To some yesterday, Halloween was Samhain but to me it was last night and now Samhain starts proper until the sull moon on November Fifth where burn a huuuuge bonfire!
Last night we prowled the streets pretending we were fairie folk - knocked at doors requesting treats for tricks - performed our magic and we were rewarded with much bounty. (and maltesers too ) ended up with a carrier bag full, on meeting those less fortunate who inquired how we had such huge hauls of sugar and coca we replied we did trick and treat - my wife (the dragon who remained in the lair, literally happily reported that after around 8pm those that met her at the doorstep offered to do tricks too.
This is something I've done since a small kid not trick or treat but 'Trick and Treat' - you perform a trick and are rewarded with a treat. We brought back some of the fun to the night and had a wonderful time. Bleedin cold though and i was slightly suspicious of the beast that trailed us with a guttural laugh and dragged a ruined leg while moaning at us. Some very good costumes out there, and the girls all loved it.
Halloween stems from the ancient celebrations of the Celtic New Year. The end of summer and beginning of winter was known in Gaelic as Samhain (pronounced 'sow'inn'), and it marks the beginning of the year for most Pagans. But not me as i said earlier in the blog for me it's Lammas. where the autumn equinox actually starts, as opposed to the last turn of the Wheel, the onset of the final days of waning Sun. when the air grows colder. Our fruits and grains have been harvested, the beer festival is finished! and the leaves are falling, and Mother Earth prepares for her time of rest. All of Nature reminds us that the time of endings, the death that is change, is upon us.
This time was thought of as the turn of the year, when the last harvest took place, and fires were extinguished and relit. People thought of this as a magical time, when the boundaries between this world and the next were dissolved, allowing the dead to return to earth, and for people to foresee their futures. It was also regarded as a time of mischief and trickery when pranks would be played and roles reversed.
It came from Scotland in the form we see now although all six Celtic nations: Ireland (Eire); Scotland (Alba); Isle of Man (Mannin); Wales (Cymru): Cornwall (Kernow) and Brittany (Breizh) have celebrated Samhain, the fest of the dead. In the book of the Kells which predates Chaucer by some time and this Chaucer quote is seen time again in Christian literature but it's wrong ancient Roman texts as well the the Welsh and scottish literature of heroes marks this time in Celtic lore, the feast day of Samhain marked the time when the barriers between human kind and the supernatural were lowered, a time when the powerful forces of the 'otherworld' were let loose and became visible. It's always been the basis of the Celtic 'out with the old and in with the new' belief that darkness comes before sunlight, night gives birth to day, the womb before life, summer grows out of winter. So the year begins with winter. This ancient feast has passed into modern times as Halloween.
The Irish-English Dictionary published by the Irish Texts Society defines the word as follows: "Samhain, All Hallowtide, the feast of the dead in Pagan and Christian times, signaling the close of harvest and the initiation of the winter season,lasting till May, during which troops were quartered. Fairies were imagined as particularly active at this season. From it, the half-year is reckoned. Also called Feile Moingfinne (Snow Goddess - Morgan Le Fey).
The Scottish Gaelic Dictionary defines it as"Hallowtide. The Feast of All Souls. Sam + Fuin = end of summer." They also believed that on October 31st, the last day of the year by the ancient Celtic calendar, the lord of death gathered together the souls of the dead who had been made to enter bodies of animals, and decided what forms they should take the following year. Cats were held sacred because it was believed that they were once human beings. Only the Scottish of the nations place it on that date the rest of us place it on the 1st.
Contrary to the information published by many organizations, there is no archaeological or literary evidence to indicate that Samhain was for a deity like 'Satan' or 'The Devil'. Eliade's Encyclopedia of Religion states "The Eve and day of Samhain were characterized as a time when the barriers between the human and supernatural worlds were broken... Not a festival honoring any particular Celtic deity, Samhain acknowledged the entire spectrum of nonhuman forces that roamed the earth during that period."
Some Celts believe that when people die, they go to a land of eternal youth and happiness called Tir nan Og or The Happy Hunting Ground or Summerland. They did not have the concept of heaven and hell that the Christian church later brought into the land. The dead were sometimes believed to be dwelling with the Fairy Folk, (think King Arfur and our good ladies of Avalon) who lived in the numerous mounds, or sidhe, (pronounced "shee" or "sh-thee") that dotted the Irish and Scottish countryside.
Samhain was as i said the new year to the Celts. In the Celtic belief system, turning points, those great moments of our days such as the time of twilight or sunset between one day and the next, the meeting of sea and shore, or the turning of one year into the next are seen as magickal periods. The turning of the year was the most potent of these times. This was the time when the "veil between the worlds" was at its thinnest, and the living could communicate with their beloved dead in Tir nan Og. Or in my case get freaked out by the number of dead wandering the streets!
Glastonbury Goddess Temple - at Samhain
Ahem, anyway the Celts do not have demons or devils in their belief system and so they aren't costumes you'd find us wearing. The fairies, (think of fairies kind of like elves from the world of Tolkien, it being their age before ours) however, were often considered hostile and dangerous to humans because they were seen as being resentful of man taking over their vale and their original lands.
