By CHRISTINA RAI WHEELWRIGHT
The Wheel of the Year is an annual cycle pagans observe. Transitional points in the year align to shifting energies, and pagans honour the deities of the Earth during these times.As we enter the fall season, we move through two of the eight thresholds. The autumnal equinox takes place this year on September 22, at 8:54 p.m., and Samhain (sooween) is on October 31, starting at sunset.
Astrologically, the Wheel of the Year is divided into four main sections and subdivided further by quadrant to make eight sections, the two equinoxes (vernal and autumnal), the two solstices (summer and winter) and the four cross-quarters. The cross-quarters fall at the midpoint of the astrological fixed cross, which is comprised of the four fixed signs, Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius.
The need for ritual
Historically, as Christianity prevailed, the very same festivals pagans celebrated during transitional points in the wheel were incorporated into that religion. Despite the change of name, the time stayed consistent and many of the rituals and practices were carried through. We humans have always needed ritual to mark our journey here on Earth. We have always had a longing to merge with the sacred and feel part of something much greater than that which is merely seen.
These are the festivals of harvest and the time when the natural world begins her descent into the arms of darkness. Honouring this so-called dark time was integral to ancient peoples who utterly depended on the immutability of the earthly cycle of initiation, growth, culmination and rest. As the equinox point is crossed, the natural response is to begin to prepare for a time of respite, slumber and renewal.
Samhain literally means summer’s end. It is the most sacred festival for pagan folk, but even the Christians derive pleasure from their somewhat modified celebration of All Hallow’s Eve. At Samhain, we are called to both remember all that has been, all who have passed and to reflect upon all that is about to be reborn.
Astrologically, this festival of Samhain aligns to the balsamic (dark) moon. At balsamic moon, the sky is inky black and no orb is visible. This is the point when the moon is most closely aligned to the sun, whose light eclipses it. It is a seeding time and those who are born on balsamic moon have the potential to become powerful channels, bridges between the worlds, intermediaries of that which is seen and that which is unseen. They are the dreamers, the mystics, the visionaries, the futurists, able to walk between the shadow and the light, the past and the future, the here and now and all that will yet come to be.
There are many ways to honour this dark time, and you don’t have to be a pagan! Of course, if you are inclined to the pagan way, you can dance in the fire, call down the moon, engage in rituals of rebirth and meet with your clan for a feast filled with shared songs and foods. As a non-pagan, you might not be inclined to dance in the fire, but you can take a moment to remember all that came before you. Spend time imagining all that is yet to be. Pagans might try their hand at scrying – looking into a crystal or a flame to find the images therein. Non-pagans, you can scry as well by reflecting on intention and creating an image of all that you want to manifest in the months ahead.
If you are a crafty sort of person, try your hand at mask-making, the chosen craft of Samhain. Mask-making reminds us we must continue to align to our true self and that though we might wear a mask from time to time, it is important to identify it as such. In the sweet soft time of Samhain, we can remove our masks symbolically by concretizing them in form. You can keep this mask or ritually offer it up to spirit through a fire ceremony. In its burning, the vestiges of your old self are burned along with it.
The astrological sign associated with Samhain is Scorpio. At the highest level, this is the energy of transformation, even transmutation. The call to action at this most powerful time of the year is to access the life-changing energy of Scorpio and divest yourself of anything that is no longer useful, no longer relevant or just plain unwanted. Scorpio infuses those who seek it with the ability to drink in the dark, to dive into the abyss and to seek the sacred flame. It can be scary, but it is always invigorating, not unlike many Scorpio souls can be.
So, celebrate the sacred! Find your own special song at this most mystical and magical time of the year. At the very least, spend a few moments thanking the Earth for all that she gives us. That is the real magic, this wonderful relentless cycle of life. It never lets us down.
Winnipegger Christina Rai is an evolutionary astrologer and published author. You can find her latest novel, Finding Grace, at McNally Robinson Booksellers. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Christina’s website at christinarai.com