Old Year’s Night…Celtic Samhain

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Between two worlds, that of Summer and of Winter, rests Samhain. 

dsc03482Samhain, (pronounced “Sow-when”) is the most important time in the Ancient Irish (and Celtic) Calendar.

dsc03483The time of Samhain starts at dusk, when the light and dark are in balance.

dsc03484This was never regarded as a time of death, but a time of incubation for Mother Earth.

dsc03485It was the onset of Winter that allowed the Great Mother to get ready the seed for Spring.

dsc03486Samhain is the Celtic New Year’s Eve.

dsc03487It is at this time, between worlds, that the veil is thin.

dsc03488A time of possibilities.

dsc03489A time to pay honour to those who are no longer with us in human form.

dsc03490This was a time of endings and the promise of beginnings, a time for stillness and reflection.

dsc03491It was understood that in the dark silence of Mother Earth, when all appears dead, comes the promise of new beginnings, the stirring of the seed beneath the ground.

dsc03492 It is on this night, some believe, that time stands still, allowing access to other worlds and into new consciousness.  

dsc03495As I walked the gardens today, taking these photographs, there was a real sense of endings and beginnings, of approaching a marker in time.

dsc03496 A sense of anticipation and readiness for the sabbatical that is Winter…for Samhain means “Summer’s End” and as the Celts believed, this was Winter’s Beginning.

dsc03497As an integral part of their culture and interpretation of life, the Celts held strong the tradition of The Transmigration of Souls, a philosophy I believe in.
dsc03498The Celts believed in two lands after death, the Underworld and the Otherworld.

 dsc03499The Otherworld was the abode of the dead.

dsc03500This is interesting, as it strongly suggests a “life alongside the dead”…and in that an understanding of the “Night of the Thin Veil,” 

https://bealtainecottage.com/2013/09/29/the-night-of-the-thin-veil/

dsc03501Archaeological evidence has drawn attention to the richness of Iron Age tombs and the abundance of grave goods within them.

dsc03505 There is literary evidence from Caesar that seems to confirm at least part of the Celtic Beliefs system.

dsc03513In his description of the Druids, he alluded to some of their lore that related directly to the movement of souls between one world and another or between one individual and another. He states:

‘…the druids attach particular importance to the belief that the soul (or spirit) does not perish but passes after death from one body to another’
(Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars VI)

dsc03514Lucan (Pharsalia: I) stated that the Celts considered death as merely an interruption in a continuous life, as the spirit passed from one form into another, or from one world to another. dsc03515Other writers, such as Diodorus Siculus drew attention to similar beliefs – that the soul was immortal and, as its body deteriorated with age, it simply moved to another, usually located in another world.  

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It is little wonder then that the Celts believed in the sacredness of times and places “in between”. dsc03517And so we celebrate Samhain…

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The Night of the Thin Veil

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September has been an extraordinary month of sun and still air, little has moved and time has appeared to stand still. www.bealtainecottage.comSunrises and sunsets have been spectacular.

www.bealtainecottage.comIndeed, September 2013 will be remembered here in Ireland for the “Indian Summer,” often promised and rarely received!

www.bealtainecottage.comTomorrow is the last day of September.

We are now past equal day and night and on the descent to Samhain and the night of the “thin veil”…

www.bealtainecottage.comI have spent as much time outdoors as possible, walking and watching the light play with the changing seasons.

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The Celts believed in the sacredness of times and places “in between”.

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The places, “in-between,”  the shore and land, thresholds, night and day, life and death.

The place between life and death was honoured in the form of a wake, for the soul took time to depart and journey onwards.

www.bealtainecottage.comBealtaine and Samhain are in-between times, when time stands still, as transition occurs.

Bealtaine is the transition to summer and Samhain the passing into winter.

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‘Tis a pity that Samhain has been so commercialized, into the freak show of Halloween…it is not to be tolerated! Samhain is a lovely time of remembering and honouring the ancestors and all those who have passed from our lives during the year.

www.bealtainecottage.comI hope you take the time to celebrate with a gathering of family, friends, feast and fire…reclaiming our precious traditions from the corporate nonsense of plastic pollution and Hollywood freak show!

(All photos today were taken by me, in the local area around Bealtaine Cottage.)

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Blessings

Colette

The Celtic New Year Festival of Samhain

It is nearing the end of this beautiful year.

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The transition of Autumn is underway as the end of October arrives with the magical Festival of Samhain…known to many as “Halloween.”

Halloween was derived from the celebration of Samhain, with its myths and beliefs about the “Otherworld” and happily placed into Christian culture through the celebration of, “All Hallows Eve,” or “All Souls Night.”

This beautiful time of the year is extolled in many beautiful poems and odes.

The year was divided in two, with Summer and Winter heralding transition.

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“My tidings for you: the stag bells,
Winter snows, Summer is gone.

Wind high and cold, low the sun,
Short his course, sea running high.

Deep-red the bracken, its shape all gone,
The wild goose has raised his wonted cry.

Cold has caught the wings of birds.
Season of ice – these are my tidings.”


