I’ve been craving a personal project.
Art is collaborative but it can also be selfish, because it’s my way of better understanding myself and my unconscious desires. So I’m starting tonight, on the witch's new year, All Hallows Eve, also known by its older pagan name - Samhain. The first festival in the Wheel of the Year, an old Celtic way of worshipping and collaborating with nature over the course of a calendar year. Samhain (pronounced sow-in) is the beginning of the cycle, and what better way to begin than with death. The transition from plentiful harvest to the depths of the afterlife, this day is a time to connect with ancestors and allow things to die. It’s themes marvelously mirror my personal experience with bleeding, shedding all the growth to make room for a new cycle.
A major aspect of this project will be my exploration of ancestry and identity through the act of navigating my hormonal cycle. Connecting with my Celtic heritage brought me to discover the Cailleach, an ancient divine hag who rules the winter, making her debut on October 31st. She is considered the counterpart to Brigid, goddess of summer who makes her debut on May 1st or Beltane. Brigid rules fertility and plenty, Cailleach rules darkness and hidden things. Some believe they are sisters, others believe they are the same entity, biannually undergoing transformation from maiden to crone. When the Catholic church colonized the pagan celts, they reinterpreted Brigid and her positive themes as St. Brigid, while doing away with Cailleach and her less appealing symbolism.
This discovery of the Cailleach, which parallels my own painful relationship with religion, is an important archetype for the aspects of myself that have been covered over and replaced with an archetype of the light and virginal Brigid. My people believed in a creature who was a shapeshifter, a goddess who transformed herself in collaboration with nature to express all aspects of light and dark. My recent elopement on Beltane ignited my own shift into a creature who is free to express all aspects of herself, the hidden things, the overlooked, covered up aspects of my identity. The parts that evangelical christianity would not allow me to explore the last 30 years of my life. Cailleach has been my guide into queerness and the transformation that comes when you allow your past to be experienced with a new lens. This is powerful and shapeshifting work, retroactively viewing my life without the assumption that I am straight because my old life demanded it. Queering my identity is witchcraft.
Samhain is marked with sacrificial offering. My ancestors surrendered their best blood to the goddess of Winter. I also offer my blood. Samhain is the menstrual bleeding, the shedding of self on a day that requires nothing less than an intimate sacrifice. Despite Samhain marking the descent into winter and darkness, it also marks the start of a new cycle. My body bleeds and reminds me that it will all circle around again. It’s painful, it breaks me open and contracts the uterine lining we’ve worked so hard to create. It’s a lost opportunity to carry life forward, and also a preservation of the things that can still stay the same. It’s transformative just like Cailleach is transformed from the young ovulating goddess into the bleeding hag. She veils her face and carries a sickle to gather one last grain of wheat. My hormones descend to their lowest points and find their resting place before the cycle begins.