MUIN LIGHT

The newsletter of

Muin Mound Grove, ADF

7188 Minoa Bridgeport Road

East Syracuse, NY 13057-9601

SAMHAIN 2000

 

 

 

 

Samhain

From "The Wheel of the Year at Muin Mound Grove, ADF" by Skip Ellison

 

Samhain, also known as "Samaain", "Hallowe'en", "All Hallows Eve", "Mallowmas", "All Saints Eve", "All Soul's Eve", "Sauin" on the Isle of Man, "Samhuinn" in Scots Gaelic, "Nos Galan-gaeof" (the Night of the Winter Calends) in Wales, and the "Witches' New Year" (contemporary), is traditionally celebrated on the night of October 31st. Samhain (pronounced Sowen) is one of the original Celtic fire festivals and means "Summer's End" -when the sun's power wanes, and the strength of the gods of darkness, winter, and the underworld grows great. The activities of the year have come to fruition in the harvest and the warmth of the summer had ended. The days grow shorter and the nights stretch longer. The earth falls into a winter sleep and reawakens in the spring when life renews itself. As Beltaine marks the beginning of summer, Samhain records its end.[1]

 

From the Coligny Calendar, the 1st century BCE calendar found in 1897 in Coligny France, we see that Samhain is the only one of the fire festivals listed. According to Alexei Kondratiev, the name given there was Trinouxtion Samonii. This implies that the festival was three days long,[2] although other authors tell us that the feast lasted seven days with the actual feast held in the middle.[3] Other authors, such as Anne Ross and James MacKillop, state that the name given in the calendar was Samonios. The calendar also tells us that to the Gauls, the period of dark precedes the period of light. This supports the idea that Samhain was the start of the year, being the start of the dark half of the year.[4]

 

To the Celts, any time or place that was a boundary, a liminal space, was very important. Whether a beach, between sea and land, a bog, between land and lake, or a time such as Samhain, between summer and winter, all were places where it was easy to move from one 'space' to another. As well as the laws of time and space being suspended at Samhain, so to were the laws of the tribe. People couldn't kill each other, but some of the lesser rules were relaxed at this time. Tradition tells us that people would dress up as the opposite sex and go about to their neighbors asking for treats. If treats were not given, then tricks, such as stopping up the chimney with peat or scattering the piles of hay, would be played on the homeowner.[5]

 

In the Irish romance Fionn's Boyhood, the mystical nature of Samhain was expressed. In one instance, there is reverence to the Bean-Sidhe (Woman of the Hill), who would wail in prophetic anticipation whenever anyone of royal blood was about to die and her shrieks would be heard every Samhain. In another mention, the entrances to the burial caves were left open at Samhain, to allow the spirits of the heroes to come out for an airing; and the interiors were illuminated until cockcrow the next morning. The spirits of the sacred kings of Bronze Age Ireland were believed to have gone to "Caer Sidi," the Castle of Ariadne, (also referred to as the "Spiral Castle.") where the Cauldron of Inspiration was housed. There was believed to be a revolving wheel before the door of the castle, and no one could enter or exit until it was stilled.[6]

 

The spiritual significance of Samhain is the most important though. This festival is regarded as both the New Year and also the "Festival of the Dead." Death is merely a door, which opens to another life. It is believed that at this time of year the souls of the dead can walk amongst the living. On the night of Samhain, the doors are opened, the veil between life and death is at its thinnest and the revolving wheel guarding the gates of the Spiral Castle has stopped for a brief moment. This is also the time when those souls still wandering this plane after departing from life, can be called to the cauldron of re-birth to go to a place of rest and learning.

