wonder ever illumine your souls as the candle
does a room on a long, winter night,
joy blow through your heart with the
intensity of the north wind in a blizzard,
peace cover your lives like a blanket of
fresh fallen snow.
Festival of Samhain begins the Winter half of the year. It was
believed that the Cailleach – the aspect of the Goddess
who appeared as an old crone – hit the ground with her hammer,
making it iron hard until Imbolc…
of October-November is called Samonios, or Seed-Fall, referring
to the falling nuts and seed-cases of Autumn…
is traditionally the quarter when the elders and ancestors are
honoured and remembered. In many parts of the Celtic world, the
ancestors and the faeries are one and the same. Scrupulous observance
of faery pathways, dancing and gathering places is still upheld
in Celtic lands by those who wish to stay in good relations with
the unseen inhabitants of the Otherworld who live about us. It
is considered the height of bad manners to build houses on such
pathways or to remove faery trees, such as hawthorns…
poem laconically evokes the stark beginning of Winter:
tidings for you: the stag bells,
Winter snows, Summer is gone.
high and cold, low the sun,
Short his course, sea running high.
the bracken, its shape all gone,
The wild goose has raised his wonted cry.
has caught the wings of birds.
Season of ice – these are my tidings.
(Welsh) Red Book of Hergest speaks of Winter:
calends of Winter,
The time of pleasant gossiping.
The gale and the storm keep equal pace;
It is the work of the wise to keep a secret.
death-watch was a Celtic method of divination still upheld in
the West of England until the last century: to watch in the church
porch at midnight, usually during Midsummer, New Year’s
Eve or Hallow’een, to see the apparitions of those who would
die in the parish in the next year…
poems of the tenth-century (Welsh) poet, Llywarch Hen, lament
the death of his twenty-four sons and his lonely old age:
are the hilltops, wet the streams,
Every wise-one draws honour.
I deserve sleep in old age.
are the birds, wet the gravel,
Leaves fall, the shelterless unsouled.
I do not deny that I am ill tonight.
are the birds, wet the shore,
Bright the sky, wide the wave.
Heart withered from longing.
FRITH, or Augury, was practiced in the Western Highlands of Scotland.
The Seer, fasting, bare-foot and with closed eyes, took an augury
of the coming season by standing upon the threshold on the first
day of the quarter, with one hand upon either doorjamb. When she
opened her eyes, she took her augury from what kinds of animals
met her gaze: their colour, movement and kind foretold the Frith…
From the Irish Colloquy
of the Two Sages, this ritual statement exemplifies the identity
of the true Celtic poet:
am the child of Poetry,
Poetry, the child of Reflection,
Reflection, the child of Mediation,
Mediation, the child of Lore,
Lore, the child of Research,
Research, the child of Great Knowledge,
Great knowledge, the child of Intelligence,
Intelligence, the child of Understanding,
Understanding, the child of Wisdom,
Wisdom, the child of the three gods of Danu.
The three gods of Danu
are possibly Brian, Iuchar and Uar – the sons of the Goddess
of Muses, Bridhid. Brighid is frequently associated with the Danaan
ancestral Goddess Danu, or Anu – the ancestress of the Tuatha
Northern Lights, or the Aurora Borealis, were called the Fir-chlisne,
or “Men of the Tricks” by the Scottish Gaels;
they were called the “Merry Dancers” as well. Their
dance is rarely seen in Southern Britain…
During the period of
Samhain with its long nights, communal entertainment enriched
the cold and dark with fresh enchantment. Noson Lawen, or “a
merry evening” is the Welsh equivalent of the Gaelic ceilidh,
where neighbours assemble at day’s end to tell stories and
sing songs until the wee hours of the morning…
sister, is the priestess-sibyl who continues his prophetic work.
She creates his Otherworldly retreat from which he watches the
world. She was conflated, in later medieval tradition, with Nimue
– a Lady of the Lake – who is said to have purposely
enclosed Merlin, having gained his magical secrets. But Ganeida/Nimue
is an echo of the ancient Celtic Goddess of the Doorway, who guards
the gates of time and occurrence. She appears as the Goddess Ariadne
in Merlin’s prophetic vision…
The Luideag, or “Washer
at the Ford”, was an apparition that most warriors wished
never to meet, as she was encountered on the eve of battle, washing
out the bloody shirts of those to be slain the next day. Although
she was feared, her action was a kindly one for, as an aspect
of the Cailleach, she washed out the blood of one life into the
river, making the garment of flesh pure once again, ready to assume
a new life…
Cadair Idris is a mountain
and natural boundary between Gwynedd and Powys. It is said that
whoever spends a night alone on the summit will come down mad,
blind or a great poet. The summits of many such eminences may
well have been used in initiatory Bardic and Druidic rites as
places of power…