Winter Eve, Samhain, the Pagan New Year, Sabbat of Sabbats—when the natural world enters a season of relative dormancy, we remember the past and those who have gone before us as we celebrate the dark, the mysterious, the ominous, the frightening, the macabre, even death itself. For many, this sabbat is a favorite; for others, it is difficult or painful. Whatever our opinion of this time when “the veil between the worlds thins”, Winter Eve has lessons to teach us.
When we try on unfamiliar and uncomfortable costumes and attempt to play convincingly roles that are, oftentimes, unnatural to us, we develop a skill worth learning: how to immerse ourselves in foreign practices and beliefs without safely distancing ourselves from the experience through simultaneous analysis or judgment. In the moment, facing down real and imagined dangers and embracing our fear, we simply make ourselves present.
Lowering our psychic shields and purposefully exposing ourselves to new, strange worlds requires a certain level of personal fortitude—if we will draw aside this veil, cross the numinous threshold, and not lose ourselves along the way, then we must prepare. We must become comfortable in the naked skin of our immutable essential selves, unclothed of certainty, unadorned by authority, and ultimately unmoved by the falling away of our psychic trappings. We must not fear cognitive dissonance or transience, the death of our delusions, projections, and preconceptions.
We are seekers on spiritual journeys, pilgrimages, and quests. Winter Eve reminds us that even when life takes us on unexpected twists and turns, though our former character may seem to have died, in fact, we remain who we have been. We confront death at this time of year, and we see that it lies in rigidity, not in wonder, curiosity, openness, playfulness, and a sense of adventure.
Finally, if we remain who we have been on our journey, let us do so not merely alone but rather with whom we have been journeying. May this sabbat’s masquerading festivities teach us one technique for standing beside and staying with those whose practices and beliefs differ sometimes from our own.