Let us celebrate death! O.K., this may seem a little
over the top but, frankly, this is a big part of what we CSC Pagans are
celebrating at Samhain. Death. Or, more precisely, dying.
Dying is a process. Death is the culmination of that process. At Samhain, we
celebrate dying; at Yule, we celebrate death. But, before we explore this in
greater depth, let’s review the spokes of the Wheel of the Year as they
apply to the processes of living and dying…
Imbolc (or, Candlemas) occurs on February 1st
and it is the time we celebrate the promise of re-birth.
Ostara (the Spring or Vernal Equinox) occurs
circa March 19-22 and is the time in which we focus on the
germination of new life (and the point of balance reached at this
Beltane (or May Day) occurs on May 1st and is
the time we celebrate re-birth.
Litha (or Midsummer) occurs circa June 19-22
and is the time we celebrate the fullness of life.
Lughnasadh (the First Harvest) occurs on
August 1st and sees us celebrating the promise of death.
Mabon (the Autumnal Equinox) occurs circa
September 19-22 and is the time we celebrate diminishing life
(and, once again, the balance reached).
Samhain (or Halloween) occurs on October 31st
and is the time to show our reverence for the dying process.
Yule (the Winter Solstice) occurs circa
December 19-22, and is the time we celebrate death.
Death, of course, is part of the dying process. This
must be clearly understood if we are to have any real comprehension of the
spirit of Samhain. Death itself is inseparable from dying, in that, as much
as it is the culmination of the process, it is also central to the
process. Leaves do not fall from trees because they have just found life,
but rather because they have, essentially, died. Ponder this…
The fall of the leaf may mean the end of the
leaf, but it does not, in itself, mean the end of the Fall.
Now, more about the process: Early Fall begins to
show itself in the mid-days of Summer. Most of us do not notice this, of
course, (we are too busy enjoying the beach!) but I have observed that in
the shabbier days of Summer (that is, when the relentless heat is taking its
toll on the vegetation), if you look carefully, you’ll notice, here and
there, leaves already changing colour. I call this time, “Copper Penny
Season,” because it looks for all the world as if someone took a handful of
pennies and threw them high up into the trees. This, to me, is the very
first hint that, in the midst of life, we are in death. When I tell my
students at this time that they should pay attention, for Fall is making
itself felt, they usually suggest (in the nicest possible way!), that I need
to get a grip! After all, it’s late July/early August, we are taking
vacations, school is out, it’s SUMMER for crying out loud! Isn’t “oh look,
it’s Copper Penny Season” rushing things a little too much?!
Well, let us examine this…
I am, as of the time of this writing, 51
years-old. Always assuming I live to, oh, let’s say, age 90, I am, at the
moment, in the Summer of my life. The mid-Summer, to be precise. Litha. Or,
my Copper Penny Season. The evidence is all there: Graying at my temples
(hidden, but there, none-the-less!), a miscellanea of early sagging,
wrinkles, drooping parts, and fading or discoloring parts. This is not
full-on old age yet, but I could never be mistaken, anymore, for a young
woman (much less a teenager!)
I am aware of the fact that I am aging, but I do not
dwell on it. I would, however, be a fool to ignore it completely, because
there is much wisdom to be gained in an awareness of the subtle changes we
undergo on the journey toward death. (Notice I say “the journey toward
death,” not “the journey of life,” this is an important distinction and one
I shall explore further later on.)
The signs of my current stage of life are clear
enough on the outside, but internally, emotionally, they are far more
striking. I understand these signs of change as “fair warning”--or, a
reminder, if you will--that I, too, am a mortal being with a finite cycle of
seasons in which to live. These seasons are each present, one in
another--both consecutively and concurrently--and each season contains
within it, messages about, among other things, the future, about hope,
renewal, change, and beauty.
Just as I can look in a mirror and see constant
change, so too can I look out the window and see the same thing going
on. But, why? Why was the Earth, the beings upon it, in fact, the
very Universe itself created to run on set, distinctive, predictable
cycles? Why does Spring always follow Winter, the Sun rise and set
every day, the Moon wax and wane month after month, year after year, without
deviation or change? Well, that’s a big question. And, here’s the big
Because this is our “Bible.”
CSC Pagans have no need for a “Holy Book,” or any
other sort of written tome to explain to us the nature of who we are or why
we are here. We simply have to look out the window, up at the sky, through a
telescope, or at the susurration of the tides, to understand what we
ourselves are. In short, everything in creation is here to show us what
we are! And furthermore, to show us that, in our cyclic natures, we
are no different to everything else in creation--to know, we only have to
look, really look!
So, now that I’ve dropped that in your lap, you may
be asking what all this has to do with celebrating Death? And what, for that
matter, does any of it have to do with celebrating Samhain? Well, let me
The Wheel of Life, like the Wheel of the Year, is a
dynamic, never-ending cycle of consciousness that conforms to a set
pattern--a pre-ordained rhythm--that is unchangeable and inviolate. When we
understand this--at the point that we make this connection, intuitively and
on a visceral level as well as rationally, on a cognitive level--we have
taken a significant upward step in our personal evolution. And, any time we
make such a step, we should celebrate! Why? Well, for one thing, it feels
good and, for another, more important reason, because it not only helps
others to learn (without preaching to them), it shows the Universal
Consciousness that we understand, we have become aware.
So, we engage in
Silent Suppers (a ritual meal, partaken in silence, to show reverence to
our ancestors), decorate with symbols of the Fall, visit the graves of those
we have loved and lost, and a myriad other celebratory acts for the Sabbat
Now, about that “Journey Toward Death” thing…
We are here to learn how to die.
You may want to read that again… be sure to see that
it does not say, “learn how to live,” it says learn how to die! Why? Because
we can only learn how to die when we truly understand what we are. We can
only understand what we are, when we make the connection between ourselves
and everything else in creation. When we understand the connection between
ourselves and the rest of creation, we will learn true compassion, empathy,
kindness and kinship. We will learn that we are, all of us, connected by a
common destiny and respect and love of others means respect and love of
ourselves. This, ultimately means elevation of all humanity.
Learning how to reach the time of our death and
cross over in Perfect Love and Perfect Trust, means learning how to
live. It means learning how to live in accordance with Natural Laws. It
means learning that we are a spirit in a human body, not a human
being who has a spirit... And this, ultimately, means everything.
MoonChild--or, Winnie, as she is known to most--is an
eclectic NeoPagan/Wiccan living in Georgia with her husband
and three Dachshunds. A “Maiden of the Crone years,” Winnie
teaches Pagan spirituality to members of the open (and very,
very loosely structured) Coven of the Silver Chalice. Since
a diagnosis of Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease in her
mid-forties, Winnie found the demands of in-person lessons
became too much and now teaches many of her students from
home via telephone, and through her
Blog - with occasional group lessons as her health
A Tarot reader
and “Death Walker,” Winnie is an ordained minister of the
CSC and teaches her unique take on Pagan spirituality from
the platform that there are no wrong spiritual paths, that
everything and anything she teaches--in whatever manner she
teaches--her students are free to ignore (or adapt, adopt,
or adjust) as befits their own spiritual needs, beliefs, and
Wiccan, Winnie does open the Circle for group ritual on some
Sabbats and Esbats, officiates Handfasting and Crossing
Rituals, and special gatherings for her students and
The Circles of Life.
Samhain Articles and Rituals