–  Irish Poem, Translated by Caitlin Matthews 

 

My favourite verse…the one that enters my head and repeats itself at this lovely time of year is the evocative verse of Keats…

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.”


–   John Keats,  To Autumn

The summer is officially over as Samhain is celebrated…and winter begins.

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This is a special time, where there is a real sense of renewal and hope.

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Time to light the annual bonfire and celebrate, with songs and games and food.

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Time to write your wishes, hopes or fears onto paper and cast it away into the flames.

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Time to share and bake and dance and laugh.

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Summer is over and we have lived to greet another year.

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And for those we have said goodbye to, wish them well on their onward journey.

As the days shorten and the sun dips low in the sky, our homes become sanctuaries of warmth and comfort.

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The over-wintering begins!

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Ireland…Ridden with Debt and Blessed with Land

We are a country ridden with debt and blessed with land…and water…and a temperate climate.

Ireland is capable of producing a lot of food, not just meat and dairy, but fruit and vegetables of all kinds.

We could have a great wool industry!

We were famous for our Crystal from Waterford!

Irish people are hard-working and dedicated.

What is needed is courage, integrity and honesty in our political leaders.

We need political leaders with vision and confidence…

If only we had leadership…

I have cut back many of the Dogwoods in the upper gardens and have been busily replanting some of the better cuttings.

The entrance to the Fairy Dell is enveloped in the striking reds of Dogwoods.

These easy to grow [stick a wand in the earth] shrubs are incredibly valuable to me…the stems remain a vivid red all winter, I use them in Willow wreaths for vibrant colour and vase  arrangements in the cottage to brighten a dull day.

The birds will eat the juicy ripe berries and the bees will enjoy the delicate spring flowers on the old stems.

Another misty morning.

Cobwebs everywhere shining with tiny drops of dew.

I walked through the Fairy Dell to the sound of the Blackbird rustling about among the fallen leaves, searching for breakfast!

It wasn’t just the mountains that had disappeared, this morning, into the mist, but most of the land as well.

My garden had vanished this morning!

It’s strange because the air was so still and the bird calls seemed to echo in the mist.

I hope it’s like this at Samhain…so many preparations are under way, especially gathering in the apples and preparing them for the freezer.

Despite the warm and sunny days,  nights are cold  and lots of little creatures are seeking hibernation spots…

I have to keep the windows closed at night for fear of having to share this cottage with too many visitors!

A Life in the Country ~ Harvest, Halloween and Magic…

Apples harvested at Bealtaine Cottage last year…you can tell it’s from 2010 as the walls are now blue…though I may repaint them soon, as I mix my own colours and feel a creative moment or two approaching!

Bring forth the raisins and the nuts-
Tonight All-Hallows’ Spectre
struts
Along the moonlit way.
~John Kendrick Bangs

Of course, Apples are the signature of Samhain/Halloween…where would we be without the Apple Ducking Game or the Toffee Apple, or, best of all…the Apple Pie?

Mushrooms are yet another signature of Samhain…

   There is something haunting in the light of the moon; it has all the
dispassionateness of a disembodied soul, and something of its inconceivable
mystery.  ~Joseph Conrad

And the exquisite colours of the leaves…

Stir the fire till it lowe
How like a queen comes forth the lonely
Moon
From the slow opening curtains of the clouds
Walking in beauty to her
midnight throne!
~George Croly

Little beats the delight of walking though deep piles of Autumn leaves on a crisp, sunny day, with a chill in the air!

The foliage has been losing its freshness through the month of August, and here and
there a yellow leaf shows itself like the first gray hair amidst the locks of a
beauty who has seen one season too many.  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

There is definitely magic at this time of year as we descend towards Samhain and Midwinter…  

 For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together.  For nature, it is
a time of sowing, of scattering abroad.  ~Edwin Way Teale

Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
Blossomed the lovely
stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,
Evangeline


Cat Hotels and Halloween Weather…Notes from a Permaculture Cottage!

Cats will always find a home. The cleverest cats manage to find hotels. Cat hotels. The best food, drink and accomodation, free of charge with limitless facilities!

And so it is that Missy the ginger cat has come to stay at Bealtaine Cottage…

Missy is the daughter of a feral cat. Her mother was killed on the road, leaving Missy and her siblings orphaned and living in the hedgerow. A kindly man rescued them and Missy came to live at Bealtaine. years later she went further afield, to London and became a city cat…but has now returned to Bealtaine Cottage.

I think all cats are wild. They only act tame if there’s a saucer of milk in it for them. ~ Douglas Adams

Sitting on the window-sill this morning waiting to be let in…for a jolly hearty breakfast!

Lat take a cat, and fostre hym wel with milk
And tendre flessh, and make his couche of silk,
And lat hym seen a mous go by the wal,
Anon he weyveth milk and flessh and al,
And every deyntee that is in that hous,
Swich appetit hath he to ete a mous.

~ Geoffrey Chaucer The Manciple’s Tale

Today, someone told me to expect snow at Halloween…Samhain as the Celtic calendar states…but, I ask you, snow? What on earth could it be doing snowing at Halloween in Ireland?

Cats are smarter than dogs. You can’t get eight cats to pull a sled through snow. ~ Jeff Valdez