Now is the Thinnest Time
Today begins Samhain, which literally means “summer’s end.” November 1 also marks the beginning of the new year in the Celtic calendar. And because of that, today (and the night preceding - Halloween) is considered the thinnest time of the all the thin times in the entire year.
A thin time is a time when the wall between earthly time and eternal time becomes transparent. The sacred and the ineffable converge with humanity and the earth. In Celtic culture, the gates of the fairies, called síd (pronounced SHEE) are open and our ancestors are nearer to us then than at any other time. (1)
Hence, on November 1, we remember and feel close to those who have died. We honor and make peace with our ancestors. In the Christian calendar, November 1st is All Saint’s Day (or all Hallows), a day when we pray for all the saints and our loved ones who have died. As Christianity incorporated existing traditions, in the 9th century, Pope Gregory IV moved All Saint’s Day from May to November 1st, perhaps to be aligned with preexisting Celtic traditions.
I love New Years and fresh starts! First I acknowledge the blessings of the past year. Then I take stock of life and contemplate life cycles, age, and destiny. Evaluate if you’re in alignment with your life purpose.
But most essentially, now is the time to harbor our resources. As Esther De Waal notes,
November, the first month of winter, was in fact known as the dark or the black month in Scotland, Cornwall, and Brittany. It was a time quite literally for drawing in, when the flocks were brought down from the summer pastures to be wintered at the homestead. The bonfires we associate with early November are in fact the bone-fires, the burning of the inedible parts of the carcasses of animals that could not be kept throughout the winter. (2)
I’ve been shedding a lot lately of unused items to prepare for the dark, cozy days to come. When we lived closer to the land, we would harbor supplies such as grain or make jam preserves. Nowadays, we tend to our homes to create sanctuaries. And we recommit to nurturing rituals so that we can boost our essential resources - our health, our time, our communities.
What are your essential resources? Here are some reminders to boost you at the start of this “new year” ::
Rest is key so stockpile it. Make rest a habit. Reboot your sleep hygiene. As we head into the holiday season, be mindful to take breaks. Be mindful also of your mind and spirit so take breaks from the news of the day and from your digital devices.
2 / Space
Learn to say no so you have the space you need to get through the season ahead. Create quiet time as a family or among your friends where you can enjoy an easy togetherness without expectations or drama. Give yourself permission to step back and regroup as necessary. Perhaps begin a meditation practice to counteract the hecticness of the weeks ahead.
During this season, the things we do all year long to be healthy take on even more importance. We all know we should drink water all day long. Still, we forget. A great app called Waterlogged reminds me every hour.
Spend time with those who are compassionate. Reach out and connect with others and create community. Let those you love know that they matter to you. Our relationships are essential support. Nurture the ones that are most helpful to you.
The sharing of a meal is a beautiful way to nourish connection. Nutritious and delicious food is an easy way to take care of ourselves and boost our immunity. Food is medicine - our most basic medicine, so choose with care.
As the darkness begins to overcome the light, appreciate the mysteries of the universe and the sacredness of this season. Whatever your faith (or even if you have none at all), seek out magic. Look for inexplicable wonder that moves you. Be in a divine space, a concert hall, or out in nature.
Take advantage of this new year and begin again. Prepare for the weeks and months to come by nourishing all that is necessary to you. Have a “bone-fire” and shed the non-essentials. Harbor your resources and your energy so you can truly enjoy the magical weeks to come.
Caitlín Matthews’ website, which is full of resources.
Thin Places and The Transforming Presence of Beauty by Sarah Blanton.
An NPR interview with John O'Donohue.
On Being The Inner Landscape of Beauty, a chat with John O'Donohue.
(1) Matthews, Caitlín. The Celtic Spirit : Daily Meditations for the Turning of the Year.New York: HarperCollins, 1998, p. 4.
(2) De Wall, Esther. The Celtic Way of Prayer: The Recovery of the Religious Imagination. New York: Doubleday, 1997, p. 55.
(3) John O'Donohue. To Bless the Space Between Us. New York: Doubleday, 2008, p. 15