The Inner Alchemy of Samhain: Nigredo & the Release of the Old Self

A delayed article that I intended to write a few days ago…

As much as we like to view ourselves as “Homo Technologicus”, we are still children of Nature and are bound to its natural cycles, even within ourselves. Some of us happen to be more in tune with these cycles than others, and we intuitively know when it’s time to retreat inwards.

Every once in a while, I like to open Glennie Kindred‘s book Earth Alchemy – A Dynamic Fusion between Alchemy and the Eight Celtic Festivals, in which she describes the principles of Alchemy as applied to the Celtic Wheel of the Year as well as her own personal experience.

She naturally associates Samhain with Nigredo/Putrefaction, a phase when you get rid of the old parts of the Self that are no longer relevant, that are then turned into ashes via the fire of Inner Alchemy. It’s a time of release and letting go, the end of a cycle. These same ashes will become fertile ground/compost for the new, reinvented & redefined self with its new intentions, new dreams, wishes & projects.

I associate this phase with the Rune Jera. Everything in Nature is cyclical: where a cycle ends, a new one begins. One must look at one’s inner harvest with scrutiny and objectivity, as well as kindness. We obviously don’t want to repeat the same mistakes but we can’t be too harsh on ourselves for having made these mistakes in the first place. Mistakes are lessons to be learned and, as such, are part of our growing process.

“Alchemically, Nigredo, the Dark, is the ending of one cycle, out of which new possibilities are revealed. It begins with a descent into the Darkness inside us to find the Lead, which is also the Gold, the Alchemist’s Prime Substance or Base Matter, the very essence of life…Through meditation, the art of being and contemplation I find stillness within. I am able to touch my deepest wisdom and find my connection to my natural goodness and inner knowing at my core. I find my connection to Spirit and the Gold that lies within.” Glennie Kindred

This alchemical phase happens to take place within the Runic half-month of Hagal(az). This specific Rune is often associated with destruction, hence its name (hail). Hagal will shake you to your core, and find its way to the cracks and the dark place of your being. Hagal has the power to turn your world upside down, and it will leave you naked with your core foundations exposed to the elements & with the duty to repair and rebuild your Self and your life), better and stronger than before.

Hagal also happens to be a Mother Rune: a Rune of potential and creation. While you can’t have any control over what it is going to unleash into your life, you can choose what and how you want to rebuild. In that sense, Hagal can make us a favor as most of us don’t want to be consciously confronted to our shadow side.

While we are turning inwards and facing the Dark, it is important to remain grounded. Autumn, with its cooler & shorter days, requires more energy from our body. Nutrient-dense foods such as root vegetables, meat, and animal fats will provide the fuel needed for our body to face the outer world.

But to help us define our vision and dream our dream, we can turn to Mugwort (Artemisia Vulgaris, also known as Cronewort) as an herbal ally.  Mugwort is 1 of the 9 Sacred Herbs in Northern Shamanism, and is used to induce visions and dreams. Raven Kaldera writes in his Northern Shamanic Herbal: “Mugwort is very old, and it has been used magically for a very long time. It has no active hallucinogenic parts, unlike Wormwood, but it doesn’t need them to do the trick of creating a sacred space and enhancing one’s psychic powers.” 

Judith Berger also talks about Mugwort in her wonderful book Herbal Rituals: “…Known to many as an herb of magic, cronewort allows us to live in several worlds at once, expanding and nourishing the habit of drawing our gaze before us to that which is visible, and behind us  to that which is invisible. Regular use of cronewort in tea or extract strengthens our ability to absorb intuitive information as we preserve an aspect of sharpness in our interaction with the complex, outside world.”

Mugwort is also a nourishing, medicinal herb with an affinity towards the digestive system (which will be useful to help us digest the rich seasonal diet of Autumn): “Like a true wise elder, cronewort knows that a grounded, vital body is as precious as our visionary abilities, and so Artemisia Vulgaris tones our organs so that we will become sturdy as well as wise old crones. Cronewort leaves are a rich source of vitamin B complex, vitamin C expressed as ascorbic acid, and carotenes expressed as vitamin A. Cronewort abounds in minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and iron. A vinegar made from the leaves of this artemisia will strengthen the entire digestive tract, improving appetite, normalizing bile production, and supporting and restoring the supple strength of the small and large intestine.”


Sources:

“Earth Alchemy” by Glennie Kindred

“The Northern Shamanic Herbal” by Raven Kaldera

“Herbal Rituals” by Judith Berger

 

 

 

 

 

One Comment on “The Inner Alchemy of Samhain: Nigredo & the Release of the Old Self

  1. Pingback: More on Hagal(az) – ~Zenseer~

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