Today is November 1, the feast of All Hallow’s, or Samhain in the Irish Gaelic tongue – the version most popular in modern culture, via Wicca and neo-Paganism. There are several linguistic variants — Scottish, Welsh, Manx, Breton — but they all mean roughly the same thing — “Summer’s end”. And boy, this bone-chilling morning, there can be little doubt of that. After the balmy, alternately damp and sunny weather of most of October, November is here with a venegeance. The Crone spreads her dusky shawl across the skies…the last of the leaves scatter and fall, leaving a landscape both haunted and forbidding. I went to bed last evening after some annual traditions (leaving food out for the ancestors, meditation on what needs to be cleared away in my life, a bit of chocolate) and woke up to a much more serious energy all around. The Crone has arrived, there is deep chill in the air, and in case we weren’t getting the message – there is snow.
Light and wet snow, albeit, but still. This morning was different, on several levels it was. As Mara Freeman puts it “At the end of October, the doorway to the dark half of the Celtic year swings open”. I went to bed after a day spent walking in the forest, sipping hot chocolate outside watching birds, and leaving the windows open – and awoke to the beginning of Winter.
The ancestors were clearly pleased with my offering; I was a bit horrified to realize, come suppertime, that I had no baked goods, had no energy to start on a cornbread, and my offering plate would be just what I had to hand, and a little eccentric at that. But it seemed to have, for the most part, been well -received; everything but the sliced orange was gone in the morning! That’s Balderson’s extra old cheddar, some candied ginger, a bar of excellent dark chocolate, some raw organic almonds, and my very favorite strawberry yogurt. I photographed before and after, but the Vista gods won’t let me share today. C’est la vie, as long as the food was a hit. I spent some time before sleeping, in deep evaluation of things I need to clear from my life, aspects of my patterns that no longer serve me well, and of course, in communion with my loved ones who have passed from this world, most especially my brother and my aunt.
But of course, there is more, not the more I wished for, either. November 1 marks the beginning of firearm season for deer hunters in this area. And this for me is a deep and complex time, of attachment to the deer I have come to know, fear for their safety, and a struggle to understand that while many hunters are looking for trophies or just enjoy killing, others honour their prey and hunt ethically and with respect, making sure not to maim deer and also using the whole animal. I fear that these latter types are the minority.. but I can respect their ideology, if not comprehend how they can look at these visions of loveliness and pull the trigger. Life feeds on life, I repeat; a good hunter takes a life much more quickly than a pack of wolves will. I get that. However… I fear for the twin fawns who come here all the time, they will not survive winter if their mother is killed. I fear, horribly, for any of these sweet beings to be injured but not killed, to escape in suffering and die a protracted death, as often happens.
This morning, for the first time yet, no deer in the back, on the hill, across the road – no deer(.Just checked again -it is after lunch and guess what – no deer). It is most certainly, today, “as if they know”. And why would we ever doub that they do?
Today; an oversized truck parked by the entrance to one pathway that goes deep into the forest. Ontario plates. We know what that’s about. They are in peril, all of them – Clarissa and the twins; Saoirse and Sassy, Aine by herself, alone and brave, the new girl I call Stripey, with the feistiest (male) fawn, who stomps and snorts and cavorts at the sight of me. All my sweetlings. No matter how sentimental it sounds, they are.
And the back field lies empty and strange, despite the flurry of blue jays and nuthatches and black caps and the endless carry-on of raven and crow.
I walk to the feeders, to the herb garden, to the Faerie corner,making unnecessary compost visits, pacing, fretting, trying to let go, praying not to hear the guns.
The vigil begins….as the summer ends.
And so today; divination for the year ahead…baking…and incense making, so I can consecrate it on this sacred day. Rest. Animal time. Reading. Today has been a Holy day for me for close to 30 years, and I need the magic.
But the countdown is on, and I will be praying every morning and night, for my lovely, lovely deer to make to through this fortnight ahead; alive, together, and unharmed.