Thresholds and Thin Times- Christine Valters Paintner

In Celtic tradition there are many moments considered to be a “thin time” which means that heaven and earth feel closer and we might experience moments of connection to those who have gone before us in ways that we don’t usually.

These moments are the daily portals of dawn and dusk as the world moves from dark to light and back to dark again. They also include the eight threshold moments of the year which are the solstices, the equinoxes, and the cross-quarter harvest festivals that fall between the solstices and equinoxes. Of these eight, Samhain which falls on November 1st is considered to be the thinnest time when the ancestors and spirits walk among us. The door then is even further open than at other times. We can feel the shifting energy in the weeks leading up to this time. Samhain is the start of the dark half of the year. It is the season of rest, incubation, and mystery. It is the season of dreamtime. The perfect time of year to open your heart to connection with those who journeyed before you. Listen for the messengers of the ancestors in these days especially – they will speak their wisdom through raven and stone, tree and rain, dreams and synchronicities. They will speak to you through your imagination. This is the language through which we receive these gifts and only need to open ourselves to them.

The Celtic feast of Samhain coincides with the Christian celebration of All Saint’s Day on November 1st and All Soul’s Day on November 2nd which begin a whole month in honor of those who have died. We tend to neglect our ancestral heritage in our culture, but in other cultures remembering the ancestors is an intuitive and essential way of beginning anything new. We don’t recognize the tremendous wisdom we can draw upon from those who have traveled the journey before us and whose DNA we carry in every fiber of our bodies.

Ancestral healing and connection work has been a significant part of my own spiritual journey since about 2005. That was the time I walked into the office of a Jungian analyst to process the unabating grief I felt over my mother’s death. He introduced me to family systems theory and to the ways Jung believed we carry on the unresolved traumas of our ancestors. All these years later I continue this work of connecting to my ancestors because it is a path that has brought me tremendous personal healing and a deeper connection to who I am called to be. It has brought me a sense of belonging and coming home to myself. I have added many layers to this work over time, including ancestral pilgrimage to the landscapes which shaped my foremothers and forefathers, and perhaps most especially allowing writing, poetry, and other creative arts to become a portal of connection. 

When I imagine ancestral work I see layers and layers of story, concentric rings or circles — my story is embedded in the story of my family, which is nestled in the story of my parents’ families, and so on back through generations. This genetic story is wrapped in cultural stories, the places and events that shaped the people who came before me — language, music, landscape, the trauma of war which epigenetic evidence shows carries down from generation to generation. Within me is a sacred thread that ties me to everyone in my ancestral past. I carry within me the wounds and unfulfilled longings, the hopes and dreams of everyone who came before me. Learning their stories means I come to know my own more intimately.

Our western culture doesn’t make much room for the honoring of ancestors or valuing what connection to the stories of our past might bring to us. When we uncover the layers of the stories we have lived for generations we begin to understand ourselves better. Some of these stories we may know the details of, and some we may have to access and experience in an embodied and intuitive way. These memories live inside of us, waiting for us to give them room in our lives.



Writing with the Celtic Seasons



Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE runs Abbey of the Arts, a virtual monastery and global community integrating contemplative practice and creative expression. Her programs draw on the wisdom of the desert, Celtic, and Benedictine spiritual traditions as well as the joy of the expressive arts. Christine is the author of 18 books on spirituality and creativity, including three collections of poetry. She lives on the west coast of Ireland with her husband John and dog Sourney and loves to share the wisdom of the Celtic imagination with others.

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