Here in California, we have two seasons: a season of water and a season of fire. The fire season generally begins when the rains cease, which is typically in mid-April—say, Tax Day. The fire season continues beyond the end of summer into the warm California autumn, until the rains return—around about Halloween.
I remember, as a matter of fact, the rains returning last Halloween, while trick-or-treating with the kids. I remember how warm that first rain was. It even seemed refreshing.
The old Gaelic year ended on Halloween, so I hear. In California, the return of the rains is obviously a big deal, but I’m not sure it ought to mark our new year (as though it represented a rebirth).
I say I’m not sure, but it probably should. It’s ironic because the leaves haven’t even fallen from the trees yet by Halloween, but one can watch the world being slowly reborn through the mild winter months. February and March bring progressively more glory, but it all begins with the first rain in autumn.
My doubt has to do with the role of the sun in all this. To base the rebirth solely upon the return of the rains seems to disrespect the importance of sunlight in bringing about life, but I suppose it’s obvious enough that this is all made possible by the fact that the sun is somewhat ever-present around here.
Reverse your thinking.
Or just rewind it a bit. Or maybe that’s fast-forward? It’s just too easy to get lost when you’re going in circles.
The Celtic New Year is considered Samhain (sometimes translated as November). Also, their day began at sunset, rather than sunrise. It is my understanding that the Celts viewed life as resulting from death, so the New Year did not symbolize rebirth as much as it did dormancy – or anticipation.
(I don’t know the reasoning of this, but I would suppose this life-from-death philosophy could have roots in justifying killing animals to eat – through their death, those who eat have life. Or it could be the thought that life doesn’t begin at birth but in the darkness of the womb or in the darkness of the earth?)
It occurs to me that this viewpoint gives one something always to look forward to – otherwise, if everything starts out all rosy, one is only looking forward to, or focusing on, well, not rosy. It would be nice to look forward to a life of promises fulfilled, of a bounty of births and harvests from small, quiet seeds that rested in the dark.
Anyway, the name of the first Celtic month translates to “seed fall” so the fact that the leaves haven’t yet fallen at the start of the rainy season, the New Year, would seem appropriate to an ancient Celt.
But back to water and fire… or is that fire and water? Having the rains symbolize a new beginning does not make rebirth solely the result of the rains. Rebirth requires both the rains and the sun.
In the end, there is no beginning or end.
Hi Donna. Thanks for your input. “Seed fall” says a lot, in a way that dodges the whole fire and water issue. It leads one to wonder why Autumn isn’t considered a beginning in more places.