For the ancient Celts, October was a special month. All hinge points in the wheel of the year were seen as an opening into the next phrase.
January is Winter’s portal into Spring. April is Spring’s portal into Summer. July is Summer’s portal into Autumn, and October is the Autumn portal into Winter.
But within those four portals there was seen to be two great portals: the invitation into the light, and the invitation into the shadows.
April, with it’s growing light as our star decided to hang around longer and longer each day, was an invitation into the light half of the year.
October, with it’s lingering moon, was an invitation into the shadow half of the year, and was known as the “season of frost and firelight.” Indeed: we’ve lit a fire the past few mornings in our own house.
The Celts called the festival at the end of October “Samhain” (pronounced “sow-wen” in Gaelic). It literally means “summer’s end.” This festival was Christianized around the 7th Century as Hallowmas (or All Hallow’s Eve) and, on November 1st, All Hallow’s Day (All Saints’ Day).
That phrase continued to evolve and is now colloquially Halloween.
Rather than some sort of time to celebrate evil or goblins or whatnot, Samhain was actually a time where the Celts explored and ushered in the gifts and mysteries of the shadow-half of the year.
Why do things seem to “go bump” in the night?
Why do we take fire for granted until we can’t see anything anymore?
What does it mean to take seriously the idea that rest and fallowness are necessary for life?
How does family time change when we’re all stuck inside, and what does that mean for us? Could it be possible that, in these intense family times, dead family members join us around the fire (as specters or ghosts)?
Why, in the shadows, are we more tempted to do what we should not? How do we ward off such tempters? (One solution was the Jack-o-lantern)
The shadow-side of the year, like our own shadow-sides, is not to be feared but, as the Celts did, explored and held and learned from.
Like all good mysteries.