Samhain just finished and we have entered what I’ve learned as the Dark Sun period of the year. Many Pagans consider Samhain as the end of the previous year and the beginning of the new year. I only half agree with that. Samhain is the end of the year, yes. But it’s not the beginning of the new year. That happens at Yule. The time in between is the Dark Sun between years, as the few days of the Dark Moon is the time between moons.
Between our various religious groups that we are members of (Our Lady of Celestial Fire and Harmony Tribe), along with our prison ministry, my wife and I generally go to a number of Samhain/Pomonalia rituals. This year was no exception and it was a particularly powerful series for me, considering the particular crossroads I’m in.
This time outside of time, between years, is a period to focus inwardly. It is a time to focus on your foundation and most core beliefs to re-digest them, re-ferment them and strengthen them. Alchemically, it is Nigredo.
The Samhain ritual Harmony Tribe held really spoke to me, as it culminated in the burning of a giant corn man. The burning of the old body of the old year and turning it into ash to initiate the process of fermentation and the underworld experience. For me, this started the burning away of my old thoughts, questions and doubts to lead to a new growth. I generally think rather rigidly and value my ability to discern and discriminate. But sometimes it gets in the way of my ability to see and experience the larger universe.
Spirit and religion are not things that can be as easily separated and pigeonholed as we like to think. As a result, the Gods have been showing me other possibilities for myself. The spirits have been calling me in new ways for a few months now, especially the local nature spirits and my ancestral spirits. I’ve questioned my path and revisited past spiritual journeys I’ve walked. I’ve been learning that I can’t follow a single tradition completely. I think that is related to my naturally Hermetic nature; I can’t help myself from crossing boundaries and moving around a lot.
As the corn man burned with flames that shot high into the air, raining sparks, hot ash, and embers on us, my Beloved Hestia spoke to me. She showed me that I need to relax my view on eclecticism. I’m generally a rather rigid traditionalist with the separation of traditions, but I’ve been unable to reconcile my Finnish ancestral spirits call with my instinct to the rational Hellenic path. Hestia showed through the volcano of fire that the two paths are not mutually exclusive, but I need to blend them in myself in a way that is in accordance with the spirits and Gods of both paths.
Most importantly, I need to blend the paths in accordance with my Will. She said that the danger with eclecticism is that I can end up gluing too many things together creating a monstrosity that internally conflicts with itself and with me. This is why I see so many eclectic Pagans who are spiritually shallow and generally wander around like a pinball from one thing to the next as their whim carries them. I see a lack of spiritual taproot in them and that has driven me from allowing me to blend traditions myself.
As you develop, you start to see parts of yourself that no longer are in accordance with your will. Gods who are in conflict with each other. Spirits of different, enemy tribes. Entities and practices from disparate regions that end up canceling each other out. This Dark Sun period is an ideal time to reflect on all aspects of yourself and your path. Burn away the parts that are no longer useful. If there are Gods or Goddesses you follow that no longer are in accordance with your will, thank them for the relationship, give them a final offering, and ask to respectfully part ways. Remove all things that do not further your Great Work.
Samhain marks the beginning of the Dark Sun, that time of reflection, decomposing, and fermenting. Then Yule comes and the Sun is light again and your life is re-focused, rejuvenated, and ready to start the new year.