A Celtic Heart

“Now is a time to lay down your tools, the symbols of your productivity, and light a fire to honor not only what has been done throughout the past year, but also all that has preceded you — in this life, and in all the lives lived before. Now is a time to make space, in your heart and in your mind, for the stillness and silence of death.” ~ Teo Bishop

Irish and Scottish ancestry roots runs deep and wide in my family; and I have always been drawn to the magic and mystery of Celtic traditions. One of my favourite books growing up was The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I still love it to this day. I recently discovered a wonderful book, Walking in the Mist, by Donald McKinney. It reflects upon on the subtle nuances of Celtic spirituality.

The Celtic Fire festival of Samhain (a Gaelic word pronounced “sow-win”) is commonly known as the Celtic New Year. Samahin is a time of growing darkness and introspection. It is usually celebrated from October 31 to November 1 to welcome in the harvest and usher in the dark half of the year. Celebrants believe that the barriers between the physical world and the spirit world are thin during Samhain.

Ancient Celts marked Samhain as the most significant of the four quarterly fire festivals, taking place at the midpoint between the fall equinox and the winter solstice. During this time of year, hearth fires in family homes were left to burn, while the harvest was gathered.

Since the emergence of Christianity in the British Isles, the festival of Samhain became overlaid with the Christian festival of Halloween or All Hallows Eve, on October 31, followed by All Saints Day on November 1.

Although I do not formally celebrate Samhain, I like to practice simple rituals to acknowledge its presence. I burn candles and keep my fire lit. I create a small alter on my mantelpiece, with seasonal items such as: colourful fallen leaves; interestingly shaped sticks and twigs; nuts, gourds and mini pumpkins. I meditate and journal. I rest. I remember loved ones who have passed on. I feel their continued presence in my heart.

Samhain is an opportunity to pause and reflect: to grow a practice of stillness, silence and listening. It marks the transition of the seasons and helps to prepare the mind and body for the winter ahead. There is something powerful in marking the transition of the seasons and reconnecting with one’s ancestral knowledge. I enjoy the quiet introspection of this time of year and the chance to open myself up to the unknown.

Endless Summer

The transition from summer into fall can be a challenging time for families. The free and easy pace of the lazy summer months suddenly shifts a hectic school schedule. The days start to get shorter, darker and cooler. There is a general sense of sadness for the loss of freedom: from parents and children alike.

When we move from one season to another, it often changes the way that we engage with one another. In the summer, it is easy to pack up a picnic and head down to the beach for dinner or enjoy the extra hours of evening light playing at the park. There are road trip and camping trips to look forward to. We live in our flip-flops and swimming suits on the weekend. Everything generally feels fluid, happy and expansive.

In the fall, there is a shift into the “all business mode” of school and organized activities. We are suddenly confined by a rigid schedule and our time is spent shuttling family from school to work and from activity to activity. There is very little time for unstructured time, play and exploration.

This fall, I am trying to make a conscious effort to do things differently. The seasons will continue to evolve, and our family schedule with it; but there is an opportunity to be more intentional about how our time is spent together once this change occurs. It just requires time, attention and practice.

Here are some ideas for bringing the playfulness of summer into your fall routine:

Dance: Start the day with laughter and movement. As a part of your morning routine, put on some music and dance with your child. Take a few minutes to express yourself and move your body. Be silly and let loose. It is guaranteed to make you smile.

Eat: Sitting together at the table to enjoy a meal is proven to provide a wide range of social and health benefits for the whole family. It is so important to take the time to connect and communicate. To add a bit of fun, try hosting a picnic dinner on the floor of your living room once a week. Let everyone choose something to bring.

Play: It is easy for the evenings to become dominated by homework or television. Make the effort to schedule a screen-free family night at least once a week. Take turns to choose activities that you can share together, such as puzzles, board games or taking the dog for a long walk.

Explore: Be a tourist in your own town during the weekend and explore local parks and sites. You can choose a different adventure each time. There are great walks at Mt. Doug Park and Thetis Lake and fun monthly events at local museums, such as the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and the Royal BC Museum.

Rest: Try not to over schedule your down time. Make time for rest and unstructured activity. Follow the summer time freedom model. It is too easy to fill up every moment with activities and chores. Leave a few hours during the evenings or weekends to read, play or nap.

It is easy to change seasons without a lot of thought for how it impacts your family. With a little bit of effort and practice, you can bring some summer fun with you as you transition into fall this year.

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This article was written for the October 2019 edition of Island Parent Magazine.

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