The Other Side of the Hedge: The Thinning of the Veil

The Other Side of the Hedge: The Thinning of the Veil October 18, 2015

Halloween is almost upon us. It’s a time of year for costumes, parties, and maybe a few ghost stories. Samhain is on its way, too. This is the time of year when we see a thinning of the veil between the worlds. If we’re given to such things, it becomes easier to reach across the veil. But as much as the veil thins outside of us, it thins inside of us, too.

But the spiritual changes aren’t just happening out there in the world. With the coming of Samhain, the boundaries between our everyday minds and our spiritual selves become more permeable. The world that seemed so solid in the light of long summer days becomes a bit more uncertain in the fall moonlight. It’s a moment of balance; the noisy madness of summer has quieted, and we’ve yet to fall into the slumber of winter.

If we imagine the veil as a stream, in the springtime it’s gorged and wild, filled with the new life all around us. Then, the crossing can be dangerous, but it’s more likely we’ll just shy aside. In the summer, the water runs high and swift, bursting its banks. But come fall, that same stream loses its mad rush and becomes a bit calmer.

By Samhain, the rush has died down, and we still have strength left over from summer; it is at this moment we can choose to push across the stream. Samhain is the perfect moment for these practices of crossing.

A perfect moment — © Polly Peterson (2008) /
A perfect moment — © Polly Peterson (2008) /

Instead of thinking of Samhain as the moment when the spirits can cross, we might think of it as the moment when we can most easily draw spirits across…and when we can travel to the spirit world ourselves. Outside of stories, it doesn’t seem to be other spirits doing all that crossing. It’s us.

Spirits Are Spirits (This means you!)

When we think of our spirits as truly separate from ourselves, we miss the mark. Crossing through to the spirit world isn’t really us sending our spirits through. We’re like everything else in the world: we already “have spirits” – we already exist in the realm of the spirits as much as we do in the everyday world. The spirit world is not elsewhere; it’s here, and now.

When we “cross,” what we’re doing is moving our attention from our everyday mind to our spirit-minds (or elsewhere – there are advanced techniques). The spirit is just another sense. Just like we can focus on sight, touch, or taste, we can also focus on our sense of spirit.

Crossing — © Polly Peterson (2008) /
Crossing — © Polly Peterson (2008) /

That isn’t as easy as it sounds. Our spirits aren’t just sitting there, waiting for us to pay attention. They’re already a powerful aspect of who we are – though one we’ve often neglected, and culturally have little idea how to cultivate and strengthen. We think of our spirits as inborn, unchanging – our “character” if you will.

Some people’s spirits are just sitting there, not doing much. Others are powerful in their own right, active in the everyday world, lending a certain luck or charisma. Just as there are born geniuses and born athletes, there are people who have powerful spirits from birth. It hardly seems fair, but that’s just the way it is.

Awakening the Spirit

Learning to listen — © Polly Peterson (2008) /
Learning to listen — © Polly Peterson (2008) /

Just like geniuses and athletes, for the spiritually gifted, raw talent is not enough. Yet no matter if we have a little talent or a lot, we can train and harness our own spirits. Our spirits are not just “out there” – they are active in the world and a part of who we are.

After all, our spirits are not too different from any other spirits, whether the spirit of a mountain, a river, an animal, or most anything else. They can know the unknowable, bring luck or misfortune, bring health or illness, guard or welcome, travel to other worlds, or do any of a number of things.

Samhain can be about more than the mighty dead. It’s an opportunity for spiritual clarity. If we can call spirits across the veil, there’s nothing to stop us from summoning our own. The idea that rocks and trees and man-made things have spirits is cool. But experiencing our own spirits? That can be downright terrifying.

So this Samhain, welcome your spirit back to you. Ask it to bring you luck, and take you where you need to be. We talk a lot about “path” here in the Pagan world; for us animists, the path begins with learning to listen to our own spirits.

[ProTip: On the other hand, like any other spirit, don’t give your own spirit free rein or a blank check. An untempered spirit is no better than a mind of pure reason, or a body given wholly to hedonism. Your spirit is part of you to be welcomed back, not some mythical “true” self that has been hidden until now.]

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