Muin Light: Samhain, C.E. 1994

Samhain, also known as "Hallowe'en", "All Hallows Eve", "Mallowmas", "All Saints Eve", "All Soul's Eve", "Sauin" on the Isle of Man, "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.

According to the Larousse Encyclopedia Of Mythology, the practice of Samhain rituals dates back to the epoch of the Tuatha Da Danaan (the Father of All), circa. 6000 B.C. It was a custom in those days to extinguish all fires in the village for at least one full day and then have everyone rekindle their hearths from the central fire. This promoted a sense of union between all members of the hamlet, stressed the importance of the sun and the fire it brought, and nurtured a community spirit.

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 cock-crow 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.

The spiritual significance of Samhain is most important. The festival is regarded as 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. Legend has it that fairies are active and abroad at this time.

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. 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. Such rituals in pare-Christian times were overseen by the Druid priests.

Of course, the Roman Catholic Church tried to Christianize Samhain by making November s "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?

An ancient ritual practiced to this day by some groups involves calling the departed to the realm of the living to help them to 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. 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. The ritual itself is very beautiful, loving, and emotionally spellbinding.

Senior Druid's Column

Our Mabon Ritual was small, but we hope to see more of you for SAMHAIN. We have been doing lots of networking with other Groves, meeting with Garran Lochanna Gealla in Toronto to present workshops and lead a Ritual for the Wiccan Church of Canada. The trip is written up elsewhere in this newsletter.

For our Samhain Ritual, we would like people to bring pictures of their ancestors that can be laid on a special altar in honor of the Ancestors. Along with, or instead of pictures, you could bring something special that had belonged to them. All pictures or articles will be taken back by the people who brought them at the end of the Ritual.

Toronto Trip for ADF - 10/8/94 to 10/9/94

The trip was attended by 3 members from our Grove, Phoenix, Greg and myself. The trip itself was very nice - a 5 1/2 hour ride. When we arrived at Richard and Tamar James' house, we were greeted warmly and within a few minutes, Fox and 7 members of his Grove, Garran Lochanna Gaella: Shinning Lakes Grove, arrived. The trip had taken them a little over 5 hours also.

After supper and figuring out who were going to sleep in which house, 4 people had volunteered crash space, we relaxed in the hot tub Richard and Tamar have in their basement. As always, it was a nice way to wind down after a long trip. After hot tubing, some of us were taken by Richard to the store he own's, The Occult Shop. It was a large store with many interesting books, herbs and jewelry. We spent about an hour there, then went back to the house for more fun. We had 4 bards in attendance and were treated to a evening of guitar, harp and drum playing along with some very nice singing and chanting.

Sunday morning found some of us going to the workshop given by Fox and myself, others spending the morning at the Royal Ontario Museum, and others going horseback riding and shopping. The workshop was Druidism 101, basics of Druidism and ADF, and was attended by 15 to 20 people.

We re-grouped for the Ritual we were leading about 7:00pm. The Ritual was held in the outdoor space used by the Wiccan Church of Canada. It's in the middle of a large park. To reach it, you cross a bridge over a large stream, go up a flight of stairs to get to the crest of the hill, then into a large clearing with an asphalt circle about 30' in diameter laid out in the center. There was a large fire pit built in and benches and picnic tables surrounding it.

After getting set up, people started arriving by 8:00pm. The pare-ritual briefing started by 8:30pm with the Ritual starting by 9:00pm. The purpose of the Ritual was to introduce the Toronto Pagan community to our style of rituals and to introduce them to the Celtic Gods and Goddesses. The Ritual went very well, with many beautiful offerings of praise given. There were about 45 people in attendance, even though we started off with a cold, light rain. The rain stopped shortly after the Ritual started and we were treated to a beautiful, star filled sky by the end. The Ritual was over by 10:30pm with time spent talking and cleaning up the site afterwards.

We left for home, as did 1 car full of people from Shining Lakes Grove, right after the Ritual, about 12:00am. After what seemed a LOT longer ride home, we arrived back in Syracuse at 5:00am.

Honoring Our Ancestors

The Might Ones are the Ancestors, those of our folk who are presently resting in the Land of the Dead. They watch over their descendants and lend their power to aid us. It is proper for every Druidic worshipper to honor her immediate ancestors, her Grandmothers and Grandfathers, as well as the Heroes, those great women and men who are honored by her folk. (from Ian Corrigan's Druidheachd)

Samhain is traditionally the tine of year when we give special recognition to the Mighty Ones. Since it is one of the "in between times" when the veil between the worlds is thinnest, it is a propitious tine for communicating with the dead. In accord with these traditions and natural cycles we dedicate our Samhain ritual to honoring our ancestors.

One way that we will do this is by having a grove-member designated to represent the Mighty Ones. This person will appear in white-face and remain a silent observer throughout the ritual evening. Our intention is that this person serve as a conduit for our beloved dead, a living body through which they may once again reconnect to this world if they so desire.

We will also set up a special ancestors altar for the ritual and we ask each person attending to bring articles for the altar. These may be anything that symbolizes your beloved dead: photographs or other visual images, items that belonged to then, or simply names written on a piece of paper. (These items can be taken home after the ritual.) Telling stories about our ancestors is also a way of honoring them and so we will allot a tine for this. Remember, our ancestors are not just our blood relatives: they are any of our dead to whom we feel a special kinship.

Plan To Participate By Bringing Items For The Altar And Stories!

Muin Mound Grove, ADF

PO Box 592

East Syracuse, NY 13057-0592

Return to the Back Issues Index