Samhain, A Celtic Winter poem

Samhain is the Winter Quarter season of the Celtic Calendar. The months from 1st of November to the 31st of January, it is the period of reflection, of remembrance of ancestors and wise old elders in our lives; it is the hallow-tide of all souls passing, the releaser of pain, the hollow of the winter twilight. It is the contemplative season of silence and stillness.

Lady Nyo

Dark mysterious season,
when the light doesn’t
quite reach the ground,
the trees shadow puppets
moving against the gray of day.

I think over the past year
praying there has been a
kindling in my soul,
the heart opened, warmed
and the juiciness of life is
more than in the loins–
a stream of forgiveness
slow flowing through the tough fibers
not stopper’d with an underlying
but softened with compassion.

This season of constrictions,
unusual emptiness,
brittle like dried twigs
desiccated by hoar frost
just to be endured.

I wrap myself in wool and
watch the migrations–
first tender song birds which harken
back to summer,
then Sandhill cranes,
legs thin banners
streaming behind white bodies,
lost against a snowy sky.

They lift off to a middling cosmos,
while I, earth-bound,
can only flap the wings of my shawl,
poor plumage for such a flight,
and wonder about my own destination.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2012
from “White Cranes of Heaven”,, 2011

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18 Responses to “Samhain, A Celtic Winter poem”

  1. brian miller Says:

    smiles…flap those wings jane….ha, that made me smile….i love this..the juiciness of life is
    more than in the loins–
    a stream of forgiveness
    slow flowing through the tough fibers…and hopefully our times of rememberance can be flavored with grace like that….it is a season of thoughtfulness to what has passed, evocative piece…


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Brian. I love the season of Samhaim (So’wen)….but until just recently have had no energy for much of anythimg. I think the invigorating winds and air are changing that!

    These are hard times, anyway you look at it…but perhaps the winds will be changing…we can hope….but snuggling by the woodstove with a book or a pad for poetry can evoke some necessary change….or flight.

    Thank you, Brian.



  3. Pat Hatt Says:

    Hopefully things are getting better at your sea
    And yeah I can agree with thee
    Seems these days are crap
    Or a worse word I will not flap haha
    The season you invoke too
    Hopefully a little shift in winds will make good things come due


  4. tashtoo Says:

    all about keeping the hope alive…this time of year, I automatically want to run and hide…curl up with the book, forget about life out there…should we be thinking about padding our dens and settling in…we so messed up this time around 😉 Love this piece, Lady..


  5. Mary Says:

    This poem is beautifully expressed in regard to feelings about the change of seasons. I loved the image of:

    I wrap myself in wool and
    watch the migrations–

    I think we all have to find our ways of adapting to the changes in seasons….and also the changes that take place in our lives.

    I have enjoyed your work tonight.


  6. ladynyo Says:

    thanks, tashtoo…for reading and your comment.



  7. ladynyo Says:

    thanks, Pat…for reading and leaving a comment.



  8. ManicDdaily Says:

    Ah! This is one of my favorites of yours, and certainly of non-Japanese ones – I just love this image of your shawl banding your arms like wings and flapping and the plea for compassion rather than bitterness – wonderful! Just a lovely poem, Jane. Hope your son is well! k.


  9. ManicDdaily Says:

    Ps – and the New Jersey Folks! k.

    (And you!) k.


  10. ladynyo Says:

    Hi K! I am so glad you like this poem….not new, I am forced right now to trot out some older ones because.. well, because I don’t have two brain cells to click together right now….Son is well, and we are actually having a good time…not arguing. I must be getting softer in the brain.

    And NJ folk are ok, as much as I know right now. I’ll make more rounds tomorrow and definitely catch your blog, K. I really enjoy your work. today I made a pass at a number of dversepoets and I really enjoyed reading people’s work.



  11. ladynyo Says:

    Wink, wink, K.



  12. hedgewitch Says:

    This is lovely–some very beautiful lines, and though it isn’t particularly in the oriental tradition, it still has that feel of the profundity of nature and our own connection to it that Japanese poetry, like the Celtic, is so filled with. I loved it from the very first lines, where light doesn’t quite reach the ground–the feeling, the very unique identity, of November is all through this, the November within and without. Thanks for posting it, and also for the tales about your Aunt wishes to her and all your connections up there.

    Thanks again for your kind comments on the Cat in the Well, and hope you continue to enjoy your time with your son; it is always precious.


  13. ladynyo Says:

    Oh! I loved (as did my son) your Cat in the Well! Layered in the best way. And haunting.

    I felt this Samhain was more Celtic in ‘feeling’….the wishing that I had wings to join the migration, the worry of my own destination…but perhaps what we write sometimes isn’t so stamped with a particular cultural feeling….which can broaden our audience! LOL!

    It just is what it is.

    Yeah, November starts the Samhain season in the Celtic calendar…as you know… and I bucked at that because it seemed to be too fast for the Autumn season down here…but I’m wrong because tonight it is going to hit freezing! This is early for the deep south.

    Thank you, Hedge, for reading this poem…and for liking it

    Jane (son is surly right now because he is trying to get a new chain on the two chainsaws….but at almost 25, he is perpetually surly around his mother.) Haven’t heard anything from up north, but I guess they are fine. Hope so…they aren’t on the Jersey shore. Bless those people who are…and lower Manhattan.


  14. Beth Winter Says:

    Absolutely gorgeous. I may, with your permission, print this and place it on my wall during this season. It offers the reader the opportunity to both honor and contemplate.


  15. ladynyo Says:

    Beth, of course you have my permission. I have been admiring your poetry for a while and wanted to get closer. Time and medical issues have delayed this, but I am so glad that I have read you recently.

    Thank you….for your reading and your comment. I love all things Winter, and here in the Deep South, it is rare we get to taste snow!



  16. janehewey Says:

    lovely. I enjoy your form, the soft rhythm, and the images you call up. I am grateful for this time of restoration and reflection- beautifully rendered in this piece. Your first and last stanzas are especially beckoning. ~jane


  17. ladynyo Says:

    That you, Jane. That is a lovely analysis of this poem. I, too….love this season. It’s my favorite of all of them, and it seems to be the season I can be most creative for some reason…perhaps the stillness we are forced to toe.

    Thank you for reading and your lovely comment. I will go read your own site today.

    Also Jane.


  18. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Mary…for reading and your lovely comment.

    This season of Samhain is very special…and kickstarts for me the poetry thoughts!

    And you are right: we have to understand those many changes in our lives brought about by the passing of seasons.

    Lady Nyo


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