November, and the fires are lit. It is the dark time of the year, the time when the moon illuminates the skeletons of trees with a fierce light, high in the sky like a midsummer sun. Strange how the moon, our dark twin, mirrors precisely the movement of the sun: it rises where the sun rises, its arc replicates exactly the transit of the sun, but at the opposite end of the year, high in winter, low in summer. They are precisely the same size when we look at them in the sky. It is a time for drawing indoors, to concentrate on the pools of light which we create to protect us from the wild animals in the woods. It was, to our ancestors, the time of Samhain.
The Samhain festival was one of the liminal points of the year; a time when the membrane between the spirit world and our world is stretched thin, porous. It is like the time when, falling into sleep, the mind is open to chance, to the arrival of the unbidden, to the benedictions of angels soft as a moth's-wing touch; a time when death and life seem poised in a beautiful yet precarious balance.
On this night, the westerly window in the house was left open during the night, a beeswax candle placed on the sill. It was a night when the spirits of our loved and lost might return. Ghosts, we may call them, although the word comes from the same root as guest, one who enters the house to rest. Sometimes they are known as revenants: those who come back to us. It is from the west that they come, arriving with the weather, emerging after the setting sun. The west has always been the direction of wildness, of change, the direction in which the most distant horizon lay; the direction to which we look when we want to understand what might arrive.
As I grow older, I seem to understand less. Only I know that it is important to open the westerly window on winter nights, to invite in the unknown, to be open to the spirits of the people or things we have lost.