Samhain by Annie Finch (excerpt)

In the season leaves should love,

since it gives them leave to move

through the wind, towards the ground

they were watching while they hung,

legend says there is a seam

stitching darkness like a name.

Now when dying grasses veil

earth from the sky in one last pale

wave, as autumn dies to bring

winter back, and then the spring,

we who die ourselves can peel

back another kind of veil

 

that hangs among us like thick smoke.

Tonight at last I feel it shake.

I feel the nights stretching away

thousands long behind the days

till they reach the darkness where

all of me is ancestor.

According to Irish legend, Samhain is the time of year when portals to the “otherworld” open, allowing the souls of the dead to cross into our world. More modern festivities taking place around All Hallows Eve carry on these Celtic traditions in a Christian context.  While visiting some medieval sites in Ireland during Samhain, 2017, I imagined spirits of the departed inhabiting the ancient stones and crumbling edifices, fields and pathways. Sites represented in these photos span almost 1,000 years (in some cases of almost constant human habitation). They include a hedgerow near Kilkenny, a River Maigue streambank where women did their washing, Kells Priory, the Rock of Cashel, Glendalough Monastery, and Jerpoint and Quinn Abbeys.