Heidekolb's Blog

On Samhain, Archetypes and Psyche’s Experience of the Nurturing Darkness ~ The Red Book Reflections | October 31, 2010

Every year I lament the end of summer. Until about this time of the year, when I can sense a major shift of energy. Darkness is settling in. There are so many shades of darkness. I will single out one for today.  It is the shade that belongs to Samhain, one of the great doorways into the dark.Tradition has it that the veil between the upper and the lower worlds is the thinnest on the night of October 31 to November 1st. It is a night of welcoming and honoring the dead. In the old days it was a time of divination and communication with the spirit world. It is the beginning of the new year, because the Celts appreciated that new life begins in utter darkness. Although originating in the pre-Christian Celtic tradition, Samhain belongs to all people who are open to the cycles and movements of nature.

Let us understand the meaning of Samhain from a Jungian psychological perspective. Maybe because our culture has lost the connection to the natural and nurturing aspect of the dark, we are currently so terribly dominated by the devouring and destructive side of it. The darkness of Samhain is of an introspective, reflective nature. Qualities our dominant culture is not supporting. Imagine, letting go of all the noise, the distractions. Imagine, allowing yourself t be alone ~ with yourself, only your breath leading the way.All fears and resistances belong to the ego, which initially refuses to acknowledge the existence of another realm of reality. The natural world knows no such fears. Imagine, walking into the darkness of not yet knowing ~ and listening, and seeing.

The dead come to visit in this night, it is said. They may come with messages or they  simply need  us to acknowledge their existence. The knowledge, but also the sins and wounds of our ancestors live within us. This is a psychic fact that C.G. Jung very much understood. Psychic life, the life you and I know and experience, emerges out of and continues to be embedded in an archetypal field. Archetypes are ultimately unknowable but very specific patterns of energy which we experience as images and affects. Our relation to the archetypal world connects us to our ancestral history, including our animal and microbial past. Yes, that far back can psyche reach. An archetype is like an old watercourse along which the water of life has flowed for centuries, digging a deep channel for itself, Jung writes. If we manage to quiet the chatter within us, then the world of the forgotten past within us will be at its most available tonight, according to the tradition of Samhain.

But we do not have to peer that far. In the shadow that we carry are also all the traumas, wounds and unresolved issues of our recently deceased relatives, parents and grandparents. I have learned (thank you Malidoma Some : ) that the departed souls of our relatives need us as much as we need them. There is a unique power of healing that only our waking consciousness can generate. Some of us are plagued with psychological disturbances, which we have psychically inherited from those close to us who have died. Every unresolved trauma or other unresolved psychic issue is passed on from one generation to the next, until the chain is broken. Breaking the chain means bringing the dark into light, making what has been unconscious conscious. That is the job of the living and only we can do that. That is our purpose in life.

Jung writes in the Red Book (RB) “If you live your own life, you do not live the common life, which is always continuing and never ending, the life of history and inalienable and ever-present burdens and products of the human race”. Before we can become who we are meant to be, before we can live our own life, we must descend into the shadow left by those who have gone before us.

If we surrender to the natural movement of the soul, we can and must bring forth pieces of the personal and collective unconscious that need to come into the light. This is growth. This is healing. This is becoming.

The sheer beauty of Jung’s writing in the RB  shines forth in this quote and elucidates this thought. See it, hear it with your senses open to the ever-present symbolic reality: ” As a drop in the ocean you take part in the current, ebb and flow. You swell slowly on the land and slowly sink back again…you wander vast distances in blurred currents and wash up on strange shores, not knowing how you got there. You mount the billows of huge storms and are swept back again into the depths….You had thought that your movement came from you and that it needed your decisions and efforts….but with every conceivable effort you would never have achieved that movement and reached those areas to which the sea and the great wind of the world brought you..

From endless blue plains you sink into black depths; luminous fish draw you, marvelous branches twine around from above. You slip through columns and twisting, wavering, dark-leaved plants, and the sea takes you up again in bright green water to white, sandy coasts,  and a wave foams you ashore and swallows you back again, and a wide smooth swell lifts you softly and leads you again to new regions, to twisting plants, to slowly creeping slimy polyps, and to green water and white sand and breaking surf.”