On this night, in the nations of the Cornish, Irish and the Welsh they would sometimes trick humans into becoming lost in the fairy mounds, where they would be trapped forever. So best to disguise yourself and confuse the fairies who might be looking for you. After the coming of the Christians to the Celtic lands, certain of the folk saw the fairies as the Nephilim angels who had sided neither with God or with Lucifer in their dispute, and thus were condemned to walk the earth until judgment day. Same difference disguise yourselves in case the 'Lost Boys' come for you too.
In addition to the fairies, many Scots in particular the Picts (dark race black eyes) were abroad on this night, causing mischief. Since this night belonged neither to one year or the other, this Celtic folk believed that chaos reigned, and these people would engage in "horseplay and practical jokes" Which also served as a final outlet for high spirits before the the thrall of winter set in.
During the course of these Scottish-pranks, many of the people would also imitate the fairies and go from house to house begging for treats or food. Failure to supply the goods would usually result in practical jokes being visited on the owner of the house.
'Trick or treating' is also known as 'Guising'. Pagan Celts would leave gifts for the fairyfolk they believed wandered the countryside at Samhain and it was customary for people to go round their neighbours asking for donations for the New Year feasting. People who took part in the new year festivities would disguise themselves as the ghosts, fairies and spirits who they thought were present at that time of the year.
Since this is what the fairies who were abroad on this night would do, with footprints across your rooves or by snuffing out your candles or fires to protect yerself an offering of food or milk was frequently left for them on the steps of the house, so the homeowner could gain the blessing of the "good folk" for the coming year but to stop any randoms taking the bounty they were marked as being for the fairies - now there's no mention of what the mark was but I'd like to think it were terrifying faces.
Many of the households in the other Celtic nations would also leave out a "dumb-supper" for the spirits of the departed and Augustus (a bleedin' Roman) comments on how amazed his troops were to find food laid out for his troops on this night while they were hungry and about to despoil Sussex (or somewhere). The Scottish story is that folks who were abroad in the night imitating the fairies would sometimes carry turnips carved to represent faces. This is the origin of our modern Jack-o-lantern.
The Roman Empire conquered most of the Celtic regions and two Roman festivals became incorporated with Samhain. The first was Feralia - a day in late October when the Romans commemorated the passing of the dead, and the second was a day to honour Pomona the Roman goddess of fruit and trees.
An apple is the symbol of Pomona, so this could explain the tradition of bobbing for apples - whoever bit into an apple first, would be married first the next year.
Our modern celebration of Halloween is a descendent of the ancient Scottish Celtic festival called "Samhain". The word is pronounced "sow-een" or "sow-in".
The Christian church were against Samhain with it's ungodly practises, and decided to create it's own festivals at the same time. 31 October therefore became All Hallows Eve (or Hallowe'en), and 1 November was All Hallows Day, All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
As for cats... he Celts associated cats with the Cailleach Bheur, or the Blue Hag of Winter. "She was a nature goddess, who herded the deer as her cattle. The touch of her staff drove the leaves off the trees and brought snow and harsh weather." You might know her as Jack Frost.
Many great Celtic legends are concerned with momentous happenings which took place around the time of Samhain. Many of the great battles and legends of kings and heroes centre on this night, Arthur was slain by Mordred this night. Many of the legends concern the promotion of fertility of the Earth and the insurance of the continuance of the lives of the people through the dark winter season. The slaying of the Stag in the great hunt of the Host of Light for instance or the Viking deity Wodan the God of ecstasy, but also of death, so the dead probably always made up part of the Wild Host, which rode with great clamor upon skeletal horses and accompanied by ghostly hounds.
The ancient legends of the Irish and the Sagas of the Icelandic (both pre christian documents) tell us that this festival was characterized as one of the four great "Fire Festivals" of the Pagans. Legends tell us that on this night, all the hearth fires in Ireland were extinguished, and then re-lit from the central fire of the Druids at Tlachtga, 12 miles from the royal hill of Tara. This fire was kindled from "need fire" which had been generated by the friction of rubbing two sticks together, as opposed to more conventional methods (such as the flint-and-steel method) common in those days.
The extinguishing of the fires symbolized the "dark half" of the year, and the re-kindling from the Druidic (like Olympic flame) fire was symbolic of the returning life hoped for.Halloween stems from the ancient celebrations of the Celtic New Year. The end of summer and beginning of winter was known in Gaelic as Samhain (pronounced 'sow'inn'), and it marks the beginning of the year for most Pagans. This was thought of as the turn of the year, when the last harvest took place, and fires were extinguished and relit. People thought of this as a magical time, when the boundaries between this world and the next were dissolved, allowing the dead to return to earth, and for people to foresee their futures. It was also regarded as a time of mischief and trickery when pranks would be played and roles reversed.
Funnily enough Samhain is supposed to also auger those with second sight. So i had to suppress a grin last night when i heard Z say, "I know you can all read my mind, and that there's a law that says that you're not allowed to tell me that you all can read my mind! But I do wish you'd all stop being able to read my mind or tell me about the law."
HAPPY SAMHAIN - enjoy the quiet moments.