Riding The Wheel of the Year: All Hallows Eve Samhain Meditation
October is the time of year when many of my pagan and Wiccan friends celebrate their New Year; All Hallows E’en, Samhain, the night when the veils between the worlds are thin.
I share with my readers a decades-old meditation I wrote during the years when I investigated the Wiccan path. Even if such a path is not yours, it is a good time for all of us to reflect back on what we must die to, in order to be reborn. May all find it useful.
Night has cloaked the countryside in frost-rimed velvet. A sickle moon climbs the clouds, hooking Her horn into wisps of grey. Tiny lights glimmer in a crystalline sky.
You are in a wood. It is ancient, this wood, the ground spongy with leaves from countless seasons. Your footfalls are silent as you search for a path through the bracken. Cobwebs cling to you; brambles and low bushes catch at you wherever you walk. Soft rustlings at odd moments remind you that there are others, not human, to whom the night belongs. The wind sighs mournfully, a soft dirge tangled in the trees.
It is the trees that rule here. Great gnarled roots claim the soil. Heavy trunks, scarred and old with moss-covered bark, crowd together as if for counsel. Branches winter-bare claw heavenward, with the last leaves waiving tattered summer banners.
One massive oak dominates the rest. The others are but striplings compared to it, its trunk unable to be compassed by a dozen men. Old before the forest began, its bark shows the marks of men and animals that have tried to take it down. The men are but memories, the animals dead and naught but bone – and the tree lives on.
There is a shadowing in the heart of the tree. It shifts, fading into darkness, then solidifying. The shadow is an opening, a cleft in the oak; the air within is colder yet. . . and you are drawn to it.
Carefully, cautiously, you stretch your hand into the darkness, and find steps. Crude steps that go down and down into the ground.
Drawing a resolute breath, you enter the oak and descend.
The sounds of the forest die away behind you. You are in the womb of the earth, utterly still and utterly black. You guide yourself down the steps with a hand on the wall. The wall is damp, smelling of loam and grubs and decay. You pull your cloak around you for warmth.
Finally, after what seems hours, you sense the steps getting shallower, the stairway widening. Ahead there is a phosphorescent glow, sending silhouettes of roots skittering against the walls.
A tunnel snakes ahead into the gloom. A series of veils hang from the ceiling, wavering in the slight current of air. You hesitate; will you year the veils? Will they let you pass?
You push the first one aside. Suddenly, there is a pale Wraith at your side. Think back to the first death that touched you; the first family member that was, and then was not. Look into their face; greet them. Tell them what you never did; let them tell you what they never got a chance to say. You embrace them and they are gone.
You go to the next veil, push it aside. You find another friend gone to the Summerland; another chance to speak and to be spoken to. Tell them what is in your heart; let them gift you with what was in theirs. Embrace them, and let them go.
You go through as many veils as there have been passings in your life. Each one has carved you just a little. And then, there are new Wraiths at which you stare in fascination. They are you – and yet they are not. They are who you have been – they are your former lives. Each comes to impart a lesson, to give you a key to this life from a life before. Some of them are beautiful, wise and kind; some are cruel; some despairing and afraid; and some do not even know that you and they are one.
Talk to all of them. Admit them to your heart; they are part of you. Embrace them; accept their lessons and let them go.
At the last veil, you find yourself in a large chamber. It is ringed with torches, each one held by a black-robed priestess.
In the center of the chamber is a solitary throne. Obsidian and mahogany, rock and wood, it has roots like the oak, and like the oak they sink deep into the ground.
In that place sits the Deathcrone.
She is black and white. Black hair falls over Her arms, trails in Her lap, pools at Her feet like riverwater in moonlight. Her robe is black, like Her priestesses, so black that there is no reflection to show texture or fold. Her face is white as bone, Her hands like the finest marble. Her eyes are black, as if they had been cut from the night sky at New Moon. Only Her lips hold a tinge of pink, as if to speak of the lifeblood that renews itself beyond death through rebirth.
Those lips smile at you; the fathomless eyes hold your own. You know that there are many who would fear Her, run mad from Her presence and never find their way back to the light. . . and you know that, for you, there is no fear, only acceptance and comfort. So you go willingly to the outstretched hand, sink down at Her feet, closing your eyes, your head resting against Her knee.
Time stops. You do not count time at the foot of Her throne; you are only conscious of your own thoughts, and Her hand softly, ceaselessly caressing your brow. Her touch keeps your mind clear, able to see far deeper into yourself than you ever have above. Now is the time to go through your memories, one by one, as through a large and beloved book. Pore over them, owning each one, savoring each one, the good and the bad, not judging, only remembering, only accepting. Examine the Veils and the Wraiths, and take into yourself the gifts they brought you. And let yourself float in the dark, as if you, too, had become a Wraith, awaiting rebirth and the recollection of your future Selves.
A movement in front of you: one of the priestesses kneels at the Dark One’s feet, proffering a pottery bowl. She leans forward, taking it only Her lap, and then gently tilts your face upward.
You open your mouth at Her voiceless request, and feel Her place the pomegranate seeds on your tongue. They are bittersweet and icy cold. You swallow, the juice burning your throat. Somehow, they bring you to your feet, and you feel time poised to move again.
“It is given to few to see Me and remember,” She says to you softly. “You are one of the Wise Ones who know Me and are not afraid. Because of this, I will show you the Way of Return, and promise that, each year, you may seek me at Samhain, that we may renew the bond of Death and Rebirth.”
She kisses your brow, and signs it with the Waning Moon. Another priestess bows, this time to you, and leads you to a great Wheel. The Wheel towers high above you, its upper spokes lost in shadow. . . but you move toward it confidently, and with a light touch set it spinning.
The spinning catches you like a windblown leaf; the torches blow out and you are sent spiraling upward. All thought is torn from you, as you hold to the knowledge that you live, that you will life, that it is life which speeds you upward.
There is an explosion of light that blinds you after so much dark; suddenly, you find yourself standing at the edge of the wood, the oak tree miles behind you. The light resolves itself into a bonfire, beckoning you into warmth and fellowship. You turn and look backward, as if to mark where the great oak stands. . . and then move forward into the light.