October 31st – The Celtic New Year (known as Samhain in the Irish language)

Posted on Tuesday 5 December 2023

October 31st – The Celtic New Year (known as Samhain in the Irish language)

New Bloom - Fionnuala Gill

Millions of children and adults participate in the fun of Halloween on the night of October 31st, yet few people are aware that this date also celebrates the beginning of the Celtic Year – just as Diwali a few days before celebrates the Hindu New Year. Perhaps it makes sense that as we step into the darker time of the year in this part of the world we are invited to celebrate this transition in some way!

Each year at this time I am aware of the challenges many find in this transition from light to darkness – longer nights, shorter days until December 21st, when the light begins to return again. But there can also be so many blessings at this time of year – the amazing display of colour in the natural world, the crisp freshness in the air and the opportunity both to reflect on the gifts of past seasons and sew seeds for the seasons ahead.

I have just had the great privilege of attending a week long training retreat in Ireland with Florence Meleo-Meyer, Saki Santorelli and Judson Brewer from the renowned Centre for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare & Society and in this week of mindfulness practice I had much opportunity to reflect on the gifts of this past year and the seeds I wish to sew in my heart for the year ahead.

In the ancient Celtic tradition is was believed that the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest at this time of the year and so it seems to make sense to use the opportunity to pause in some ways – to give thanks for what has been, release what we no longer need and sew seeds for what is to come. For me, having spent a rich week with such an exemplary and inspiring team of mindfulness teachers in a beautiful group of fellow mindfulness practitioners from 21 different countries, I am once again reminded of the power and gift of cultivating awareness and presence in every aspect of my life. Cultivating inner light as the outer light fades and sewing seeds in the fertile ground of the heart. The beautiful words of Rumi have returned again and again to me in recent times:

‘Close your eyes.
Fall in love.
Stay there.’

What a powerful, yet challenging invitation this is in our modern world, where so much of our focus is pulled outward! Yet it is in the balance on of inner and outer, of light and darkness that true flourishing and well–being are found.

And so, at this time of Celtic New Year, in whatever part of the world you reside, and in whatever way you choose to do so, may you find time to cultivate a light within that shines bright through the months ahead. And may this light nurture seeds that grow silently in the earth of your being, blossoming into newness in the spring! 😊

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