Today I went to a ‘seasonal gathering’ workshop in celebration of autumn and the festival of Samhain (Halloween). It was so lovely to experience a gathering of women in a small group, and to discuss living in alignment with the seasons, and what this time of year is all about.
We talked about the different festivals in cultures around the world that celebrate the abundant harvest before the coming ‘dark’ of winter; the honouring of ancestors; death and the spirit world; and the time of inner reflection and the cradle of new growth that is the stillness and silence of winter. Halloween, Samhain, Dia de Muertos, Diwali and All Saint’s Day are all due to be celebrated over the next couple of days.
I generally practice my spirituality alone. I don’t really have a practice per se, though I am trying to commit to regular meditation and I always turn to nature for healing and cleansing. But, it was really wonderful to be a part of a group of women this time- it was nurturing and comforting, and I felt like we were honouring the wise women of old.
The witch figure of Halloween is based on these old wise women, or crones. The witch archetype is now a perverse mockery of what these women once were: healers, guardians and knowledge keepers who were connected to the Earth. They were community leaders, the grandmothers of all. They were definitely not something that should have been vilified and made a joke of.
Today’s gathering was gentle and nurturing; we were given candles and apples as tokens of the harvest gift. We blended essential oils into a little vial to carry round with us to help reinvigorate our bodies and maintain our immune systems over the coming months. And we meditated round a candlelit bowl of autumn leaves and berries. In this meditation we were asked to visualise a river at autumn time, crossing over a bridge and being guided by a crone towards a cave under the earth. This was our cave, our inner retreat and a place to reflect and release all that is no longer serving us, getting ready for the new (just as the trees shed their leaves ready for the new growth).
In mythology, caves are often like wombs under the earth – places of rebirth. They belong to the goddess, whatever name you give her. That is why it was wonderful to be amongst a group of women whilst we did this visualisation. It felt right and natural. I think if more women came together (in whatever form they choose to practice), we would make great strides towards restoring the power of women on this earth.
Togetherness really is important at this time of year. As I wrote in my articles Harvest Gratitude and Autumn and the Chakras last year, autumn and winter can prove to be great times of healing and personal growth. We just need to slow down, calm down, listen within and look to the Earth.
With love, and happy Halloween!