Welcoming the Dark Half of the Year
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Embracing the Dark

As the earth sinks into a deep rest

I always find November bitter sweet. Gone is the warmth of the sun, its pale face now playing hide and seek among storm clouds that seem to constantly threaten snow or at best, a chill misty rain. The fun and magic of Halloween is past and although Christmas still lies ahead November is a dark stretch that looms with only a promise of long cold nights.
However, on the positive front November marks the seasonal festival of Samhain (pronounced “sow-oon”) on the Celtic Wheel of the Year. Samhain traditionally heralded the start of the dark half of the Year, a time for slowing down and begin tending to our more inner fires. Situated between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice, for the Celts, Samhain was similar to our New Year’s Day as the festival officially announced the arrival of winter.
November 1 is the actual date of Samhain but like other Celtic festivals it was celebrated on its eve, October 31. The Celts saw the darkness as a time when the ‘veils between the worlds’ were at their thinnest and ‘unquiet’ spirits could easily walk among us. Embedded in this ancient folklore then are the origins of our modern-day Halloween as a time of ghosts, goblins, fairies and all sorts of Otherworldly folk at large.

But it is primarily the absence of the Sun, or more specifically the Sun God, who is reborn at the winter solstice, that the Celts were really paying homage to this time of year. The Sun God was symbolically sacrificed with the final reaping of the summer crops. With his most potent energy now spent and his purpose as consort to the Goddess of the land fulfilled, the fall harvest was both a celebration and a wake - a time to gather summer’s bounty but recognize that survival during the coming winter depended on how well the dying God had performed his duties.
Corn DollyMany ancient folk customs involved burning a God-figure in effigy or braiding corn dollies from the wheat of the final harvest. It was believed that the essence of the God lived on in the last remaining stalks and if the dolly was hung indoors throughout the winter it would protect the home and its inhabitants from hunger and cold. The ‘dolly’ was then buried or given back to the land in the spring to fertilize the awakening energies of the Goddess. The Celts intuitively understood that it is in the darkness of the ‘womb or tomb’ that new life is created or reborn. It is also in the darkness of the earth that diamonds are formed. And so it is for us too.
Fall leavesBy embracing the dark rather than resenting it (or worse, running from it) we can use this time to honour the beginning of yet another circuit of the great Wheel of Life. Even Nature needs a ‘time-out’ and we would do well to follow her example. After her grand expenditure of energy producing flowers, fruit and new generations of animal life, she is in need of a good rest. This is also the time of year when she cleans house. Not only do the leaves drop but often the sick, the frail and the elderly too. It is all part of natural law. And it can be a valuable lesson for human kind, reminding us that we too need to to take our own ‘time-out’ by recognizing what no longer serves us, what needs to be released, what needs to be honoured for all that it has provided and what can be carried forward with hope for renewal in the coming year.
When the dull and dreary pre-Christmas countdown is looked at in this new ‘light’, I find it all the more bearable… even when Nature decides to start the ‘wake’ a little early with a surprise snowfall! But as a Maori proverb says:  “turn your face toward the sun and the shadows will fall behind you”. At this time of year I always make sure there is a candle burning both at home and in my studio, ready to welcome the Sun God when he wakes from his long nap and any passers-by in need of some warmth, beauty and good conversation.
If crowded shopping malls get you down, head over to the Alton Mill for a peaceful meander through our beautiful halls and studios. The Mill has become a Christmas wonderland and I and my fellow artists extend an invitation to visit our very special “Not-Your-Run-of-the-Mill Art Show & Shoppe” with its visual feast of artful treasures. Please buy local this year with hand-crafted items by home-grown talent. I have a number of unique ideas for Solstice and Christmas gifting to showcase in my next email or drop by the studio for a first-hand look. And maybe consider giving yourself a calming treat this December with my Winter Solstice Wishing Candle workshop, an enjoyable way to keep your own fires burning.

May you enjoy the dance!

CJ Shelton
Artist & Healing Arts Practitioner

Dancing Moon Designs
Illuminating the Creative Spirit ...

Share the Dance ... forward to a friend
THE STORY BEHIND THE PIECE ..."A Pearl of Great Price"
This image is part of my Celtic Wheel of Year series for the festival of Samhain and depicts the stark burnt landscape of the old year dying. Crows were very symbolic to the Celts and known to be tricksters and shape-shifters with the ability to enter other worlds and return again. This time a crow has gone into the realm of the dead and stolen a “pearl” from the moon to bring back to the ordinary world. His rather naughty yet brave feat gives us hope that the light can return again at winter’s end.
Look closely too and you will see Grandmother Spider’s presence also assuring us that all things can be woven anew. The red spiral of the earth-walk may end in the blue spiral of Spirit but the bright berries and leaves are Nature’s reminder that her life force is ever-present within the barren land.
Prints available from $10-$40
The Not-Your-Run-of-the-Mill Art Show & Shoppe
Alton Mill Arts Centre - Upper Floor
November 12 through December 21

It's Santa's best kept secret... treat your list to some not-so-run-of-the-mill gifts this year. As one of the Studio Artists at the Alton Mill I will be displaying new works in the Falls Gallery on the upper level as well as in Studio 211, now transformed into our pop-up Little Art Shoppe. A great opportunity to browse and buy a selection of unique and artful treasures.

Alton Mill Holiday Open House
Sat. Dec. 6 & Sun. Dec. 7
10 am to 5 pm both days

Our halls are decked! Enjoy open studios, demos, live music, photos with the Grinch, the Humber River Shakespeare Company's classic rendition of 'A Christmas Carol', and the first ever Headwaters Region Art Battle.
Art in the Round Intro to Mandala Making Sessions
Book your own day and time for groups of two or more. Great gift idea!
OPEN STUDIO Drawing Sessions - "Seeing With New Eyes"
Every Sunday Afternoon from 1-3 pm

NEW CYLCLE OF SESSIONS BEGINS IN JANUARY and runs throughout the winter
Build your drawing skills and learn to see the world through an artist's eyes. Newbies and more advanced welcome. Start anytime. Pay as you go.
MY NEW 2015 WINTER WORKSHOP SCHEDULE is shaping up! Look for it soon on my website and in the next e-newsletter
The Seasonal Cycle of the Year Workshop Series
Discover inspired and magical ways of engaging with Nature.

Winter Solstice Wishing Candles
Sat. De. 6, 1-3 pm during Holiday Open House
Sat. Dec. 20, 1-3 pm on Solstice Eve
Decorate your own 'wishing' candle and infuse it with dreams for the new year while listening to stories about the First Light and the origins of many of our current Christmas customs.
Shamanic Consultations
By appointment Wednesdays through Fridays at the Alton Mill and twice monthly at Breakthrough Centre in Brampton

MARI® Mandala "Soul Symbol" Interpretation
Explore the 'language of your soul' in a one-on-one self-discovery session. The MARI system provides a visual and symbolic snapshot of what's currently going on in your life, allowing you to access your own inner wisdom and achieve more clarity. You already have the answers within you. Sessions by appointment in my studio at the Alton Mill. Visit my website to learn more about this fascinating process.
“Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night; and thus he would never know the rhythms that are at the heart of life.”
~ Hal Borland
Copyright © 2014 Dancing Moon Designs, All rights reserved.

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