Skip to main content

Samhain Is My Fertility Festival

New England Fall Leaves.  Editor in Law, 2010.
There is just something about the light this time of year.

Of course, it helps that I live in New England, where the slanted light of autumn pours over leaves that are themselves turned gold.  There are mornings and afternoons  on my commute when it’s all I can do to watch the road.  In hurried glances, I gulp down visions: pale fields of bleaching corn,  mist that blankets meadows, and the way the sun burnishes all the leaves and the limbs of trees that hurry past my car.

That beauty stirs my gratitude, but it stirs other things as well.

When the blue of the hills grows soft, and the shadows in the woods are long; when crows make calligraphy against the sky, I can feel the Samhain’s tide rising within me, and as it rises, it glows.

I’m not one of those Pagans who can recite for you the names of all the chakras.  I don’t know their colors or their Sanskrit symbols.  I’m not even sure I’ve sensed them all.

But at Samhain time, I can feel warmth like an ember, low down in my belly.

The sun evokes it.  The silence evokes it.  The smell of fallen leaves evokes it: quiet fire in the curve of my pelvis, deep in that second chakra.  It’s  not a thing I imagine, or a thing will to feel.  I simply feel it, a warmth and heaviness that centers in my womb.

Swadhisthana chakra. Mirzolot2, 2010.
Lust is one of the senses that Samhain wakes in me.  And really, that is unsurprising. After all, for
over twenty-five years, I have been a devotee of the Horned God, of Herne, he who hunts and is the deer. And I live in New England.  And in New England, Samhain is the season of the deer.

I’ve always found it puzzling how many Wiccans hold up Beltaine as the season of sexuality.  May?  Early May?  Really?  At best, ’round here, a warm day in May–assuming you can find one–will be a matter of blackflies and hungry ticks.

And for the white-tailed deer, the deer of New England, May and June are the months for giving birth.  There’s not much that’s less sexy than giving birth.

May is buggy. May is soggy. May, and Maying, and May Day? Are not for the deer.  And they’re not for me.

But October?  Samhain?  Samhain shines, warm as a fireside.

Adult White Tailed Deer. 2015.
The deer agree.  As the nights get longer, the stags’ antlers lose their summer velvet and harden, ready for battle or to attract a mate.  The does come into season–the older ones waiting longer, wiser perhaps, as, born later, more of their fawns will survive.

Hunting season is coming.  The months of scarcity and torpor are coming.  Samhain is it: life’s last great celebration before the cold and the dark set in.  Samhain is, as a good Freudian would put it, all about sex and death: sex, the organism’s answer to mortality.

I worship the god of the hunt, the horned one who dies and is reborn, he who takes life to feed the people, and also is the life that’s taken. His story is a Samhain story: generosity and ruthlessness, and humility and strength, and lust.  Life, right in the face of death.

Of course Samhain is the fertility sabbat to me.  How could it be anything else?

The light is low on the horizon as I commute to work and back again.  The colors of October are sunset colors, from a sun that lies low on the horizon all day long, and all around me, the world is on fire.

Blood red leaves fall on bare black ground.  Sex and death, death and sex.  The season of the deer, the season of life.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Peter Meets a Liberal Christian with Balls

Metaphorically, at least.

Yesterday, Cat and I drove to Boston to hear the annual Weed Memorial Lecture at Beacon Hill Friends Meeting. The speaker was Peggy Senger Parsons, the pastor of Freedom Friends Church in Salem, Oregon, and for the second time this spring I've met someone and think, If I'd known someone like that when I was 22, It's possible I'd still be Christian.

I picked up a copy of FFC's Faith and Practice while I was there. (For the non-Quakers in the audience, F&P is sort of equivalent to a catechism or a Book of Common Prayer.) There's a passage that she read aloud in response to a question from someone in the audience. I'm just going to quote it here for now. I'll get much more in depth about what it means to me over the course of the summer as I write my spiritual journey.
We renounce the intolerance of religious fundamentalism in all its forms. Free Christians need only to live according to Gospel Order and hold up Chr…

What Do You Mean, Quaker Pagan?

"What do you mean, Quaker Pagan? You can't possibly be both!"

Every now and then, we do get a comment on the blog that, if politely worded, does drive at basically that point. Usually the critic is a Quaker and a Christian, though I have certainly heard similar points raised by Pagans.

Let me state a few things up front. Peter and I both do consider ourselves Pagan. Neither of us considers ourselves to be Christian--I never was one, and Peter hasn't been for decades. And we do consider ourselves to be Quakers... as does our monthly meeting, which extended us membership after the normal clearness process.

We consider ourselves Quaker Pagans. (Why not Pagan Quakers? Pure aesthetics; we think the word order sounds better with Q before P.)

Here's the argument for why Peter and I can't possibly be both:
1. Paganism is a non-Christian religion.
2. Quakers are a Christian denomination.
3. ERGO...

Yes. We've considered that argument, oddly enough. It (an…

What Happens in a Quaker Meeting? Part 1: Worship

Continued in Part 2: Ministry

"What happens in a Quaker meeting?"
I was at a party a few weeks back, with most of my closest friends in the world. In the middle of the laughter and bad puns and off-key theme songs from 70's TV shows, Jonathan asked me that question.
"Nothing!" broke in my friend Laura, grinning at us across the room. And there was a wave of friendly laughter.

"Not nothing!" I countered. "Definitely not nothing." And I paused to collect myself, and then launched myself into an answer that was more serious than the setting really allowed, but less thorough than the question really demands.

So, for Jonathan and for the world, here's my real answer. This is not what I said amid the popcorn and the porter; it is what I would have said if we had all the time in the world, to anyone who really, really, wanted to know.

When I arrive at the meeting house, I stamp the snow off my feet, hang up my coat, and fetch my name tag from the r…