A FESTIVAL WITH ANCIENT ROOTS
Halloween is a very ancient folk festival, which has its roots in the Celtic New Year’s Day of Samhain, in the Greek myth of Kore and her descent into the world of shadow, and even further back in the myth of Inanna, the most important Sumerian goddess, Ishtar and Isis, her Babylonian and Egyptian counterparts.
At Samhain death is celebrated as fertile ground for new life. The plants release what has lived and now must die, and this death will bring nourishment and warmth to the seeds, which are stored in the warm belly of the earth until spring. Disintegration is what allows the true Self to emerge, that is, the seeds will be able to realize their true identity and become oak, apple or ash, only thanks to the putrefaction we are witnessing.
Just as in alchemy, a path for the purification of the Self, where the first step is the Nigredo, the ancient Goddesses embody the archetype of the descent into the realm of shadow, where light does not shine; the realm of dreams, feelings, everything that escapes definitions, categories and limits. The periodic descent into this world is what will then bring new life, meaning, purpose and understanding to the outer world. Ex tenebris ad lucem, from darkness the light, and not vice versa.
THE RHYTHM MIRRORED IN THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE
The menstrual cycle invites us every month to take this journey into the inner world, through its hormone progesterone, which stimulates the right hemisphere of the brain, which processes emotions, intuition and dreams, is holistic and perceives things in their context, making us able to read the intentions of others through body language and voice intonations, for example. The left hemisphere, its complement, defines, limits, categorizes, and is stimulated in the first two to three weeks of the cycle, those going from the end of menstruation to ovulation.
Progesterone, on the other hand, is like a low tide. It reveals to us what lies below, and often, what we do not want to see. Whether it is starfish or wreckage will depend on how much care we have given ourselves and whether it is appropriate to the challenges we have faced.
In order to receive its gifts, we too must periodically carry out the work of autumn (here a post that traces the biochemical analogies between menstrual cycle and autumn, and here another on the winter solstice). This means accepting our many deaths, and release what we no longer need, and that if it was kept, it would become toxic. Give ourselves rest, care, silence and dreams.
Going into the world of shadows also takes us to the shaggy places of the psyche, and confronts us with our scars, unmet needs, unnourished wounds, which continue to bleed silently, hidden from our conscience.
And so tonight, and every time progesterone asks you, you light a candle in your descent. Go there consciously, carefully, and look in the face what you did not want to accept until yesterday. Not with an air of defiance, or warlike spirit, but compassionate, curious, present. Free yourself of the superfluous, nourish your emotions and your psyche, and collect the bones you will find along the way. And when you return to the outer world, take the gifts of the shadow with you.
Good Samhain, may the shadow be with you!
P.S. Progesterone dominates the luteal or premenstrual phase, which occurs between ovulation and the following menstruation, and peaks about a week before menstruation. If you suffer from premenstrual syndrome, it may be that you have too much estrogen in relation to progesterone, a very common hormonal imbalance that can be resolved through lifestyle changes. But first of all you have to learn how to chart the cycle, and if you want to listen to a powerful and revolutionary reflection look at this TedTalk on PMS.