I always start my New Year’s celebration the same way: dressing up in costume to go trick-or-treating with my kids. Samhain has long been, for me, the end of the old year and the beginning of a new, fresh year ahead. And where I live on rural and wind-swept Martha’s Vineyard Island, it’s a wild and wonderful celebration complete with costumes, children, candy, and lights. But even more than the conventional trick-or-treat evening, it’s a magical time when the small village of Vineyard Haven becomes a sanctuary where the inner child can play, explore, and celebrate.
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Recent headlines in the international press announced that the enigmatic language of the ancient Cretan “Phaistos Disk” has been translated—in part—by the Welch-Cretan scholar Gareth Owens. Owens states that the Phaistos Disk records an ancient hymn to a Mother Goddess. More specifically he claims that one side is dedicated to a Pregnant Goddess and the other to a Birth-Giving Goddess.
All of this is very exciting, but is he right?
On October 30th, I gave birth to a new baby boy. He was born at home in water, my fourth homebirth, but my first waterbirth (his birth story is available here). On the full moon of his one week "birthday," we took him outside for the first time in his whole life--to meet the world, to feel the fresh, cool air, to be introduced to the moon and the Earth as a member of our family. Here is an outline of the very simple ceremony of welcome we held for him. While we did this with just our other children present, it could easily be expanded to include additional guests.
1. the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience.
"a lack of proper parental and school discipline"
2. a branch of knowledge, typically one studied in higher education.
"sociology is a fairly new discipline"
Wow. No wonder people hate the word discipline. It’s often equated with punishment, correcting a perceived disobedience. We are free people, we should be able to do what we want, when we want, so long as it harms none. Life is for living, right?
Of course, I would agree with the above, that we are free, that life is for living. However, I’m also here to reclaim the word discipline into something that is positive.
We live in a world filled with instant gratification. We have IPhones and tablets that can “connect” us with people anywhere, anytime, so that we never have to be alone (even in a crowd of people). We have hundreds upon hundreds of television channels that tempt us into thinking that something better than the current moment we are living in is on the tube. We have internet to answer all questions at the push of a button. We have access to food 24/7 (most of us) – we’re usually never too far away from our larders or a shop. We love to “treat” ourselves. Marketing has told us that “we’re worth it”, or making us feel that we’re not good enough, and with their product we will be. Problems solved, instantly.
Now, this isn’t a blog post about self-denial, asceticism or anything similar. It is about truly seeing and understanding our needs versus our desires. Our modern world has twisted our desires into needs, and it is up to us to rebalance, to rejig our way of thinking in order to live a life filled with more intention.
I work three jobs, alongside my work as a Druid priest. Time can be in pretty hard demand sometimes, but planning makes it all work. It takes effort, but that is what discipline is: effort made in order to improve a situation, to live a life of intention, to learn more about integration and compassion.
Art by Pascal Campion
My Women’s Sacred Circle has begun a new year with a different plan, and it was a great opportunity for me to jump back in after a busy summer. They split it into two monthly meetings. One is to be similar to what we had been doing, which was like a book club, where we will be reading Caroline Myss’ “Sacred Contracts” (last year it focused on Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ “Women Who Run With The Wolves” which is a favorite of mine) and keeping a journal for the work we do in that book. The other meeting will be a moon circle on the night of the full moon, where we will do ritual together and discuss the symbolism of that month’s moon. Last month it was the Hunter’s Moon. :) We will also be keeping a moon journal for this meeting....
Log burner lit and slippers ready warming, I put on my coat and step out into the fading light of a November afternoon. The cold air bites my nose and I pull my hat down further over my ears and head off up the lane. The days have been bright with winter sunshine, but the blue of the sky has somehow lost its vibrancy giving way to more sleepy, muted tones with a touch of greyness about them. But, at this time of day, Sunset, the skies are aglow with the fiery palettes of burnt oranges, deep soulful amber and blood reds.
I wend my way along the lane and turn toward the woods where I am met with a veil of tumbling brambles hung from the hedgerow like the dripping architecture of a gothic cathedral.
In an instant I am cocooned in a swirl of leaves blown from their branches and whipped into an encircling frenzy by the wind. I struggle to pull my collar up, tuck my scarf in and hold on to my hat. What a Blessing to be surrounded by such colour, such energy and yet in all the warmth of the shedding colours of Autumn, I feel the chill of Winter.
All Hallows Eve falls on the 31st of October – the night before All Hallows Day, also known as All Saints Day. It’s part of the Catholic calendar. All Hallows Eve is also, in this tradition, known as All Souls Night – a time for remembering the less saintly-dead. It’s this tradition that Mexican day of the dead festivities, and pumpkin lanterns would seem to belong to.
We know that Samhain was the end of the Celtic summer. However, as with all ancient festivals, the issue of dates is a tad compromised by the problems of calendars. In 1582, the Gregorian calendar came in, adjusting the previous Julian calendar and fine tuning when leap years happen. The reason for this is that the date of Easter is calculated (because the only reference to it is the Jewish lunar calendar) in relation to the spring equinox, so calendar drift was causing the Church some headaches....