Samhain, from the Gaelic word meaning ‘summer’s end’, is halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.
It is akin to bedtime in the cycle of day and night. In Britain, the clocks go back, and the evenings are dark. It is the turning point when autumn moves towards the cold of winter. Jack Frost visits in the night and, as the sun rises, the world is transformed by the sparkle of crystals. Once again, we wear our hats and gloves and scarves, wrapping up warm.
The Forest at Samhain
In the woods, the last of the autumn leaves are falling. The growing season has ended. The trees breathe out, shedding their leaves and their seeds. Death and birth nourish life. All over the land, seeds make their journeys to their new homes in the earth, with thanks to the wind, birds and animals. Only a few will survive. They nestle into the dark beds of soils, under leafy blankets of autumn colour.
Mushrooms appear overnight, their underground webs connecting the roots of the trees. In the hedgerows, see bright berries shine. Taste the pulp of the rosehips. Hear the buzz of bees drinking the last of the year’s nectar from the honey-scented ivy flowers. Gather fallen nuts and roast them over warm fires. Summer birds have flown. Hedgehogs and dormice snuggle deep in their cosy dwellings, beginning their long winter sleep. Ladybirds hibernate together in hollows.
The trees take their energy, and their sap, deep down into their roots. The soil they rest in is made of thousands of seasons of leaves, and generations of trees, plants and animals – all those who have lived before.
Edited extract from The Children’s Forest: Stories & Songs, Wild Food, Crafts & Celebrations all Year Round by Dawn Casey, Anna Richardson and Helen d’Ascoli, published by Hawthorn Press.
Published in issue 63. Accurate at the time this issue went to print.