very well. The symbolic is the finer reason. We shun aging for its link with death approaching, for death is shunned as an evil to be delayed or conquered from the Christian view. Even if we call ourselves Pagans, from the backs of our minds Christian thought still influences our thinking. But death is not evil: it is just another way of looking at life, and death is essential to Nature. Therefore, depicting the Mother Goddess, Earth or more generally Nature, as a hag makes perfect sense, in depicting this aspect of death, so ignored and so essential to Her character.
The shunning of death is the evil. It has resulted in allowing far too many people into the world, while, with the extension of life spans, far too few people making timely exits. Population growth is the one, main evil now on Earth: it is the common denominator in the environmental crisis, and what is making our old Mother ill with a fever, Global Warming. There are far too many of our species: how can we hope for a sound standard of living for all, while also achieving the preservation of a healthy, natural, global environment? We cannot, as long as we keep making our old Mother sick!
Let us put two and two together. Earth is aging and we are making Her ill. That could soon equal the death of Earth, that is, the end of life on this planet! The environmental crisis, worse and worse year by year, is not a reflection of Divine Will in "the end times", but rather a reflection of human irresponsibility. On this Samhain and into all of the coming year, as Pagans our top priority should be to restore the health of Mother Earth.
We have come full circle to the fifth point in the pentagram, corresponding to: restore. To close the star, we must yet connect the fifth point with the first, corresponding to, react. Let us join forces with environmental and animal rights groups, to restore the health of Mother Earth, as we react vehemently against the cruel, destructive actions and the outrageous inactions of the apathetic.
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