Last night we stood around the fire feeling its intense heat against our faces, a convivial group, comfortably warm and full after our barbequed feast, sausage sizzle and scalding hot tomato and vegetable soup. There were spatterings of icy cold rain coming in on the wind, along with the mingled scents of onions and roast meat and veg. All around loomed densely-wooded ancient cliffs, and above us, infinite darkness. The sky was so black it was impossible to pick out the shapes of cliffs or trees.
Close together, in the animal warmth of the group, we fell silent.
I stood watching all the debris of the past year being thrown into the flames – branches, boards, broken furniture, brambles… mind wandering, it occured to me that groups of people had been gathering around fires at this time of year for millennia – probably since our ancestors first appeared on the planet.
These fire rituals that have persisted through the centuries – from Celtic Samhain to Christian “All Saints (or All Hallows) Evening” and Halloween… they all attest to the importance of this turning point in the year… between the seasons of planting, growth and harvesting, and the season of dormancy and darkness. And we are a part of all this.