30 Days of Samhain: Day Fifteen

The Wisdom of the Underworld

Crackling leaves are burning
Transformed from life to death
The crow calls out relentlessly
To those unseen and life withers
In the blasting of its issue.

The Crone’s outstretched hand
Pulls me tightly to her breast
The air chills at her touch
Long icy fingers tapping out
The heart beat of life’s pulse within.

The solemn silence of darkness
The pause of silent breath
Power and strength drawn
From the sinewy strands of time.

Quartered path of gravel and stone
Flesh and blood
Moonlight and stars
The wellspring of Earth
The light of the cosmos above.

I tremble within Her embrace
Form giving way to the formless
Mind swirling within the waters of insight.

Sight pierces the veil as the
Road is cautiously chosen
Knowledge of the unknown
Becomes the heat of my desire.

The quickening spark waits in
The blessings of fertile darkness
And pulls me towards rebirth
Into a place of Light.

The air is full and heavy this time of the year as the veils thin and the spirits walk among us; some offering guidance and assistance and others being mischievous and stirring up an already potent mix of energetic trouble. There is a distinct and growing crispness to the air as the weather offers a preview of what to expect in the coming winter months, and leaves crackle underfoot reminding us that summer’s moisture has given way and the dryness of death is near. As a Witch, the changing of each of the seasons echoes through my body and in response my perceptions and attitudes about what each change will bring sharpens and narrows to an intentional and purposeful focus. In particular, Samhain hangs heavy in my thoughts and the opportunity to reach a little deeper into my own state of mortality and transformation looms large.

Each year at this time, I make a silent commitment to being more fully present and alive in my daily activities. This is, in large, my antidote to feeling the pall of death and an active reminder that this state of manifest, physical life will follow the natural order of things and return to the finer state of a non corporeal vessel. Food takes on a deeper level of enjoyment. Family is drawn closer and self-care takes priority over spreading myself too thin. Long walks surrounded by the beauty of Fall exercise my physical body and stimulate and open my senses in a broader way.

I spend time in deeper reflection during my meditations and just as the days become fuller in energy and imbued with the visual palette of Autumn, the hues and intensity of my time spent as the Hermit turning within takes on more complexity. Each inhalation becomes an exercise to draw up those parts of myself that reside in the shadows that occasionally come to the surface of light, but for the most part are as fleeting and ephemeral in quality as the spirits who walk among us. Each exhalation is a chance to release those that are not productive or embrace and enliven those that will serve as the primal compost of what I choose to quicken in the Spring.

This retrospection is guided by the call of the Crone and the draping of her mantle upon me that I am so keenly aware of at this time of the year. The Goddess Cerridwen calls to me in whispers of wind and rustling leaves and the temptation of wanting knowledge of a more transformative nature seems at times overwhelming. So, I sit and wait patiently as the Crone reveals what she will to me. In this state of waiting, the time passes in a non-linear way and at some moments seems limitless in what is held. My breath becomes slower and deeper and the mundane world seems to fade into the background as time appears to stand still. There is no fear as the Goddess points a bony finger beckoning me to follow her as we begin the descent into the caverns of an underworld that is of my own making. There is only a deep feeling of peace and at oneness with all of life and a sensation of being more alive in this space of death.

The path moves downward at sharp angles and footing is unsure as firmly pressed dirt gives way to gravel. The sensation is one of traversing a misshapen spiral or labyrinth, energy and flow of movement all dancing in a discordant and circular nature. I feel myself being pulled along, caught in the current of this winding steady flow. I am alone in the growing darkness.

I take a deep breath in and then pull up all the courage I can, exhaling with an even deeper breath that releases any fears I may have. I take a few steps forward and the ground beneath has an unexpected softness to it. It moves in rhythm with my step, giving way with each footfall, but nonetheless gently supporting my weight. All my senses come to full alert and I move forward, nudged along by pure instinct. I realize there is no way of knowing what direction I am moving and this place has a feeling of being non-linear in nature. I stand for a time in this quiet space of darkness, allowing its energy to enfold me and its peace to fill every fiber of my being. Curiosity soon takes hold and the desire to explore even deeper wells up.

I hear a rhythmic pulse of sound that nudges me forward. It sounds like the gentle inhale and exhale of breath; it is the sound of air as it fills lungs and gives life and then is released back into the atmosphere. The sound increases, and I find myself breathing in unison with it. I open my mouth and call out to Cerridwen. I can feel Her presence all around me and HER breath is hot and foul. She smells of Death and Her challenge is that of facing the death of my weaknesses and the decay and stagnation of a life that is not infused with the passion of pure existence. She whispers my name and asks what I will offer in sacrifice in order to have one drop of her Cauldron’s liquid.

I breathe deeply and think on what compelled me to enter this place. I have no words and the challenge is more than I had bargained for. The realization that knowledge is hard won. True wisdom comes not from merely the desire for it, but from the relinquishment of what we cling to most fiercely thus allowing the space to be filled with the gifts of the Goddess. I breathe deeply and reaffirm my Life and the greater wisdom gained from the courage of stepping into the shadows.

I call out again to Cerridwen. My voice is now stronger and more assured in the knowledge that I have changed the inner landscape of my underworld. I breathe deeply and open my eyes, the energy of the Crone still wrapped about me. The call of the Crone echoes throughout me and I am reminded that this final harvest of Samhain is a call to the wisdom of the darkness. I will carry with me the knowledge that it is only in the embrace of the shadow that true gnosis can be found and in its final reaping is brought to the brilliance of Light that shines in all who heed the Call.

May the blessings of Samhain and the Wisdom of the Crone be the fruits of your last harvest.

Image: 123RFstock image-Wendy Andrews

Tomorrow: Day Sixteen – Who Are the Ancestors?

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