My Alternative Island Life … About Samhain!
The Wheel Turns
Last week I planned forward and made arrangements to meet with friends to celebrate Samhain, that’s true Samhain NOT Halloween.
The Wheel of the Year, which pagans follow, is said to be based on an agraian calendar or is it?
The astronomical henges in the UK were built by our pre-Celtic ancestors, probably hunter-gatherers. They are associated with Druids because they used them. They too were great astronomers, but came from the Iberian penninsula and were immigrants here.
Without the aid of even a telescope, let alone satellites, these amazing henges are still 100% accurate today even though they were built 4000+ years ago. Yes they are as old as the pyramids, if not older, you cannot carbon date stone!
Points & Crosses
So what has this to do with Samhain?
The great octal (the 8 spoke wheel of the year), has 4 major points and these are, the two solstices and the two equinoxes. The 4 ‘minor’ cross festivals mark the exact midpoint between 2 major points astronomically. So true Samhain marks the exact astronomical point between the Autumn equinox and the Winter solstice.
In terms of Earth Energies the pricise time was importantant to our shamanic ancestors. They had responsibility for the tribe’s physical and spiritual well being.
Samhain marks the onset of Winter, the dark times, the time of hibernation, when the Goddess goes into the underworld to rest. (See the story of Persephone or The Descent of Inanna)
Perhaps hunter gatherers moved to their winter quarters at this time. There would be no more grains, fruits and vegetables, only game.
Later in Celtic times this pricise calculation made by the Druids using those old henges, marked the time by which all the harvest had to be gathered in because it was the beginning of Winter, which was when the Celtic New Year began.
Spiritually it was a time for venerating the ancestors, not just those within living memory, but all of our ancestors that ever lived.
This was because the ancients believed that their spirits helped guide the tribe.
Not quite so daft an idea when you consider DNA. Within us all is Neanderthal DNA, and skills and talents do run along family lines. Good at carving? Thank your caveman ancestor!
At the particular and precise time of Samhain, the energies of the earth are such that the veils between worlds thin and it is a time to communicate with your ancestors. Traditionally a candle was placed in a window to call them back, and a place was laid at the table to eneable the ancestors’ spirits to share in a meal.
If the energies of the Earth, the planets, the universe and the sun are special at a pricise day and time it would be important to know and mark it, especially if the shamans and druids wanted to gain the blessing of ancestral wisdom for the coming year.
The Christian Church Steps in
The early Christian church as we know continued all of the old pagan festivals in one form or another as well as reusing pagan sacred sites to build churches upon.
The old ways were so ingrained in the people they couldn’t have won them over if all the old celebrations and holy days were swept away, so the church just ‘Christianised’ them. Want your crops blessed, don’t ask the Goddess, ask Our Lady!.
The many references to ‘ridding of the devil’ refer to the pagan religion. Pagans do not recognise the devil, ‘the devil’ in church terms was the old pagan gods of the underworld. In psychological terms it is your dark side. Pagans do recognise ‘evil’ as misplaced or misused energy though.
Like T.V. chefs the early church said:
“Here is an old recipe with a modern twist”
So Yule became Christmas, originally both celebrated on the Solstice, but separated by the introduction of the Gregorian Calandar in 1582.
Yule celebrates the birth of the star child, that is the new sun for the year ahead, our sun being a star. Christmas also celebrates the birth of a holy child. The celebration of Bridget became Candlemas and fixed to February 1st, and Bridget was beatified. Eostra, or spring became Easter which is the only church festival still moveable depending on the moon phase at Christmas, Beltane got fixed to May 1st, Litha or mid-summer is harder to find but it is still there in the church calendar. It is the 7th station of the year and the time of sanctification. A great number of church and village fetes take place in June, and it is a most popular time to wed. There is the festival of Lugh in early August, the 1st of August is the 8th station of the year in the church. The traditional British August bank holiday was set as the first Monday in August in 1871, and was only moved to the last Monday in August in more secular 1971. Again a lot of church & village fetes and festivals in August. Then there’s harvest and ‘Michaelmas’ Michaelmas is 29th September, so very near the autumn equinox.
Fixing to dates near to the old festivals, keeping festivals similar pacified the people, but it also removed access to Earth energies.
Just before and during early church times, the druids who were the astronomers, would have set the dates. It was their task to look after the people and the lands and probably conduct any ceremonies, so the people were used to the learned people telling them when celebrations must happen.
And so we come to October 31st or Hallow’een, meaning the een or eve of all hallows or all saints, is a Christian festival nicked from the old pagan traditions, and stuck on that date, mostly for convenience it seems.
True samhain moves slightly in time of day and date, according to the astronomy of the sun’s movement in that particular year, as do all the other dates in the wheel of the year. It’s always around 7th November. This year (2018) it’s at 11.18 on Wednesday 7th November. THAT is the time when the veils thin, THAT is the time to welcome your ancestors, or make circles, or spells or sigils, NOT, October 31st, a date fixed by the church, and it’s the same for all of the other 7 spokes. If you want to use the prevailing energies to give your circles, spells and sigils that added umph, then consult a good archeoastronomy calandar, there are several really good on-line ones which take into account world time zones, BST & GMT. I don’t sit looking at the heavens waiting for 15 degrees of scorpio, I use a free on-line resource! As for Halloween, well for me it’s a bit like Yule and Christmas. One for celebrating, one for serious spiritual work! You can do both.
Do have your Halloween parties etc, they are all fun, and perhaps for the silly teens and people who dabble with ouija and tarot and ghosthunting, it is better on that date as the times are not so powerful. But Be Warned! Intent is still everything, even on October 31st you still have to take care and do your protections. “It was only a bit of fun” is not your get out of jail free card. Don’t poke a scorpion with a stick and then be surprised at the outcome!
Lastly if you’re interested in true Samhain (pronounced sow – wain – [summer wanes]) here is an article on Gwyn Ap Nudd He is of the Bythronic (Welsh, Cornish & Breton) celtic tradition. However you celebrate, I hope you have a great time, and look out for this road sign around the 7th November!