A Samhain story

The Earth Spirit Network was represented at a Four Groups week-end at Hucklow last week-end. WE met with the Unitarian Peace Fellowship, the Unitarian Renewal Group and the National Unitarian Fellowship. The object was to inform each other of why we existed and what we did. The Earth Spirit Network began on Friday evening with a Samhain gathering when memories of departed loved ones were talked about. Peter Sampson read this piece on Samhain which I wrote for the Inquirer and was published last week. I hope it explains what Samhain is about and how it somehow turned into the modern Halloween.
When death came to her house those months ago, her heart was a heavy stone in her breast and the tears welled and flowed. There was no comfort in talking in those days on end of deep sadness. The empty space of a lost life followed her round from place to place, filled her thoughts and it felt like a darkness.
Now when Samhain came, October 31st, the mid point between the autumn equinox and Yule, she had become calm and accepting. On this evening she would follow the ritual for her dead. Supper was prepared and the family and close friends gathered round the table. There was a chair and empty place laid for the one who had died. Candles were lit and while they passed the food around they talked about the life of that person in the empty chair. Some had brought pictures to show, one brought a scarf that had been worn. Another brought a gift that was treasured. They shared memories. They spoke of how their lives had been changed or enriched by that life. They spoke to the chair as if that person was really there, laughing, teasing, praising, remembering, toasting. They felt the bond of love and were happy. No more mourning but celebrating the times and the years that had been. They cemented the memories into their hearts. She believed the spirit of a dead person moved on to be one with nature. She said to the empty chair, ‘Your spirit is always around me, in the scent of the flowers I pick for the table. Under the touch of my fingers that caress the trees I remember your strength. Your voice sings at dawn with the birdsong and hums in the sounds of the stream. My senses are alive to you in the seasons and you are in the stars and in the wandering clouds. Though I can never see you your presence brings me peace. The love I have for you will never die’.
And some sitting at that table in the candlelight look uneasily at the shadows and wonder if the flickering shape outside in the darkness is just the waving branch of the autumn tree or maybe that spirit has come close to listen and yearns to be with them. They shudder and start telling stories about Samhain.

Tony McNeile