Nights have gotten cool here.
I have pulled out the down comforter and rescued my woolen slippers from the back of the closet.
Ginger and cinnamon have once again found their way into my tea blends and it’s rare that I don’t have a cup of something warming my hands.
I suspect that the sudden abundance of small feathers and squirrel tails (minus the squirrels) and the raucous protests of the neighborhood crows are signs that the hawks are passing through these mountains on their autumnal trip south.
This is, without contest, my favorite time of year.
In Ireland we would lean into these last days, harvesting and collecting plant medicine for the winter months. Nothing would be gathered after Samhain–which we call Halloween–when the fairies were said to piss on the peppermint and spit on the hawthorn.
And so the evening of October 31 was a party, in some ways like Halloween is here, but not given over to children.
There is a magic to finishing your work for the season and then donning the mask of winter. I painted a black band over my eyes and wove raven feathers into my hair. Not as sophisticated as the Darth Vader masks or sexy kitten lingerie found here in the States, but it suited my mood and the time of honoring our ancestors.
This is where the masking originally comes from, you know: the spirits are abroad as the days grow shorter and a mask keeps them from recognizing you, in case they mean you harm.
In this time when the veil between the world is thin, we call our ancestors to us to offer guidance through the darker months. We honor them with cakes and wine and fill a plate for them at the table.
This is how we celebrated there, then.
It’s been a dozen years since my apprenticeship in Ireland but I have never lost the reverence for this season. As the scent of the wind changes, and the cold begins to whisper in, I feel the energy shifting. I imagine that I can sense the veils thinning and the spirit world snuggling closer, as if to stay warm through the darkest days.
It’s in this spirit that I have been beginning my own harvest.
Not plants this year, but ideas. Thoughts that have been ripening on my mind’s vine are suddenly full and ready for tasting. The juice of these days drips off my chin as I gather supplies for the Samhain Retreat, where I will have the joy of guiding others into the reverence of this season, where we will honor our lineage and the particular magic that we bring to our bloodlines. The crows are dropping feathers we’ll weave into our hair, and small crystals are finding their way to my hands for our altars.
Most of the year, I stand in the doorway, weaving a gentle wildness into my days, watching the signs of the seasons and the cycles of the moons. And so I look forward to the sweet days that hinge autumn to winter, when I put my work down and step, wholly, into the mystic.
Begin making your plans, my friends. Sample the winds and see if you can taste change.
And be sure to head to the comments and tell me what this season means to you.