/sown, sowin/ • noun; a festival held by the ancient
Celts on 1 November, marking the beginning of winter and
the Celtic new year. Origin: Old Irish samain.
the two feasts Hallowe'en was perhaps of old the more important,
since the Celts would seem to have dated the beginning of
the year from it rather than from Beltane. In the Isle of
Man, one of the fortresses in which the Celtic language and
lore longest held out against the siege of the Saxon invaders,
the first of November, Old Style, has been regarded as New
Year's day down to recent times. Thus Manx mummers used to
go round on Hallowe'en (Old Style), singing, in the Manx
language, a sort of Hogmanay song that began, 'To-night
is New Year's Night, Hogunnaa!'
ancient Ireland, a new fire used to be kindled every year
on Hallowe'en or
the Eve of Samhain, and from this sacred flame all the
fires in Ireland were rekindled. Such a custom points strongly
to Samhain or All Saints' Day (the first of November) as
New Year's Day; since the annual kindling of a new fire
place most naturally at the beginning of the year, in order
that the blessed influence of the fresh fire may last throughout
period of twelve months.“ -AKA Mary Jones
Coligny – Samonios
“Iris” – Samhain
Modern – October/November
Possible Meaning – “Summer’s End”, “Seed-Fall”
Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazer, Chapter 6 of
Section LXII, The Fire Festivals of Europe
coming at the end of October now matches with All Hallow's
Eve, Nov. 1 being the Feat of All Saints and Nov. 2 being
the Feast of All Souls.
In addition to the plethora of English customs built around this holyday,
the Hispanic cultures celebrate a festival called "the Day of the
Dead." There are processions of costumed skeletons, skull themes (the
famous quartz skulls which caused such a stir in the late 1900's appear
to have been created for this festival – many in Germany and exported),
and of course the family picnic at the grave where plates and drinks are
set up to be shared with the dead.
A Miscellany of Festivals: Christian Equivalents for
the "Sabbats" by
basic unit of territory in Ireland during the Iron Age was
Each tuath was ruled by a king (rí), who could usually trace lineage
back to other kings and ancestral deities. The inauguration of the king
included a sacred
fertility rite wherein the king was wedded to Sovereignty. This was known
as banais ríghi.
In addition to the kingships of the tuath, there was a high king (Ard ri)
of the land, and his inauguration took place at Tara at a great feast
time of Samhain, known as the feis Temro. The term “feis” has
a basic meaning of sleeping with the goddess, in this case, of Tara, who,
the 3rd century was Meadhbh Leathdhearg. Again we see the idea of a king
united with the land.
Before mating with Sovereignty, however, a king would have
to prove himself. He would have several challenges placed
before him to test his fitness
as king: a royal chariot would reject him if he was unworthy, a royal
mantle may prove
to be too big for him to wear, two stones which would open for he who
and the well-known liafal, or Stone of Destiny, that would cry out
when the rightful
king came near. There was also the tarbhfhess, or bull-feast, in which
a bull was killed, and a druid was wrapped in the hide after a sacred
meal of flesh
and broth, and incantations were chanted, so he could have visions
of the new king.
were also a series of prohibitions demanded of the potential
king which were known as geissi. These were thought to be
magically binding, and if a potential king broke them, he
would not reign.
true and rightful king must possess certain qualities to
ensure the peace of the kingdom, security of the borders,
and prosperity of the land. A king who was blemished would
bring about similar conditions to the land, and crops would
not grow, nor would cattle multiply.
all tests were passed and a king was proven worthy, the banais
ríghi would be held. There were two primary elements.
The first is that a draught would be offered to the King
by his Bride, and second was the consummation of the marriage,
wherein he would sleep with his Queen.
the true and rightful King had slept with his Queen, she
and the land would become transformed from a barren, desolate
state to one of life-giving beauty.
Lady of the Land by Rev. Linda Costello of FODLA
Though the spelling of the Irish varies the pronunciation tends to remain the
same, so Samhain is also seen as Samhuinn and Samain but is spoken as sow-inn.
The meaning is probably ‘Summer’s End’. The Welsh name
is Calan Gaeaf, meaning ‘Winter Calends’.
those who measure by the seasons, Samhain arrives with the
first frost. Some plan their rite around the full moon of
Scorpio that passes through Taurus. Those who work around
a constant date celebrate Samhain on 1 November, with the
rites beginning the evening before.
Pagan festival has been overlaid nowadays by both the Christian
All Hallows, All Souls and All Saints and the secular Guy
texts imply that Samhain was the most important festival
in Ireland, a time when laws were made and kings instated.
Yet also it was a time of madness and danger, when monsters
caused havoc and faery women bewitched young men, enchanting
Yellow Book of Lecan refers to Samhain as ‘the feast
of Mongfind’, a legendary witch queen said to have
married an early high king of Tara, which implies that she
was an incarnation of the spirit of the land.
at Samhain, livestock that would not last the winter were
slaughtered with ritual thanks. Meat would be cured, salted,
put aside, and the tables of the feast laden with bloodcake
and offal, which could not be preserved, together with the
blackberries and fruit of late autumn.
marks the end of summer and a cycle of growth. It is a time
Ahead is the winter and decisions need to be made as to what we will carry
through the long cold months, what is redundant, what will not survive, and
what must be protected and nurtured as the source of next year’s wealth.
the festival rite is a process of letting go, beginning with
an acknowledgement of what we have gained, how we have changed
and who we have become, and followed by a period of mourning,
knowing what we must release – and effectively letting
it go. The past is gone.
this time, those who have died during the year are honored
and gifts are given with love and thanks, perhaps with candles
being lit and set to drift on water, symbolizing the journey
traveled by the dead over the ocean to the place of the setting
sun. That journey between the worlds, between life and death,
is at Samhain most easily made. Our ancestors who would join
the rite in peace are invited to share and the feast is blessed
and offered to the Earth, the spirits and
all in the circle.
the darkness of winter is welcomed in and a period of release
is declared when chaos is accepted. From this tradition trick
or treating was reintroduced. Now bonfires are lit, the Summer
Kings burnt, firework set off – and the feasting begins.
What is Druidry by Emma Restall Orr