A tumble ofcoloured plastic jokes and tricks,
Masks and paradies, stereotyped images leering and challenging from every shop window.
Is this Sanhain? This unhallowed travesty on the fire
of timelessness when the gate to the Hallows is open?

A wild washing of the sky, ragged clouds across a hunters moon, a shrouding of pearl
Shape-shifting misting of mornings, gossamer gorse, a Spider spun web of dawn beauty.
The deep smell of woodsmoke, spark ash flying like the bright flying, blood dying leaves.
This is Samhain.

Like all main festivals, Samhain is a gateway, a transition from one season to another. In Celtic mythology at the heart of every gateway is a paradox. The threshold is literally between two worlds but is, in itself, in neither and in both at the same time.

Samhain is the gateway to the winter. We still tend to regard the coming of winter with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. As the Green One dies and is returned to the earth, the Goddess, now the dark crone, mourns Him and all seems to die. But the bringer of death is by definition the bringer of Life. And there is a wilderness, a release in Samhain which is of great and intense beauty. It is a time to let go of all unwanted baggage, attitudes etc. as the trees let go of the years leaves. Indeed if the trees did not loose their leaves they would be a hindrance to growth.

The old tales tell how the gates between the worlds stand open at this time. Journeys to the "Other World", either metaphorically or otherwise, may well be transformative. It is for this reason that Samhain can be seen as a time when the past and future are available to the present. It is a time to see ourselves as part of the web of past and the future, a link in the great chain of being. We are not isolated in time.

But change is not always easy. Transformations may be painful. Gateways have guardians. The stereotyped Halloween images of the Demon or the Hag are shadowed, half forgotten, muddled memories of these Guardians. The Horned one, hunter and hunted, compassionate watcher of the furred and feathered ones, when we meet Him before the gate may seem a fearful trickster. The Hag, "the Washer at the Ford" may remind us that change is inevitable, that if we remain static we cannot grow. But when the gate is passed and the challenge met we can look back and see them, from the other side, revealed as the laughter in the fresh forest and the Green Goddess of growth. This is the challenge. This is Samhain.

Chris Thompson.

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