Samhain

Our relationship to the land and the production of food is central to our religious understandings and calendars. As folks who don’t raise our own food, however, the spiritual meaning of the seasons can be lost on us.

According to Farmer’s Almanac, Samhain (“summer’s end”), celebrated on the same day as Halloween, “was the day when the cattle were brought in from pasture; those needed for the winter’s supply of meat would be slaughtered. Since Samhain was the death-night of the old year, it came to be associated with ghosts and graveyards.”

Around here, we don’t slaughter our animals or even take honey from our bees. You might say we farm with vegan sensibilities.

Though we sell the eggs of our chickens, we never “break” our hens of broodiness but instead allow them to take over a nest box and sit on their eggs to incubate chicks. We refrain from the common practice of “forcing” eggs from our hens by keeping a light on in the chicken coops throughout the winter (egg-laying is a light-sensitive process). Instead, we allow them a natural and “unproductive” season of rest.

Our relationship with the more-than-human world continues to evolve and be refined. This time around with our new flock of hens, we did not clip their wings. Our thinking was that our chickens might better elude predators with their wings intact.

But retaining the full function of their wings has made our flock truly free-range; we can’t constrain them to the bounds of their chicken yard, much less of our 14-acre property. This freedom may ultimately curtail their life expectancy, given the dogs who live pinned up next door, but for the quality of life they enjoy now, the risk seems worth it.

Our flock journeys to visit the goats and horses on the other side of the fence several times a day. They have breached our garden and orchard fences, regularly investigate the compost pile and the leaf litter in the woods, yet stand waiting for us to open the gate so they can step s-l-o-w-l-y back into the chicken yard late in the afternoon.

I love every minute of it. From the eggs that Escalera lays beneath the stairs to our house, to the visiting band of chickens who come by to say “hi” when I journey with others out on the land, to the hens balancing on our backyard fence after nightfall like toddlers who won’t go to bed, these rowdy young chickens of ours are sewing a joyful thread of chaos through our leaden pandemic lives.

Soon the days will grow dark enough that their egg-laying will cease and we will have to scramble to return our wayward hens to the safety of their chicken yard by 4:30 pm.

Whenever and however we are engaged with the more-than-human world, we are given the opportunity to reclaim the wisdom of our ancient spiritual roots born of soil and the seasons.

In the coming months may you also enjoy the adventure of unclipped wings, the luxury of dark incubation, and freedom from being “forced” to produce.

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If you are interested in attending Gaia Shamanism’s free online journey circle this Wednesday, November 3, from 4-6 pm PDT, email anna “at” gaiashamanism “dot” com.

All skill levels are welcome. I hope you can join us this week to kick off the new year in the Celtic calendar.

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