I still haven’t found the motivation to take the pumpkins and pomegranates off my altar and replace them with my treasured deer skull, pictures of my ancestors and the Dead. It’s still all harvest, food, and life. As much as I am in love with Samhain – and I really am! – there is also a difficult side to this season. The early sunsets and late sunrises are a trigger for those of us who suffer from seasonal depression. For me, this year is no exception. The more often I wake in a dark room and eat dinner in the dark, the more I struggle with my mood. My brain becomes foggy and slow and self-medicating with hot chocolate leaves me wired but as unmotivated as ever.
Samhain is a season of anniversaries for me. Seven years since attempted suicide, five years since my first awesome kiss, four years since founding an intentional community, three, two, and one year since community break-ups number one, two, and three, respectively. Some of these anniversaries leave me grateful while others weigh on me. During this season, gratitude and depression are always present, sometimes taking turns, sometimes existing simultaneously.
This year I am grateful that our community is so strong and peaceful. And yet as I reflect upon the four years since our founding, the many mistakes we have made, and the painful learning experiences we have been through (like banishing a vampire), I know that the days of this stability are already counted. This time, however, we are inviting changes. In previous years the changes came and took us by surprise. Each Samhain I was blindsided, another turn on the spiral of changes, another unexpected upheaval. Each year I resisted, fought, cried, struggled, fell into depression, disassociated, and finally capitulated.
This Samhain I am struggling to approach change differently but during the thinning of the veil, I don’t always want to be present. I know I’ll be grateful for transformation later, but I don’t want to show up for it now, not yet, not here. So instead of changing my altar and sitting on my meditation rug, I want to close my eyes to the dark mornings and go back to sleep.
Writing helps me be present, so I stop writing. Every other day I force myself to sit in front of my laptop and stare at an empty screen, willing myself to write something, anything. I drum my fingers on the keyboard, scroll through my Facebook feed, research pumpkin recipes and disappear into the kitchen until I end up with too many baked goods and nothing written.
I’ve tried many tricks to get through this dark season, but one thing I have been avoiding year after year: acceptance. Everything I do is aimed toward making me feel like I am back in the light part of the year. I install brighter lights and leave them on all day. I fill my days with events to mimic a busy summer schedule. I do anything to avoid slowing down. It’s easy during early Samhain tide; there are half-dozen rituals to plan, prepare for, attend, and process. Now there’s only the long stretch of short days and long nights until the sun is finally reborn.
So I challenge myself to do the one thing I have always avoided: to slow down. To be present to melancholy moods and waves of depression. To spread out appointments. To say “no” to events. To light candles in my office and write. To schedule time for tea and a good book. To have cuddle parties and hot tub nights.
I put up a mirror in the bathroom to help me. It’s a mirror of self-love, crafted after my first Witchcamp where I discovered the Goddess within. It is colorful and yet dark framed, surrounded by peacock feathers and fairy lights. When I look in it, I see my face next to phrases like “fierce love” and “love is the law”. It reminds me of what I have survived and how much has changed these past seven years, how much my community has grown, and how much love surrounds me. And it challenges me every time I walk into the bathroom: will you accept this time for what it is? Will you welcome this season of changes? Will you embrace the dark and be present for it?