 

Once practice among the Celts was to set a place at the table for those who had passed over during the year. This was usually a plate taken first from all the foods present. In Wales, it was the custom to leave the food outside for the wandering dead. These foods, called 'bwyd cennad y meirw', were left in the hopes that the dead would be satisfied and leave the living in peace. Along with the food, the people would make sure that the doors of the house were left unbolted and special care was taken to prepare the hearth for the visit of the dead before going to bed.[7]

 

Like all of the traditional Celtic fire festivals, bonfires were lit on the highest hills and the hearth fires were solemnly rekindled from the community fires after having been extinguished the preceding night. Such rituals in pre-Christian times were overseen by the Druid priests. The main fire in ancient Ireland was kindled on the hill of Tlachtga. This fire had to be lit by a spindle of oak wood turned on an oaken block, by a wheel spun only in a sunwise direction.[8] This night and all of the first week of November once blazed with ritual fires - on which the early Celts symbolically burned all the frustrations and anxieties of the preceding year.

 

 

 

This was a time of coming together for the people of Ireland. The tribes would all send representatives to the great assembly and feis (feast) held at Tara every three years. During this assembly, there would be horse racing, a fair and a large market place set up. There would be rituals held to celebrate the final harvest and a mourning ritual for the death of summer.[9] This was also a time of peace. At the assembly, warriors would keep their swords sheathed and try to remain peaceful, although it wasn't always the case![10]

 

From the tales, we learn that every year at Samhain, the 'monster' Aillen mac Midgna would visit Tara and magically put the inhabitants to sleep. While they slept, he would light a fire that would burn Tara to the ground. His visits lasted until he was killed by Fionn. Fionn kept himself awake by pressing a magic spear, made by Len, sword maker to the gods, to his forehead.[11] After everyone else was asleep, he was able to defeat Aillen.

 

Another tale tells us about how from the city of Cruacham in County Rosecommon, came the triple headed monster, Aillén Tréchenn, who wrecked havoc on all of Ireland, especially Emain Macha and Tara, until he was killed by Amairgin.[12] Perhaps simply two versions of the same story, but together; they remind us of the dangers at this time of year and the reasons why people would not venture out of their houses unless made to.

 

Other stories tell us that at this time of the year, Dagda and Morrigan met at a ford in a river and had intercourse while straddling the river. Dagda was also supposed to have mated with Boann and an unnamed daughter of the Druid Indech.[13] A very busy and pleasurable time for him! But he wasn't the only one busy at this time. Cú Chulainn met with women from the Otherworld at this time and this was when the swan maiden, Cáer, met with Angus Óg and flew off together in swan form.

 

We find that Samhain was also the time of the year when the Formorians extracted their tribute from the people of Ireland. Each year, the people were forced to give the Formorians two-thirds of their corn, milk and children. There is a poem in the Dindsenchas that tells us how at this time of year, children were sacrificed to Corm Cruet at Mag Sleuth in County Cavern.[14] The purpose of this sacrifice was to ensure the supply of milk and corn. Again, this may simply be two versions of the same story. Or, this may be a remnant of the culling from the herds of the animals that couldn't be kept through the winter months, transposed through Christian writers to be a sacrifice of children.

 

Another interesting relic of the sacrificial aspect of the holiday can be found on the Isle of Lewis in the Herbrides. Up to modern times, the people would gather on the shore and one person would wade out to give an offering of ale to Shoney, the god of the sea, to enrich their fishing grounds for the coming year.[15]

 

Another folk custom for Samhain is the piece of folk wisdom that says that any fruit left on the trees was not to be eaten, but was to be left for the púcas or land spirits. From Cork, we see the procession of the 'White Mare' a group of young men walking the countryside, led by a man wearing white robes and a horses head. The others would be blowing horns and they would visit houses to get provisions for the celebrations.

 

Samhain is also a time when divination is prominently featured. Usually it was divination to see whom your future husband or wife would be, but it could be done for any reason. One way to see the future was to pour hot lead or wax onto water and divine from the shapes formed. Other methods featured apples, nuts, usually hazelnuts, beans, snails and candles. Bobbing for apples is a reminder of this form of divination.

