Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Celtic Samhain!

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Hey guys!

First off I just want to say thank you to all of my followers I hope you all enjoy my posts- both old and future! x :D

Secondly, happy October everyone! It's finally getting colder here in the Emerald Isle which is fantastic. Soon it'll be time to don my long sexy winter coat and layer like nobody's buisness!

Now, what with it being October I decided to do a post on Halloween. Of course being an Otherworldly Phantom Cat I decided to do a post on the Irish origins of Halloween, i.e. the Celtic day of Samhain. I am aware that Halloween has been linked to many other holidays in many other countries but many of the traditions can be traced back to Ireland! I don't want to get into any religious stuff here because there is a lot of controversy surrounding the Christian influences on Halloween as it is practised today. Suffice to day that the Celtic holiday of Samhain is a pretty damned important precursor to Halloween! 

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In Ancient Ireland the year was divided into two seasons, Beltaine on May 1st and Samhain on November 1st. Each was celebrated with a harvest. Samhain marked the end of the lighter half of the year and the beginning of the darker half. It was the last harvest, a time of death and rebirth and a time to honour one's ancestors. It was celebrated from sundown on October 31st through until the last hours of November 1st.

The Celts believed that the veil between this world and the Otherworld (my crib, miaow) was at its thinnest at Samhain and that spirits roamed the earth freely on this night. Those who had died since the last Oiche Shamhna (Samhain night) were thought to pass to the other side during Samhain. Folks would leave food on their doorsteps as offerings to appease any malevolent spirits and as gifts for the kinder ones. People wore masks to disguise themselves as evil spirits so that they would be unharmed by those nasty ghosties roaming the fields and paths. People also lit huge bonfires to ward off evil ghosts and to guide good spirits on their way. 

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The hill of Tlachtga, just twelve miles away from the famous Hill of Tara in Co. Meath, was the site of the very important Fire Festival. This festival signalled the onset of Winter. All other fires were extinguished and after sundown a huge ceremonial fire was lit on Tlachtga. Torches were lit from this fire and carried to seven other sacred hill, including the Hill of Tara.

Divination was a hugely important element of Samhain and was an intrinsic part of the celebrations at Tlachtga. Methods used include throwing bones, casting the Celtic Ogham, reading tea leaves and reading twigs and rocks. Since the boundary between this world and the next was at its thinnest on this night, Celtic druids sought to read the future by tapping into the mystical energies coursing freely on Samhain.

On Samhain preparations were made for winter in Celtic Ireland. Animals were brought in from the fields and those too weak to survive winter were slaughtered and eaten. Berries, corns and fruits had to be harvested before the onset of winter. According to one article I read there was a belief that foods became bewitched at the beginning of November and couldn't be eaten. Also there are stories of a beast known as a Pooka- a big black scary horse with red eyes said to roam the earth at Samhain kidnapping people (the thought of which I find kind of hilarious, is that weird?!). Alternatively if the Pooka was a bit friendlier he would divine your future. A Pooka is an Irish hobgoblin and the most feared of all the fairy creatures. He appears in several forms including horses, goats and ponies. This was also the night to kill that pesky Banshee of yours or to visit your local fairy hotspot for a tour of their otherwise invisible gaff (Irish slang for house).

That's just some basic history on the Irish Celtic Samhain! Over the coming weeks I will be posting many many more pieces on this topic including Samhain games, foods, traditions, rituals, animals, creatures and maybe even songs- if I can find some of those Samhain songs that we learned in school when I was about ten.

Until then guys! :)

A Halloween tradition of our own here at home. So delicious! 


ultimategothguide said...

You have Fiendish Fancies, I have Demon Slices ^^

The Irish Phantom Cat said...

I just googled Demon Slices. I wanna go to Tesco now! They look yummy! Hehe. I love Mr. Kipling, French Fancies are my fave! :)