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Samhain. When life stops for projects.

Samhain altar

Most days, I feel like there is so much on my plate that when something new comes up I wonder, “how will I fit that in?!”  Sometimes I fit it in and other times I ‘kiss and release’ – a phrase I use when I acknowledge something and appreciate it, but either don’t take it on or don’t take action.  I do have to let some things go to keep my life healthy and sustainable.  But equally, I have to let things in, to continue to grow and honor my creative parts and to create abundance and embrace change.

I had two things come up last week that were so important that life just sort of stopped around them.  And, in the midst of both of them, I wondered, “how is time being made for this?  What got bumped out or moved over?”  There wasn’t really an answer.  But the medicine was that when something needs to be prioritized and I (or you) want to prioritize it, then I (or you) will make the space.

The first was a milling project.  The power company took down a large dead maple tree in our front yard last fall and this fall we arranged to have it milled by a local person with a portable mill.  All weekend and into the next week the project happened.  Once the mill was there the wood had to be milled and once the wood was milled it had to be stacked and cared for.  Waiting any significant amount of time on this project was not an option.  Lots of things had to shift in our schedule for it all to get done – you never know how long a project like that will take – but everyone just made time. 

family milling project

The second was my Samhain project.  I wanted to prioritize this in a deep way that was so authentic it sort of took me over.  I gathered for the alter, arranged it with my 2 and a half year old and printed pictures of ancestors back to my great-great grandparents (thanks to my Grandma for making them digitally available to me!).  While I was gathering the picture files to get printed I specifically remember thinking that I should be answering emails and getting things checked off my list.  But then I rephrased…I could be checking email.  Actually, prioritizing this thing that is really important to me was what I should be doing.

Ancient Celts celebrated four fire festivals on the cross quarters between seasonal transitions.  On these days the hearth fire of the home was let to burn out while the important work of the harvest was being done.  A big ritual fire was then lit (often using a wheel, which represented the sun, to create the spark) and a flame from that fire was brought home to re-light the hearth fire.  Samhain was the most important of these four fire festivals.  The cross quarter between the first day of fall on the fall equinox and the first day of winter on the winter solstice, Samhain marks the Celtic new year.  Samhain is a major energetic shift marking the end of the harvest season when the veil between the worlds is considered to be at its thinnest – magnetizing a fluidity between the seen and unseen, the living and the nonliving worlds. 

Letting the hearth fire burn out while you bring in the harvest, then re-lighting it with the spark of ritual, community and celebration…  This sounds an awful lot like my experience of life stopping for important projects.  When we make space to do things that are important and/or necessary that energy creates something beautiful and productive.  If we continually dismiss new and or out of the ordinary things because we don’t have time or space, we miss out on magic, celebration, healing, and meaning making.  Like the Smahain altar that my daughter and I created and lit for the 7 days leading up to this day, and will light for the 7 days after – inviting our ancestors to travel through the wheel to sit with us for supper today, on Samhain.  Or standing in right relationship with plants and the earth by offering gratitude and blessings as we milled the beautiful maple that has been watching over this house for hundreds of years.

Samhain starts today at sundown and lasts until tomorrow at sundown. On this ancient Celtic festival, the dawn of the new year, a time of vulnerability between your inner and outer world, I ask you – what wants to be prioritized, magnetized – what is worth stopping for?


Looking for support slowing down, tuning in and making time and space?

I love oat* (oatstraw or oat tops) for nourishing the nervous system and staying grounded and present in the moment. Try drinking 2 – 4 cups a day of a nourishing infusion. To prepare an infusion, steep 4 heaping tablespoons of oatstraw or oat tops in 4 cups of boiling water, with a lid, overnight (8-12 hours). The following day, re-eheat or drink at room temperature. if you don’t drink it all at once, it will store in the refrigerator for 2 – 3 days.

*This is the same plant as the oatmeal that you eat, but at a different phase of growth – so don’t make an infusion with oatmeal you cook and eat for breakfast!

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