 

Of course, the Roman Catholic Church tried to Christianize Samhain in the seventh century by making November 1st "All Saints Day," and the night of October 31st "All Hallows Eve" in tribute to the saints of the past. Again, it was in veneration of the dead. The Church had some problems with assimilating this celebration into its religious agenda because of prevailing pagan influences at the time, so it was banned from their calendar altogether in the mid 1100's and was not reinstated again until 1928, when the Church felt confident that the pagan belief systems were no longer a threat. The Church by then had assumed that the old pagan associations with the holiday were at last forgotten ... perhaps a premature supposition?[16]

 

An ancient ritual practiced to this day by some groups, including ours, involves calling the departed from this realm to help them resolve whatever holds them to the lower astral plane, and to find solace and guidance along their trek through reincarnation. The jack-o-lantern was used in times past as a beacon to the dead. Originally carved from a turnip, in the British Isles - here it would be called a rutabaga; today we use the pumpkin to fill this role. Restless souls were summoned to "come to the light" by participants in the ceremony. Everyone wore black to represent the fragile veil between the dusk and the dawn, the living and the dead. An apple was passed slowly around the circle and cloves were inserted into the fruit to represent each departed spirit being guided to the light and to allow the ritual participants a chance to put to rest anything they had troubling them. The ritual itself is very beautiful, loving, and emotionally spellbinding.

 

If you are interested in trying to carve a jack-o-lantern from a rutabaga, check out the instructions online at: http://www.toad.net/~sticker/turnip.html. It's a good site with easy to follow instructions. Another custom from Ireland is making a Samhain Parshell or Samhain Cross. There are good instructions online at http://www.toad.net/~sticker/parshal.html. A very good web site that is full of other Samhain customs, including several good recipes for Samhain foods, games, folklore and interesting tidbits of information, is located at: http://www.ncf.carleton.ca/~bj333/HomePage.season.html#samhain.

 

 

Muin Mound Grove

Calendar of Events

 

Event

Date

Time

Comments

Business Meeting

10/28/00

5:00 PM

Normal business

Samhain Ritual

10/28/00

8:00 PM

Dress for the weather and please bring a dish to share for the potluck and some canned food for our food drive.

Business Meeting

11/19/00

1:00 PM

Normal business *NOTE CHANGE TO WINTER HOURS*

Business Meeting

12/16/00

3:00 PM

Normal business

Yule Ritual

12/16/00

6:00 PM

Dress for the weather and please bring a dish to share for the potluck and some canned food for our food drive.

 

OTHER EVENTS

Winterstar

2/25 /00 to 2/27/00

 

Located in Delroy, OH at the Atwood Lake resort, this is a great winter break put on by ACE, the people who bring you Starwood. For more info, go to http://www.rosencomet.com/

As always, we welcome your contributions: stories, articles, artwork, poems...whatever your creativity brings to mind. You can get them to us by mailing to MUIN MOUND GROVE, ADF, 7188 Minoa Bridgeport Road, East Syracuse, NY 13057-9601 or via e-mail at sellison@twcny.rr.com (preferred method). Up to the minute information about the Grove can always be found on our web site at: http://home.twcny.rr.com/muinmoundgrove. The Grove has an email group established at E-groups. To subscribe, go to egroups.com and subscribe to the MuinMoundGroveADF list.

Need to contact the Grove directly? For more information, call 656-8681.

 

How To Dress Yourself For Outdoor Winter Rituals

By Keith "Rhino" Veeder - zenpagan@usa.net

 

It has been brought to my attention, and I have noticed it myself. During outside rituals, by the time the toasting and boasting has begun, most of the Grove is shivering. I have been asked to share something that I learned from 12 years involved in the Scouting program. Dressing in layers.

I admit I don't do it as much as I should myself, but then I have lots of insulation (fat) to keep myself warm. Not everyone has been equipped for cold weather naturally as well as I have. This is where I come in, and share what I learned the hard way from various Boy Scout leaders.

Layer one is long underwear, maybe a sweatshirt and sweat pants. The second layer is a t-shirt. What about the legs you ask? Simple. Leave the blue jeans at home, and wear some normal pants. When denim gets wet, life becomes miserable if you're outdoors for any long period of time. The third layer is a thick sweatshirt. The fourth layer is a sweater, wool if you have one. Over all this, you wear whatever jacket you prefer.

