Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Samhain: The Celtic New Year

In the Celtic calendar (Northern Hemisphere) the night before 1st November marks the end of the summer and the start of winter. It is the beginning of the Celtic New Year which is still celebrated by modern Pagans. The season of the Celtic New Year was called Samhain (pronounced ‘sowin’) and is thought to have originated from a combination of two Gaelic words, ‘Samrad,’ meaning summer; and ‘fuin’ or end. It was the great gathering of the clans and a time of plenty and kinship. Spiritually Samhain was an unreal time as one year turned into another. A twilight zone where the spirits of the dead and those not yet born walked freely among the living. Samhain celebrated the time where darkness of night prevailed over the lightness of the day. Lugh - the Sun God was defeated by his dark side and become the Lord of Mis Rule. Samhain is sometimes referred to as the Festival of the Dead, and in Ireland it is known as the Feis-Temrach (Assembly of Tara). On the night before the 1st of November, ("Halloween"), Pagans believed the entrances into the Otherworld were opened allowing spirits to roam free through the darkness. Fear of meeting a supernatural being meant only the very brave ventured out on Samhain Eve. Good folk needed the comfort of their own kin and protection from the evil forces of the dark. This was a magical night where light played an important role. We see remnants of this today with glowing jack-o-lanterns. Indoors it was a night of feasting and kinship with games, ghost stories, séances, tarot card readings, and scrying (crystal gazing). Many people believe fairies appear on the eve of Samhain. In the 9th century Irish Book of Armagh fairies are described as the "gods of the earth." Belief in the good people (daoine maithe) can be traced back to the ancient tribes in Ireland. Probably the best known ‘little people’ today are the leprechauns who were shoemakers constantly working to replacing shoes for the fairies who loved to dance. Irish Nobel Prize winner for literature, William Bulter Yeats (1856- 1939), wrote of the occult and told the story a woman kidnapped by the fairies and when she eventually returned home seven years later, she had no toes because she danced them away.

Happy Samhain

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