Thursday 24 October 2013
Sunset on the 31st October to sunset on the 1st November is the time celebrated by the Celtic Druids in ancient Ireland as Samhain and it marked the end of one year and on to the next, the Celtic New Year. Cattle are brought down from summer pastures, the Celts being a pastoral people. Also known as the Feast of the Dead, this eve is when the veil between the worlds become thin, allowing spirits access to the world we know. Walking between the worlds is easier and many folk set places at the dinner table for their departed to return. Be watchful if you live near any of the sidhe (fairy mounds) for this is the time they open.
Leave a free chair by the fire and place a candle in your window if you have spirits you want to guide home. Over the years, this candle was put inside a lantern, which latter became a pumpkin, complete with carved demon's face to ward off unfriendly spirits. Dressing up on Samhain became popular as nervous folk would not want their spirits to recognise them. Again, these unsettled folk would hope to appease their spirits with gifts of fruit, nuts and ale.
In Ireland my mother, like her mother before her, baked Barm Brack, placing into the dough four items: a silver ring, a short stick, a pea and a silver coin. Depending on what you got, you could be married within the year (ring), become poor (pea), rich (silver coin) or have an unhappy marriage (pea). If you were really unlucky, you could have all four.
Samhain is an excellent time for divination. To talk to the spirits, use a scrying bowl or Ogham sticks. If you have neither, make your own scrying bowl by using a dark bowl filled three-quarters full with water--not from the tap. Light candles or incense for atmosphere and dip the end of your wand (or stick) into the liquid until it becomes wet, then run it around the edges of the bowl, causing it to resonate. Harmonics ensue, sounding like a 'yes' or 'no'. Up to you how you interpret the sounds and ripples.
On a lighter note, you could peel an apple and throw the peel over your shoulder to see the first letter of your love, soon to come. Drop egg whites in water to see the number of children you would have. (all very domestic from my point of view, I have to say. Now if it were for the number of lovers you'd have... :) )
In the 7th century, Christianity made its mark on Ireland. The 1st of November was declared a day to remember all the saints that had died and the day before became known as All Hallow's Eve. Nowadays the entire month of November is known as All Souls Month, where the dead are remembered. The nights draw in, the air is moist, strange noises abound. Stay in and meet the spirits or go out and walk among them?
I for one am looking forward to it.
Posted by Cait OSullivan at 07:49