This Samhain season, the darkness around us seems especially heavy, almost impenetrable at times. Our individual worries and struggles flow together with the collective pain of a culture and a planet in peril. The temptation to surrender to that darkness, to allow it to swallow us whole, can be immense. There can absolutely be value in going to that place of surrender – but only if we do not stay there.
The nights grow longer, the wheel of the year turns toward the West. The time of the Bone Mother is here. Bone Mother. Cailleach Béara. Nicnevin. In Gaelige traditions, she is the dark bride the land becomes at Samhain. Here, the North wind is her breath. If Brighid is the flowing water and the bright dancing flame, the Cailleach Béara is the cold solidity of the Earth which holds our ancestors’ bones, the darkness of the womb and the grave.
Autumn roots are perfect medicines for the journey within that the dark half of the year calls us to. Soil, roots, and mycelia are the fascia of the Earth. Roots and myeclia carry chemical and electromagnetic information between trees and fungi and understory plants beneath the forest floor. The soil is the medium through which they run. Our own bodies are like the forest floor, just beneath the surface of our skin, the fascia relays messages.
Journalist Steve Sliberman wrote "Whatever autism is, it is not a product of modern civilization. It is a strange gift from our deep past, passed down through millions of years of evolution." Human survival depends on embracing the strange gifts that come from beyond the walled garden of culture’s accepted modes of thought and perception.
Healing is the bringing of the life moving through us into the fullness of its expression. We cannot come into the full expression of who we are without allowing our consciousness to fully enter and fill our bodies. Embodied, we experience ourselves as the animals we are whose senses are attuned to the pheromones of other creatures, the scent of rain on soil, the Milky Way and the Aurora Borealis. We recognize them as signs of the proximity of kin.
At Midsummer, St. John's Wort bloomed bright as the sun. Now there are cobwebs on its last dying flowers, and Goldenrod blossoms with summer's dying glory. In the calendar of my ancestors, Lúnasa marked the first harvest -- the harvest of grains -- and the turning of the wheel of the year toward the time of darkness. Bonfires on the hilltop brought to the night what the burning sun brought to noon -- the bright, dry, hot blaze that precedes the ashen embers of autumn.