At Samhain the veil may be the thinnest, but the work of connecting to the ancestors, of acknowledging the archetypal realities is not over when this sacred night has passed. But it could be the beginning of a new attitude.

Samhain has turned into Halloween. We have learned to slip into a disguise, so we are not recognized by the wandering “evil” spirits. But maybe we want to remember some of the old ways and honor the dead. As Jungian warriors we may want to sit quietly and reflect on what has died within us, what traumas have we inherited from our personal and collective ancestors. What is it in our lives that needs to be faced and owned? Who are the hungry ghosts in our soul? How can their energy be released and transform in the light of consciousness?

Sit quietly ~ there is work to be done on your journey of becoming and it begins in the darkness of this night.

A Blessed Samhain to All

For all new life forms in the dark.


  1. Thank you.

    Comment by Michelle — November 4, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

  2. Thank you – This blog will be my daily read from now on.

    Comment by Finlay Cowan — November 7, 2010 @ 6:59 pm

  3. I’m delighted to find this site! Thanks to the magic of Twitter! @skip_conover

    Comment by Skip Conover — November 12, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

  4. working on that email.

    thank you for this.


    Comment by annie q. syed — November 23, 2010 @ 2:34 am

  5. For reasons passing understanding, this post just arrived in my inbox a few minutes ago. By serendipity, it speaks to me very well and is quite timely, as I have long been a combination of Hermes and Hephaestos, as Jean Shinoda Bolen had it. The work of the latter in me is informed by the former. It seems silly of me to be working in 17 languages now, but there surely is a subconscious push along the lines of this post. @skip_conover

    Comment by Skip Conover — November 23, 2010 @ 1:24 pm

  6. Hi Heide. I really appreciate your blog, especially the ruminations on the Red Book. I have just placed a link to it on the links page on http://www.depthpsychologyalliance.com, the online Depth Psychology community I maintain. Thanks for all your good work.

    Comment by Bonnie Bright — November 26, 2010 @ 7:56 pm

  7. Thank you.

    It’s hard to say more, especially since this piece is so rich and full of deeply resonant content. At the end of reading this piece, “Thank you” formed in my mind in sort of a shocked blur. But I do want to say Thank you, really — this is so powerful in its connection of All Soul’s Day, Samain, with our personal and ancestral shadows, with deep psychological and soul work, and with healing. Your commentary pleases me; it is rare to find such clear and vitally important thinking. I, too, am happy to find this blog (found at http://www.depthpsychologyalliance.com), and will return.

    Comment by Pamela DeRositte — November 28, 2010 @ 2:47 am

  8. I am so grateful to be one of the people who got a chance to read your blog. This is a great piece especially to those who needs depth understanding in Psyche that mirrors their past experiences.

    Comment by Counselling Southampton — September 26, 2011 @ 5:45 am

  9. Brilliant, grounded and some good practical advice on how to work with the energies of the season!


    Comment by ilikelichen — October 28, 2011 @ 9:58 am

  10. Your blog hits on a lot of Carl Jung’s perspectives about the human mind. However, I have recently become very interested with Jung’s concept about the collective unconscious and how important it is to be able to connect both the unconscious and conscious part of one’s mind. You speak about the “unique power of healing that only our waking consciousness can generate” which means that in order to process the information from our unconscious we need to first become aware of that part of our mind and transfer that information into the waking conscious. In my research, I found the best way to connect those two parts of the mind is through one’s dreams. A perfect example you used in another one of your blogs was about the movie Inception.This movie demonstrated the world of process through dreams which are below the threshold of waking conscious. There are many different thresholds that can be reached during the sleeping process; the deeper the sleep one is in, the farther the threshold. This helps one to create more vivid dreams, hence, when the person wakes up it is easier to remember a dream. This dream can then be interpreted for further use and help analyze a person’s inner thoughts which can then lead to help the person get a better understanding of himself. Understanding one’s thoughts and dreams can help one to become his or her own individual. Like Jung said ” If you live your own life, you do not live the common life”, which sounds similar to something Ralph Waldo Emerson would say. Being self-reliant and an individual is one of the most important success any single person can make hence why it is extremely important to become connected with one’s collective unconscious.

    Comment by Rita — November 30, 2011 @ 12:33 am

    • Thank you Rita for your interesting and thoughtful comment!

      Comment by heidekolb — November 30, 2011 @ 10:11 am

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