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The year is drawing to a close now, and the smell of woodsmoke is in the air. Just a few weeks ago, we were boiling in our skins, and now we check every few minutes to make sure our noses haven't frozen off. October! It means another beautiful month spent in school, another month chained to a desk doing meaningless paperwork, another month commuting. It also means one wild night of identity crisis, gorging on candy corn, and foul looking punch smoking with dry ice.

But to a growing number of people, it means more than candy and last minute camping trips. For Celtic-centered pagans, it means the end of a year, the turn of the wheel, and a special night when the curtain parting our world and the next opens just a little.

It is this night that many pagans set aside to remember their departed with stories, songs, and a feast. For some, it is a loud party, a good old fashioned wake, welcoming their loved ones back into their lives for a few hours. For others, it is a silent, ritualized dumb feast, where the participants reflect on their own lives and ponder the world to come.

For me, this is the time of year when it really hits me...someday, I will die. Poof, gone, kaput. The end of my existance as I know it. I don't like the idea one bit, but then, I'm young. A 20-odd year old doesn't really think they will die...but there's plenty of proof that I will. At Samhain, the lines between life and death get a little blurry, and sometimes we can see into the next life. So, I take this time to come to terms with death.

Like I said, I don't like the idea of dying. I'm happy with my life right now, and I don't want things to change. But I will, though, and on the other side of the veil there's something waiting for me, and I have no real reason to be afraid. But still...

All things in nature follow a cycle. The seasons are born, the seasons die, and the seasons are born again in a full circle. The moon grows, shrinks, and grows again. Plants and animals are born, they die, and they are born yet again. No matter what mainstream conditioning might try to tell us, we humans are a part of nature. We follow a cycle, too.

Nothing is ever truly gone, its form is only changed. That's true of all things. So I don't need to be worried about being gone, do I? I will still be. That which is me will still exist. But then what?

I think we reincarnate. That follows the cycle theme we all share, and it explains quite a few things for me. Someone (I think his name was Jim...if I ever find the link, I'll put it up!) once described our existance to be like school. You begin in the first grade, learning the easy stuff. If you learn what you're supposed to, you go to the next level. If you don't, then you repeat the grade. As you progress, the learning material gets harder, and if all goes well, you graduate. What happens then? You can enroll in college if you like, learning the really hard stuff, and emerge something like Buddha. Very few of us make it through college, I think. :) Or you can rest on your laurels, I guess.

I think this is true. This strikes that special chord in my heart.

So what will I exist as between lives? Will it be like summer vacation? A time of rest and joy? I think so. Maybe that's why it's called the Summerland. :)

And what about death itself? Final exams! That would explain the fear of dying...what if I fail the test? That might also explain the "life flashing before my eyes" review.

At this time of the year, on Samhain, we watch as the old year dies. There is a period when everything is still, quiet, waiting to be reborn. In this moment, we get a glimpse of what is waiting for us.

And I learn that I have nothing to worry about.