Among other things, Samhain represents the mythological and metaphorical descent into the underworld, the realm of Death. It’s the traditional start of a season where life slows down (or used to, before our technology allowed us to keep a fast-paced frenzy going year-round) and offers much time for introspection and reflection. It’s also a great time for deconstruction of oneself, one’s ego, and how one looks at the world. In Gardner’s Myth of the Goddess, this is represented by the guardians to Death’s Domain when they challenge the Goddess and tell her she must remove all her jewelry and even her garments. She had to bare her true self to descend.
I find it somewhat amusing that the modern adaptation of this holiday — Halloween — involves donning costumes and pretending to be someone or something else, when Samhain traditionally is also about divesting oneself of such pretense and facing the Darkness without one’s armor and accepting that such armor cannot truly protect.
Of course, that’s a frightening realization to embrace. We tend to like our sense of control, especially over ourselves. We like to think that we can present to the world who we want to be and have this accepted. And there is some witchery there. Letting go of that and becoming bare, vulnerable to any who may see the real us rather than the perfected image we prefer to present is a terrifying process. It’s terrifying to let ourselves be confronted with the real us, for that matter.
But it’s also necessary. To know who we truly are — stripped of all the pretense and illusions we create for ourselves and others — also enables us to improve ourselves and even reconstruct us. Often, we can do that in ways so that we are more substantively like the person we imagine and project ourselves to be. But making that improvement requires we first take a close look at admit we are not that person yet.
So to all my readers, especially any who follow a path where Samhain has meaning to you, I wish you a blessed Samhain. May you find the serenity and courage to face the Darkness alone, naked (only figuratively, if you prefer), and vulnerable. May you find comfort in the journey and hold tight to the hope of seeing the First Light of Yule.
1Happy Beltane to any Wiccans and other Pagans Down Under who are celebrating that instead.