Thursday, 24 October 2013

Samhain


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.


25 comments:

  1. I enjoy all that domestic stuff. Funnily enough my children find it creepy and macabre, and much more 'normal' to dress up like vampires and race round the streets demanding sweets of complete strangers.

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    1. I'm wondering what my girls will say if I pull out a scrying bowl actually. Would the prefer to play Apple Bobbing instead? Probably...but heck, All Hallow's Eve calls for a bit of scrying :). (would love to skip the 'demanding sweets from complete strangers' myself!!

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  2. Wonderful and informative post! Happy Halloween!

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  3. Thanks CW...I pretty much am in love with your pumpkins though :)

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  4. I enjoyed reading your post.
    Your book Sefton Manor looks interesting...
    Bev

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  5. Thanks Bev :) I hope it is interesting, guess I should find out soon enough as it releases tomorrow!

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  6. Great mix of history and folklore, loved it.

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  7. Thanks for the info about Samhain. Just curious, about the Barm Brack--did anyone ever accidently swallow an item (especially the silver objects)? And would that be considered good luck, or bad? See you around the hop!

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    1. :) we were very cautious in eating our cake, in fact I think I just searched through it as I didn't at the time like fruit cake. I guess could be considered good or bad luck depending on whether you wanted to walk in other worlds quicker than you thought and ended up choking ;)

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  8. I love the Cat Pumpkin picture. I wish I was talented enough to carve something like that.

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  9. As a Wiccan/Pagan-friendly person, I have to say this is a great introduction to Samhain and its traditions. Thanks for posting it, Cait!

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  10. That was an interesting glimpse into history. Thanks!

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  11. I LOVE the pumpkin pic! And thanks for the history refresher.

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  12. Love the idea of divination.
    Happy hopping!!

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  13. I never get tired of reading about how different cultures celebrate Halloween or a related holiday. Irish in particular have such a rich tradition. Great post!

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  14. Thanks for sharing, Cait. I only knew a small part of everything you posted. Very interesting!

    -Jimmy

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  15. I really loved your post. My immigrant ancestors came from County Sligo in 1864, so through the course of Americanization, the traditions and beliefs became lost. �� Wonderful to learn them back here from your family. Go raibh maith agat!

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  16. Thanks everyone for the very wonderful comments, I feel very blessed :))))

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  17. Hi Cait,

    Fascinating post.
    Hope you have been having an awesome #CoffinHop.
    - KimK

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