But Keith, all those layers! I'll sweat! Perhaps, but here come the two beautiful features of the layers technique. One, if you get too warm take off a layer. Second, the layers trap a pocket of air between each layer. You will be amazed at how warm you stay even without the jacket.

Now a few details to add. If you have room in your boots (leave the sneakers home), wear at least two pair of socks. If you have wool socks, one pair may be enough. Women should consider adding a slip or camisole as an extra layer. Also if you have stockings or pantyhose, all the better.

One last thing. WEAR A HAT! At least eighty percent of your body heat leaks out the top of your head. My dad wears a hat to bed in the winter. It helps to keep your ears warm too.

 


IN THE LEAVES

(By damiana blume)

 


Between Michaelmas and Hallow's Eve

When trees blaze their brilliant hue

Time for song and autumn reprieve

And here's exactly what to do

Stand among the brilliant trees

Red and golden in their throng

And wait until a gentle breeze

Shakes them with her Samhain song

And it is all color that flutters down

In harmonious flight the leaves

Of luck and fortune land one by one

Like children beneath the trees.

 

There you sing with glee and mirth

And catch a falling song

Before she travels to the earth

Renew this day, oh lucky one


And a word from the North Country

COUNTRY CRITTERS INC.
Animal Sanctuary &Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
* State and Federally Licensed *

On call for wildlife emergencies 24 hours (315-324-2132) Possession license for non-releasable wildlife (for educational use)

All Gift Shop & Kennel Sales Benefit Animal Sanctuary & Wildlife Rehabilitation Programs!  (But only cover a few expenses)

Did you know that as of July of 2000, we are the only active federally and state licensed wildlife rehabilitator in Steuben County?

Even though rehabilitators are licensed by the state & federal government and work closely with the NY DEC, there is NO funding provided!

PLEASE HELP!!  YOUR DONATIONS of CASH & SUPPLIES ARE GREATLY NEEDED!

We need to purchase feed, fencing, lumber, medical supplies,
gasoline used to pick up animals, cleaning supplies, office stuff (computer desperately needed!!), a tractor for use around the farm!
You get the picture... non-profit does not mean no cash needed!!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Please send your donations to:
Country Critters Inc.
8910 Route 46
Arkport, NY 14807

Thank You For Your Donation!
From The Critters

 

 

 

 

Muin Mound Grove, ADF

7188 Minoa Bridgeport Road

East Syracuse, NY 13057-9601

ADDRESS CORRECTION REQUESTED

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Wolfe, KiaMarie. The Wheel Of The Year. Forthcoming.

[2] Kondratiev, Alexei. The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual. Cork: The Collins Press. 1998. Page 105.

[3] Pennick, Nigel. The Sacred World of the Celts. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International. 1997. Page 105.

[4] MacKillop, James. Dictionary of Celtic Mythology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1998. Page 333.

[5] Rees, Alwyn & Brinley. Celtic Heritage. New York: Thames and Hudson. 1978. Page 90.

[6] Wolfe, KiaMarie. The Wheel Of The Year. Forthcoming.

[7] Rees, Alwyn & Brinley. Celtic Heritage. New York: Thames and Hudson. 1978. Page 90.

[8] Bonewick, James. Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions. Dorset Press. 1986. Page 206.

[9] Green, Miranda J. Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend. London: Thames and Hudson. 1992. Page 185.

[10] Pennick, Nigel. The Sacred World of the Celts. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International. 1997. Page 104.

[11] Green, Miranda J. Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend. London: Thames and Hudson. 1992. Page 186.

[12] MacKillop, James. Dictionary of Celtic Mythology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1998. Page 333.

[13] MacKillop, James. Dictionary of Celtic Mythology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1998. Page 333.

[14] Rutherford, Ward. Celtic Lore. London: Aquarian Press. 1993. Page 96.

[15] MacKillop, James. Dictionary of Celtic Mythology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1998. Page 333.

[16] Wolfe, KiaMarie. The Wheel Of The Year. Forthcoming.