Still Not Halloween

Well, no, and it’s still not Halloween in a few days.

It’s still Beltane, here in the Southern Hemisphere, but I’ve just about given up pointing that out to most people.

I’ve had to conclude that either South Africans of the middle-and-upward classes don’t know what season it is, or they’re unaware of the significance of the ages-old celebration of the start of Winter.

(Or they just don’t care and are just doing shit because the Americans do, and I must say I find this parenthetical reason the most compelling of the three).

So, OK, a quick run-down of what Samhain, also known as Halloween, has meant to humans for thousands of years:

It’s the start of the Winter season. The Celts only recognised 2 seasons, Summer and Winter. Summer started on the first week in May and we celebrate that as Beltane in the Northern Hemisphere. The start of Winter was the first week in November, midway between the Solstice and the Equinox.

It marks the beginning of the period of cold and dark, the time by which all harvests were to be safely gathered in and shelters made proof against the gathering loss of sunlight.

At this time, the ancestors and the little folk – those of other realms and dimensions – would take advantage of the liminality of the environment and draw nearer to humans. It thus became necessary for us to devise strategies to keep them from our doors, our stored crops and our livestock.

You can very easily see how the spooky motif and the tradition of Trick-Or-Treating became established out of these mass subconscious workings.

The problem comes when you try to apply these venerable rituals to the start of Summer. It won’t work, and you end up playing the absolute fool across all worlds, dimensions and realms.

Good luck with that, as ever, South Africa.

Pic: May Queen from the Beltane Fire Festival, 2012

And So Are You

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I have never been through an Imbolc quite like this one, before.

Oh, each Spring is different, has its own unique flavour – but this one has more a personality than a flavour.

I was standing in the doorway after Sunday lunch. The clouds, the paler tint of the sky: they spoke to me of Summer. The barest touch of moisture in the air, and the fact that the Cape Ash has no sooner lost its leaves than the buds are visible – all this gives a slightly onrushing feel to the start of the season.

From coming down with a ‘flu which created black shadows in the periphery of my vision to my home branch of Standard Bank literally disappearing overnight without a word, to the 5-year-old geyser element giving up the ghost, necessitating baths with water boiled upon the stove…my body feels exactly like it feels before I burst into long-pent-up floods of tears.

But there’s more than a Bustle in the Hedgerow in Joburg today.

There’s a wind-rushing, rain-sprinkling, hero-calling sense of Immanence to the city.

Will it be a Robin – the wild god of the woods – or an Arthur – the half-deified peoples’ sovereign who was, and is, and yet will come? We create gods as easily as we breathe. And that’s not necessarily a Bad Thing. On days like this I’m half convinced that we need them to Be as much as they need us. That this whole wild ride is the mingled breath of gods and humans, making and shaping and creating and destroying each other. Together. For ever.

But the Moon is full tonight in Aquarius/Leo,and I foresee myself out in the ritual area, craning up at it through the bare Ash and leaning Cycad, hoping to see that glimmer through the green fans and clouds and lunar light that says I’m Alright, and So Are You.

Image: by Neelaka

Wher Does It Come From?

ImageSunday evenings are usually liminal spaces.

In my childhood, a day spent in practice church-bell ringing or hanging out “down the brook” was brought to a close by sitting on the living room carpet, eating sandwiches into which Mum had stuck plastic “content” picks, watching Catweazle.

The next day was the start of a new week at school, so these family moments were greatly treasured – or so it seems to me, from this dizzy height of years.

Similarly, Beltaine and Samhain are liminal spaces in the year. They mark out the end of one of the two seasons the Celts acknowledged and the start of the other. Hence, a space from which to observe this turning into that. Here transforming to there. Winter becoming Summer.

The Solstices I could make a similar case for: they are the two turning points, to use algebraic language, in the cycle of the solar year. The sun reaches its high or low point and turns around between one instant and the next .

Not so the Equinoxes. While the sun crosses the equator we aren’t moving sharply from one season to another – it’s the middle of the season – and these are not turning points on the graph of the sun’s year. There is a change from longer nights to longer days, or vice versa, and the trend will continue for the next six months when the other Equinox is encountered. But only in the sense that we “step over” the equator, sun-wise, is this any kind of line in the sand.

