Celtic Time Begins in Darkness

Last weekend, I either learned or was receptive enough to hear that Halloween, or Samhain, marks the Celtic new year. As in, the start of the cycle of seasons, not merely an autumn holiday on the way to the end of the year, as I grew up believing. The Irish teacher/guide who said this (in a way that I could truly hear) also said that Celtic time begins with the darkness. As in, all the cycles of time. The day, also, begins in the darkness, in the night, and not when the sun rises. The seed begins in the soil. The baby in the womb. It’s so obvious.

Still, the world tilted when I heard this. These were words I didn’t even know I longed to hear.

The past year since the fire has been a dark time, a fallow time, in many ways. On top of that, I am recovering now from major surgery. So my time is slow, my world feels small and cocoon-like. I have told people that it feels like a threshold time for me.

Like Samhain.

At Samhain, the threshold between the visible world, the “real world,” and the otherworld–the world of ancestors and ghosts and spirits and dreams–is narrow. At Samhain you dress as a ghoul or a fairy so the visiting spirits think you are one of them. At Samhain you leave a window or door open, a fire or flame burning, and a bowl of milk at the door for whoever wants to visit. You ask for guidance from your ancestors, tell them what needs to be said. And you can also tend and bless and call to the “unhallowed” time of what has not occurred or been born yet. This, too, can be scary. We need courage in all directions.

A poem emerged from the notes I scribbled during this Turas d’Anam gathering. A poem to steady me, give me courage, in the face of this new year. A poem to bless the darkness of this night.

May you have a restful, fruitful Samhain eve. May the spirits who visit you spark a new fire. May this poem bless your year, emerging from the dark.

Celtic Time Begins in Darkness

What happens in the darkness matters. 
It’s rest
then motion,
and not the other way around.
First rest,
     then nourish,
          then move. The darkness 
informs the light. The light 
is not bright preface to exhaustion. The night 
is not mere sequel to the day. 
So let me rest now
through the bruised velvet hours. 
Let me rest
as the night figures prowl.
I will listen
with my sleeping body. 
I will say welcome. 
I will enter into
this startling fullness
called my life. 

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