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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.”


“Earth Alchemy” by Glennie Kindred

“The Northern Shamanic Herbal” by Raven Kaldera

“Herbal Rituals” by Judith Berger






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Naughty Nauthiz…

I’ve done a lot of inner work these past 2 years, but it has become more intense over the past 6 months. I will not delve in details about the hows and the whys…I just made mistakes that led me to be trapped, unhappy and dependent on another. I gave away my hopes & dreams and I forgot who I was deep down inside…

My old self had to be shattered to pieces and I nearly lost my mind (that was one of the scariest things I’ve ever been though, and I felt absolutely helpless) around my birthday…My energy was so awful that everything & everyone I held dear left my vortex. Anyway I had to pull myself back together, push even harder to make changes and manifest them into my life (even though the Universe always has the last word and chooses the timing for things to occur)…Quite frankly I don’t know where all that ‘rocket fuel’ is coming from but I seem to have more than I thought and I am so close to reaching my goal(s) that I can already see the finish line and taste the sweet wine of my own victory (VINCIT QUI PATITUR).

What does this all have to do with the Rune Nauthiz? I literally shake when I see Hagalaz (though lately it’s been showing its softer side to me), Nauthiz teaches me to persevere and find alternative solutions (and I magically find more inner reserves of ‘rocket fuel’) while with Isa I know it’s just a matter of timing and being patient because the icy lake is only frozen on the surface, water is still moving under (slowly moving but not stagnant) – so is life behind & beyond the veil, we’re just not aware of it.

And Nauthiz has been showing up lately in my daily readings. So I figured that maybe I was overlooking something, even though I start being quite familiar with its energy & meaning. And then I found this article by RAVENSDOTTIR on Nauthiz (I invite you to head over to her blog & read the whole article):

“Nauthiz represents our deepest needs. It is important to distinguish that Nauthiz is about “need” not just “want” or “desire” but an actual, tangible “need” for something…

This need for survival pushes us through the challenges we face, particularly those created by our own (or others’) misdeeds or mistakes. Learning from our own mistakes is one of the most important and trans-formative things we can do for ourselves. Rather than beating ourselves up over a perceived failure, or berating ourselves for not meeting our own expectations, we can objectively reflect on what we can learn from a situation that didn’t pan out quite as we had hoped. Examining the outcome of specific actions, and adjusting our future actions, helps us to grow, and learn.

Nauthiz is also about resistance…

Nauthiz carries the weight of our past actions forward. To make fire, we must create it. This means, we must take the appropriate actions to manifest that fire. We cannot make it appear out of this air. (Unless you’re some kind of skilled master….go you!)  We need tinder, something to create friction, a spark, gentle breaths, and patience.  These are the lessons, the mysteries of Nauthiz, of need. Understanding what is a need versus what is a desire. reflecting on what actions are required to fulfill that need, after it has been established. Assembling the tools required, and leaping into said actions, trusting in oneself, and the spark of divine inspiration within. We can only continue along our chosen path. To turn back now, after coming so far, would be foolish….We need to press on.

We can use the runic energies of Nauthiz to bring to us what we need. However, we must be sure in our knowing of need and desire. For if we are unsure, Nauthiz will be happy to show us the difference, and this may not be a gentle or comfortable lesson to learn. Manipulating the Web of Wyrd takes skill, practice, and wisdom. Remember that lesson from Ansuz, be careful what you say/wish for?

I am Nauthiz. I am the need-fire. I am resistance, I am challenge. What is need? Not-this. I am Nauthiz. I show you the difference between want and need. I am Nauthiz. What do you need?”

I’d like to add that once the lessons of Nauthiz are fully learned, digested and integrated, Nauthiz can then shapeshift into Gebo…As all gifts and experiences need to be shared wholeheartedly.

What do I want, need & wish for? My own freedom. The freedom to be me, to embrace my gifts & my own divinity (because we are all divine – spiritual beings having a human experience). The freedom to live the life I choose, according to my core values (as for rules: they can always be changed or rewritten, because one can easily become prisoner of one’s own rules) – not following someone’s expectations or societal pressure.

Just being me, living in the heart & fulfilling my purpose on this Earth and in this lifetime…I know full well some will not understand, and that’s fine…But is it too much to ask for? The answer in NO and I have a deep & peaceful inner knowing that the best is yet to come…