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A Year Dying and a Year Birthing

Welcome to the turning point in the year which puts everything into profound perspective. It’s time for dying. Time to let go. And by doing so, we can consolidate what is precious. Sap descends into the roots to preserve its power for rebirth next year. At the same time, leaves that are no longer serving their purpose now the days are darker, are shrivelled and shed taking with them impurities. Fruit and grains are full of the concentrated nutrients gathered through the growing season, husks and stems fall away. There arises clarity in this moment. Samhain (31st Oct – 1st Nov) is the most potent festival in the Pagan calendar, when looking upon death and decay enables us to really witness life. Its the death of the old year and the birth of the new. The Metal element in the Five Element practice expresses this paradox – creation and transformation step forth out of loss. Objects of metal have this clarity to them. Clean shapes: knives, keys, coins they are valued for their very specific qualities. Identified as one thing, they lose all other identities. Deep inside the Earth, under immense forces of heat and pressure, metal ore and crystal are formed. Treasures of great value are produced under these forces of consolidation. The Metal Element turns inward, condenses things to their essence. Some things must be sheared away and eliminated to create precious essence from raw materials. Losses must be acknowledged and grieved, but they are necessary. At this festival, which has of course been candied and sold back to us as Halloween, it is the time to reflect on the people and things we have said ‘goodbye’ to in order to get here. We can acknowledge gratitude for how they’ve shaped us and by their presence in our lives – and by their absence. Metal teaches us that without loss, without what is not, there is no value, no vitality and new vigour.

Darker days give us the tendency (or grant us the excuse) to turn inward. It’s pretty radical in our culture to embrace inwardness. Inward looking is not productive enough to please late-stage capitalist economies. Slowing down and phases of withdrawal are essential for natural systems to thrive with longevity. But infinite growth is demanded by our culture, and we are expected to provide it with our efforts. You are a natural system: you do not grow infinitely. Your growth is coupled with death and rebirth on a cellular level and on every level, up to the metaphysical. It is radical in our culture to embrace death. When we become intimate with death it is usually intensely private and personal, necessarily so as the ultimate unknowable right-of-passage. But death is often so hidden as to be taboo, shadowy and fearful. Naturally we fear death as we fear the unknown, profound loss and irreversible change. In pre-Christian traditions like that which gave rise to Samhain, Death is honoured as the equal and opposite dance-partner to Life. And all that is unknown and hidden beyond this life, and somehow underpinning it, is praised and celebrated with fire and festivities, and invited out of the dark to join us again.

  Samhain or Halloween, when the veil between the realms of life and death is lifted may seem like chaos to us, but it’s the lifting of the illusion that our lives will go on unchanged, that pre-empts the coming phase of shedding and cleansing. In the Metal time of year we are approaching completion of a cycle. Finishing off requires letting go of what’s served its purpose: making a judgement and committing yourself. It takes courage, it can be painful – it can be excruciating! After the agony is the promise of raw, new, spacious you, re-birthed and enriched, like the clear gems sparkling in the rocks.

This time feels thrilling and rich with potential for me. As the sunlight fades it’s possible to see the glimmering of a potent inner light that maybe escaped my attention in the summer’s glare. You could choose to give yourself the gift of slowing down. Feel how your body responds to the shift of energetic direction. What do you really want to do? Walk among the autumn colours? Lie listening to the rain? Let it all go?

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