This is my favorite time of year. Not only does fall bring amazing colors in the landscape, but apple cider, squash pies, crisp air, and fall festivals. My favorite festival of the year is the lesser known one of Samhain, which occurs on November 1st.
This is a Celtic born holiday. Samhain is a Gaelic word which translates as “summer’s end.” The Celts viewed the year as divided into two seasons: the light season and the dark season. Literally the days are getting darker and shorter. May 1st, Beltaine, is the beginning of the light season.
The Celts felt it was very important to honor the opposing forces of light and dark. They saw all of life in opposing pairs, the same way that the Chinese view life in their concept of yin and yang. Light and dark, cold and hot, far and near, all of life can be divided into two categories: the dark or yin forces and the light or yang forces.
It is interesting to note where the Celts viewed this continual process starting from. Their day began and ended at dusk; their year began and ended on November 1st. Both of these cycles start with darkness. They understood the world as springing from darkness, the way they saw their seeds needed time underground before they became fertile plants. Darkness was sacred because the old needed to die before the new could be born; there was a certain amount of incubation needed to produce life.
The Chinese have a similar view. They too believe that the yin, or darkness, is what the yang must spring from. There is always some aspect of both yin and yang in all things and in varying degrees and ratios. However, if there is not enough yin available, life will not appear.
Many times in our culture we do not appreciate the yin enough. We see times of incubation as a nuisance; we see the darkness as something that needs to be cured or cut out. What we fail to see is that the cycle starts in the darkness and without it the full beautiful life that we want to live would not be possible. We want to believe that we can be in the womb for nine months and then go, go, go for the rest of our lives. But this does not honor the interchange of yin and yang, the very cyclical nature that we are. We will invariable have times of lower energy; the problem occurs when we do not honor the yin and instead push through. This is what creates a culture addicted to caffeine and suffering from chronic fatigue. The more we honor the yin and replenish, the yang will then have a base to spring forth.
I always feel a lot of energy in the fall; I believe my body feels the yin time of year approaching and knows that soon it will fall into quieter energy patterns as the darkness envelopes us. Understanding and listening to these cycles has also allowed me to appreciate winter. I allow myself these quieter energies because I know that the darkness will eventually turn back into the light.