I woke up from a dream of being back in my Siberian land. Dreams that take me there are always set in winter. Most of my childhood and youth’s significant events happened in winter and amidst snow and remain the most memorable to this day. Sledging with friends in freezing temperatures when we couldn’t feel our faces, hands and feet, yet incredibly happy and full of joys of childhood. My first kiss, awkward, yet warm and sweet. The day I let him go also took place in the middle of winter with me crying in the bright light of street lamps and snow sparkling all around us. I remember my blue mascara running down my cheek as if it was yesterday and the smell of his winter coat as he pulled me close to his chest. I remember his heart beat as we said good-bye.
I recall ice-skating with my father and falling into the deep snow, up to my waist, in the wilderness forest. We laughed a lot. Another kiss takes me back to a sacred place where memories stand still and not just my own, but for the whole nation. Wearing white hat and mittens in a cream coloured coat I was deeply in love.
As I walked to the window this morning I was greeted with a snow-covered garden and land beyond. Beautiful. It continued to snow all morning and I decided to go into the forest for some nature and elements communion. I always feel it is such a raw, spiritual and necessary experience to immerse yourself in the elements be it rain, snow, sunshine or wind. Each element awakens something within, touches upon places that need to be visited to remind us of what is essential and where we are in life. Crunchy under my feet I found snow and pure white landscape stretching ahead taking me further into my memories and on a journey of seeing and feeling things I hold dear to my heart. Memories flooded in like a bitter-sweet river and looking around me I smiled also feeling a smidge of sadness in my heart. He is long gone, but what he left is a place within me that is unconditional love and to this day I carry it inside and always will. Forest was noisy with splats and swooshing sounds of snow falling off branches. Many trees were bent down under the snow weight touching the ground. I stopped and breathed it all in. I miss him still and I remember everything like it was yesterday. Sadness filled my heart, but it is no longer grief or longing, it is settled and contained, warm and alive. It is love, forever.
Heavy mist descended on the golden landscape making trees stand heavy with leaves hanging still on their branches. It is quiet, frozen, there is no wind and birds settled quietly amongst the foliage as if waiting for a change. The change can be felt in the moist dense white air, which looks like a veil. How timely for Samhain. Its atmospheric covering of the earth brings a sense of mystery, some sadness and stillness, something is to come.
Yesterday I felt like I didn’t know what day it was. It seemed like the day either shouldn’t exist, like it was an extra day, added on to a week, or that we skipped a day somehow. A strange sense of space and time not existing. I also felt like I was floating and had an incredible desire to be silent, still and even amidst noise and chaos of family life I found myself in a quiet state, not wanting to say much. Similar to a sense of peace, but not quite. More a sense of expecting for something to come out of the silence, really listening to what was happening within me and around me, like being here, but not being here. Perhaps, a sense of being in-between the noise and the quiet, down and up, visible and non-visible. It is reflected in this foggy presentation outside today.
Today I feel anger coming through me, a sense of justice is strong. Honour and loyalty are qualities at the forefront of my mind. I reflect on it. These qualities are ancestral in me, I had discovered. They are innate and most precious. They are associated with warriors that fought a long time ago for the freedom of the land. It is all about the land looking back for me and it is all about freedom. Many warriors, clans of men and women that stood together against those imposing restrictions and unfair laws on the land and its people. They fought bravely in many battles over centuries with a sense of honour, reverence for the land, its landscapes and died with deep loyalty and dignity holding no regrets for lives well-lived. I do consider those lives the most valuable, those, who fight for what’s right, for what it is to be free and able to live how we choose. Today, many fight for the same rights, for the environment, protecting our landscape and species. I am one of those warriors in the making, I feel. I have a lot to learn and excited to be on the journey of discovering my role.
Today I honour Cailleach and the landscape that she walked upon and shaped from the beginning of time. She was an old, giant woman with blue skin and huge boulders in her apron. She walked the landscape of Scotland and Ireland protecting its waters and creating rocky mountains by dropping boulders as she walked. She was a protector of deer and would bestow warnings on those disrespecting species and the land. She watched over wells of the land and it has been told that once she forgot to close one and lakes were created as a result. Stunningly beautiful stretches of water, Lochs of Scotland we see today and enjoy their splendour. I am forever grateful to her for creating and protecting the land my soul calls home. I fall at her feet and bow with deep loyalty in my heart and willingness to learn, listen and carry on her lessons through years to come.
There is an ancient site hidden in Glen Lyon, Perthshire, Scotland where to this day a ritual takes place in honour of Cailleach. It is said that this could be the oldest pagan ritual to survive to this day. The stones outside the shrine representing her family are to go back in at this time of the year only to be taken out again in spring. How beautiful and I was struck with love and reverence when I discovered this existed. I vow to visit the place as soon as I can. It is also under threat of having roads built all around it in years to come, which carries a possibility of it disappearing, however, perhaps, many earth warriors will protect it and continue making it a treasure that it is for many generations to come and visit and see. Perhaps, I might be one of those warriors.
This year I contemplated and read up on who ancestors are and how we honour them at the time of Samhain. There are several types. Beloved dead, ancestors of family, land, spirit, culture and history. I found many interesting accounts of what it is like to connect and honour ancestors and it doesn’t always have to be blood relations, but many who lived centuries before us, those that inspire our spiritual path and whose presence runs through our blood every time we are in touch with either a certain place, landscape, song or a ritual.
My other line is with the magical people of this world, the healers, those in deep relationship with nature, plants and animals of the land, rivers, forests and mountains. Wild people living off the land and communing with nature during all its cycles. This is deep within me having come from a line of nature people, who held knowledge of intuition, magic, herbs and forests. Those that knew fairy tales and folk stories and sang songs of ancient origin and held rituals of many kinds. This line of ancestors connects me back to Siberia, Russia, where I was born, but also again to Scotland. There is another site, which I hold in mind today, Maggie Wall Memorial, a monument to witches executed in the 17th century. No one knows how, when and who constructed this monument and who paints letters fresh to stop it from fading. I am glad this exists, I feel touched knowing there are people around, who understand the deep meaning of this, a sense of history misinterpreted and cruel deaths of those, who were essentially healers. I remember them today.
Maggie Wall Memorial
So, this year for the first time I am consciously and knowingly choosing to remember two specific lines of ancestors, those not of blood, but of land and spirit. Their presence I feel strongly, they come as clear images showing me scenes from their lives and battles and those that speak to me through symbols, dreams and imagination to guide me on my path towards even deeper relationship with all I hold dear in my soul.
My ways of celebrating are setting up an altar for Samhain with objects relevant to ancestors I refer to above and Cailleach. Setting up a fire outside and throw some rosemary into it giving thanks to all that came before me and releasing what needs to die at this moment with adding some fallen leaves to the flames. Burning rosemary oil in the house to invite beloved ancestors for protection and guidance for my house and family. Divination with cards and mirrors, as well as, creative journeying to meet my ancestors and receive specific messages they might have for me. For my Siberian roots I reflect on the time of autumn in that land and remember silver birch forests covered in gold and ruby-red. I bring back its smell and feel and look back on all the times I came into contact with that landscape and those around me during those times.
This year I don’t feel death all around, I feel deep and loving connection. I feel life and with that I feel hope. Through death comes life and through life comes death. There is a direct link between one and the other. I feel both. Winter turns into spring and back to winter again cycle by cycle, life by life, we continue on our journey of dying and being re-born.