01 November 2008

Samhain Shona!

The old Celtic calendar, which is again popular with traditionalists, begins on November 1st with Samhain, the Celtic New Year's Day, which is also the day when we remember the dead.

This has not much to do with the modern 'Halloween', even though some of the old traditions of our ancestors have been carried over into the tasteless, violent and over-commercialised present day 'Halloween' which is the Americanised version of the Celtic feast in its Christianised form.

When Christianity began to spread throughout Europe, the new Church pinched all traditional feasts and celebrations of the Pagan people and incorporated them into their calendar, using the names of saints instead of the traditional names. And Samhain, the Celtic New Year, became the feast of All Saints, or All Hallows, from which we get the name 'Halloween'.

Irish emigrants in the USA kept celebrating their traditional feasts - the Christian as well as the traditional Pagan ones - and over time many of the non-Irish Americans picked up the same customs and started to celebrate the 1st of November, which became eventually 'Halloween'.
Various elements from non-Celtic and non-Irish traditions were added on and mixed in, and with ever more commercialisation the present-day version of 'Halloween', with children and young adults, dressed up in ghoulish costumes and harassing their neighbourhood, emerged.

Unfortunately the ongoing Americanisation of the rest of the world has also its influence here on the Emerald Isle, and a large number of Irish people celebrate the fake and ghoulish American 'Halloween' instead of the proper traditional Samhain.

However, my friends and myself have nothing to do with 'Halloween' and always celebrate the traditional Samhain, which involves a fire ceremony on the evening before the day and some spiritual celebration through the night. On the day itself - today - we then have a shared meal to welcome the new year.

But the night belongs to the dead, especially those who died throughout the past year, and they were commemorated in the fire ceremony with the traditional words:
Those who are dead are never gone,
they are there in the thickening shadow.

The dead are not under the Earth,
they are in the tree that rustles,
they are in the woods that groan,
they are in the water that sleeps,
they are in the hut,
they are in the crowd.
The dead are not dead.

Those who are dead are never gone,
they are in the breast of the woman,
they are in the child who is wailing,
and in the firebrand that flames.

The dead are not under the Earth,
they are in the fire that is dying,
they are in the grasses that weep,
they are in the standing stones,
they are in the forest,
they are in the house.
The dead are not dead.
Now, that we have given the dead their proper honours, we can care again for the living and with joy and happiness begin the new year. So I take this opportunity to wish all of you - here on the Emerald Isle and everywhere - a peaceful and happy New Year with all the blessings of the old spirits.

Samhain shona!

The Emerald Islander

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

when clearing through my grandmothers things, she left notes to help with healing

Do not stand by my grave and weep
I am not there, i do not sleep
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain
When you awaken in the morning hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my gave and cry
I am not there; i did not die.

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