Samhain Lore 4

by Philip Carr-Gomm 


   Samhuinn, from 31 October to 2 November was a time of no-time. Celtic 
   society, like all early societies, was highly structured and organised, 
   everyone knew their place. But to allow that order to be psychologically 
   comfortable, the Celts knew that there had to be a time when order and 
   structure were abolished, when chaos could reign. And Samhuinn was such 
   time. Time was abolished for the three days of this festival and people 
   crazy things, men dressed as women and women as men. Farmers' gates were 
   unhinged and left in ditches, peoples' horses were moved to different 
   fields, and children would knock on neighbours' 
   doors for food and treats in a way that we still find today, in a 
   watered-down way, in the custom of trick-or-treating on Hallowe'en. 

   But behind this apparent lunacy, lay a deeper meaning. The Druids knew 
   these three days had a special quality about them. The veil between this 
   world and the World of the Ancestors was drawn aside on these nights, 
   for those who were prepared, journeys could be made in safety to the 
   side'. The Druid rites, therefore, were concerned with making contact 
   the spirits of the departed, who were seen as sources of guidance and 
   inspiration rather than as sources of dread. The dark moon, the time 
   no moon can be seen in the sky, was the phase of the moon which ruled 
   time, because it represents a 
   time in which our mortal sight needs to be obscured in order for us to 
   into the other worlds. 

   The dead are honoured and feasted, not as the dead, but as the living 
   spirits of loved ones and of guardians who hold the rootwisdom of the 
   tribe. With the coming of Christianity, this festival was turned into 
   Hallowe'en [October 31] All Hallows [1 November and All Saints [2 
   Here we can see most clearly the way in which Christianity built on the 
   pagan foundations it found rooted in these isles. Not only does the 
   of the festival match with the earlier one, but even the unusual length 
   the festival is the same. 


   The Goddess that ruled Samhuinn was the Cailleach, the Grey Hag, the 
   Mountain Mother, the Dark Woman of Knowledge. But by Imbolc the Goddess 
   become Brighid, the Goddess of poets, healers and midwives. And so we 
   use Imbolc as a time for an Eisteddfad dedicated to poetry and song 
   praising the Goddess in her many forms. The Christian development of 
   festival is Candlemas - the time of the Presentation of Christ in the 
   Temple. For years successive Popes had tried to stop parades of lit 
   in the streets of Rome at this time, until seeing that it was impossible 
   put a stop to this pagan custom, it was suggested that the populace 
   the churches so that the priests could bless the candles.