I find the Equinoctial points more balanced than liminal, honestly. And so it was fairly surprising that my Sunday afternoon nap turned up a numinous vision as I was closing my eyes.

 

We’ve seen this before, in the no-man’s land of pre-sleep Sunday naps…blue fields of view being the latest manifestation.

This time it was writing. Black ink, hand written cursive script on slightly yellowish lined background. Lots of words, some of which I recognised. it was so surprising because I was seeing it as clearly as I’m seeing the keyboard right now – but with my eyes closed.

I thought a while,later, about what could have been lurking in my subconscious for this display to be so vivid, but could come up with nothing.

The thing is, not so much what does it mean, but where does it come from in the first place?

 

 

Suddenly

It happens every year.

I plan on celebrating Samhain, using the mid-point between the Solstice and Equinox as a base. I buy a Butternut Squash, or a Crown Pumpkin, disembowel it, carve it into a JackoLantern. I grind up resins, roots and oils to make the incense.

After a supper featuring Pork and Pumpkin, I light the JackoLantern, hang the swinging censer outside and light the charcoal, sprinkle the incense, and annoy my neighbours.

That’s on the outside: inside a rich conversation with my Ancestors has been going on for a few days.

I’m observing the Moon, how she is fading to New in a few days and I keep the internal conversation going. I fling the arms of Spirit out embracing the dry wind which whistles away all our precious moisture, here in Joburg.

Warren and I trek into Rosebank to stock up on sacred oils from Isis and we get lost among the noisy renovations of The Mall. We smell onions frying from street cafes and hear the tribal dancers gearing up for the morning batch of tourists.

It’s the start of Winter. And I seem to neglect that factor every single year. For the morning after I start my Samhain celebrations it is invariably the first frost-nipping, sitting-on-hands-to-warm-them, breath-steaming morning of the year so far.

But I – I have forgot my gloves, my beanie, my Winter-weight coat.

And so I complain – as every year – how suddenly the Winter came on this time.

And all the while, on the inside of Spirit, a bow wave of Ancestors -yours,mine, everybody’s – is winging out behind and to the side of me. Weighing lightly but insistently on my earth soul, and reminding me: we are the leading edge in Time of All Those Predecessors.

The Wyrd

Dear Terence McKenna; still making me laugh out loud 14 years after his death.

Oh, and he is so right. The Shaman is the interface between the Culture and the Other, in human societies.

Paraphrasing the Bard:

“OK, you…you can go and be weird. We’ll give you a hut on the outskirts of the village and -yes – when we need you we’ll call you.”

I think that there are more Shamans walking the Earth today than at any point in the past. We are experiencing that concrescence which is a hallmark of a great shift in levels of awakening.

Why, I had an hour-long conversation with a Shaman just yesterday, at work. I very much doubt he calls himself that, but that is the effect. You, you go over there and be weird. We’ll call you and use you when – not if – we have need.

And so it is perhaps not such a shock to find groups of Pagans and other minority clusters at seeming war with each other: they are each and all behaving like the Shaman of the village, and being weird. It takes a certain level of weirdness to handle magic at after all.

And we so need our Weird ones at this critical juncture in our species’ history.

Samhain 2013

"When the pale white moon is climbing slow,
Through the stars to the heavens height,
We hear Thy hooves on the wings of night!
As black tree branches shake and sigh,
By joy and terror we know Thee nigh.
We speak the spell Thy power unlocks,
At solstice, sabbat and equinox.
Word of virtue, the veil to rend,
From primal dawn to the wide world's end!"



Blessed Samhain, or possibly Beltane, to All.
I will be observing this Sabbat on Sunday.

Here is the artist’s FB page.

Freedom Day

“I do not deny that I planned sabotage.
I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness nor because I have any love of violence.
I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation and oppression of my people by the whites”
Nelson Mandela
Pic: from Pagan Freedom Day 2004 in Joburg.