Joy & Grief: figuring out my Samhain Advent

I completely dropped the ball on doing fire festival advents this year. In the wave of grief following the death of my friend and the death of my mentor, it seems very important to me that I actually follow through with Samhain advent.

Despite living in a house that is spiritually blocking me, in which I am drowning, I can hear my Father call to me now that it’s October. It’s His month, and my favourite month, and a time for me to experience both joy and grief.

This week at church I started crying when talking to the priests after service; they offered to let me sit in church for a while, and then one of them sat with me and let me spill out all my messy emotions all over her. She thanked me for sharing part of my story with her.

During service, I stood up during Thanksgivings and said Hych’qa for Uncle Ray and his presence in my life and in the world, for the changes he brought into my life.

On my way to service a crow flew low in front of my car, right at my eye level, very clearly *making* me notice it. Then I drove past a dead animal; I crossed myself (as I did when I was a child, until my father yelled at me for it) and asked Mother Mary and Manannan to take the animal into Their arms, to comfort it. I saw another, different dead animal by the side of the road after service on my way to my errands, and I made the same prayer.

Both times I felt a response. Faint, compared to some of the experiences I have had, but *there*.

Driving home after my errands filled me with dread, because while I was outside the house I felt alive and connected, and focused. I knew exactly what I wanted to accomplish that day. And I knew as soon as I got home, that focus would disappear, and that connection would break.

I am living in a tomb.

*

So how to approach Samhain Advent living as I am? How do I attempt to explore the mysteries of Manannan, of life after death, when I can barely keep my own life together?

I don’t have an answer. The purpose of this post is for me to noodle one out of my tangled, jumbled thoughts.

I know I want to focus on three different aspects of Him, one for each week of advent. I haven’t figured out those aspects. Brighid, for Imbolc Advent, was easy — I went with healing, writing, and smithing. Those are the most common 3 aspects associated with Her, so it seemed a no-brainer.

Manannan I haven’t quite worked out yet. I almost said “worked the kinks out of yet”. Which I think He’d laugh at a lot.

Well, there’s a starting point: humour, and its place with death and tragedy.  He loves a good laugh, yet He’s there to take you to the afterlife. He rules over death with a smile on his face, but it’s not a cruel smile. He’s there to welcome you, whether it be with gentleness or ribald jests.

(The more I think on the aspects of my Father, the more convinced I am that His spirit-brother in the Hellenic pantheon is Hades.)

Laughter in the face of tragedy seems awful to some, but I really think it’s one of the most truly human things there is. It’s part of what makes us *us*. This week I’ve been watching movies while I knit scarves to sell at the Cranberry Fest on Saturday; among them, The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2, and Armageddon. Both movies deal heavily with facing death, and what did characters do? Crack jokes.

And when the characters crack jokes, we the audience *feel* something — we feel like we can relate to these people even more. Because of course you crack jokes in the face of certain death. Of course when a pair of T-Rexes knocks your trailer half off a cliff and you’re hanging on for your life and your friend comes to save you, you ask him for 3 double cheeseburgers, no onions, and an apple turnover.

Of course, because that’s the most human thing to do. Because in the face of death, we cling to life, and what makes life livable: laughter, joy, mirth.

I think Manannan loves us for that.

*

Manannan is a god of death, which means he’s a god of cycles. The cycle of death and rebirth; the cycle of water as it goes from ocean to atmosphere to rain to the surface of the earth again. The cycle of light to dark. The cycle of planting to growth to ripeness to rot, to compost, to fertile ground ready for spring.

The cycle of emotions; the cycle of highs and lows that takes us through life. Good cycles…and bad ones.

Often we’re too busy drowning in these cycles — in life — to really be mindful of them, let alone change them if they’re hurting us. We get stuck in things without even knowing what we’re stuck in.

Part of Samhain advent for me will be examining the cycles I’m stuck in, and trying to work to extricate myself from the harmful ones. 

*

I always thought I’d associate Brighid with things like feasting — she is a hearth goddess, after all. But while she is goddess of the hearth, and it may be her fire that cooks the food, it’s Manannan who is host, because in the end everyone returns to him.

Everyone — alive or dead — is welcome at His table; everyone is welcome to break bread and feast on bacon with him. The food is never ending, and no one is allowed to go home hungry.

He is the father on the block who makes sure all the kids get fed, no matter what’s going on for them at home. He sends his kids to school with extra food in their lunch bags to share with their friends. He’s always making more than enough food so there will be leftovers to give to people who hunger.

And while you’re at his table, he’ll ask you with a kind word about your day, and he’ll really listen and care about what you have to say — and you’ll go home with more than just your belly full. 

*

Advent starts next week. I think I’ll start with feasting — it’s Thanksgiving weekend here and we’re having dinner at the in-laws’ on Monday, so the timing is right.

Then I’ll do Cycles, and finish out the month with Laughter — something I think I’ll need as Samhain grows nearer.

I don’t know what actions I’ll be doing yet, but having my focuses is a big first step. It gives me a place to start.


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