If all things were not considered equal to the Celts Samhain might have been the most important of all the festivals. Like the other three Celtic festivals Samhain too represented a marked event. This would be the ending of one year and the beginning of another. The word it’s self means the end of summer, kicking off the end of the light 1/2 of the year and the beginning of the dark, sometimes known as the times of the big and little suns. Samhain traditionally begins around Nov. 6th, when the sun is 15 degrees Scorpio, and like most other cross-quarter days the festival usually shifted and is now celebrated as Halloween, like a few years back when we celebrated on Oct. 31st because there was a new moon, making it the est day to proceed.
Samhain is the third traditional harvest festival, and according to legend all harvests needed to be be brought in by this day, since anything left would belong to the cailleach. A hag (though it’s also a word for Witch) embodied by the final, leavings in the fields there were severed from the earth and preserved until the next planting. In Welsh myth the wild hunt with the hounds of hell happen at this time, the riders came from Anwen to find all those who had died from one Samhain to the next, taking them to the gates of the otherworld.
This was the time of year that extra cattle would be killed for food (probably in the form of sacrifice at times) to get them through the winter. It was Samhains associations with death and decay which cause it’s transformation into the Halloween of today. Though the reason this was important to the Celts was it’s obvious associations to the natural world where plants and animals died and decayed to nourish the ground and make it fertile.
Samhain is an in between time, being neither the old year, or the new. To late for the light 1/2, and to early for the dark outside the effects of time, which is a very special place to be, and is recognized as being a time when all are backwards and chaos ensues. The dead are no longer kept away from the living land, and the ancestors become free to join in the festival. The importance of this backwards time is reflected in much of the Irish lore, where many important deaths and births take place either in the morning or in the evening, or the times which lay between night and day. I’m going to work on this further as well as add a festival working that might be of interest to some.
As I said earlier in this thread, there is a great deal of Irish lore surrounding Samhain. In the Irish “Dinnshenchas” It was on Oiche Shamhna that the coupling and marriage of an Mhór Rioghain and an Dagdha just prior to the second battle of Moytura, which was the great battle for sovereinty of Ireland against the Fomorian hosts. This particular union is very important to the time of Samhain and the Morrighan is associated primarily with death destruction and decay on the battle fiend, where as the Dagdha is associated with abundance and plenty, the growth and construction of new things among others, showing the in-between nature of not only the time of year, but also the in-between natures of couplings of equals under brehon law.
In the Adventure of Neara the hero carries a corps on his back and has many visions about death, chaos, and destruction and rides the faery host…The legend of intoxication of the Ulstermen is also set at the time of Samhain when they got drunk and stumbled over Ireland. The death of Cú Chulainn, the great hero of Ulster was at Samhain.
It was also at Samhain that Triple headed Ellen rose from a sidhe, and burn Tara the headquarters and seat of the High king. This would take place every Samhain untill he was killed by Fionn mac Cumhaill. The fact that this God was triple headed shows the importance of unity on all three levels at this time of year.
The fire at the burning of Tara, is significant of the purification of all the peoples of Ireland because the high king nt only represented not only the sovereinty of the land but his people as well. It is said that many of the major events in the Fenian cycle took place at the day of Samhain.
Samhain is a powerful time for the Druids, this time of year allows us to slip in and out of the spirit realm and share with the ancestors, and the gods. It vibrates with death and renewal as well as descents into dark realms and deep insights…A time when knowledge flows in the form of poetry, and poetry in the form of knowledge. May each know the wisdom of the ancestors on this day and every day!
Beannacht Oiche Shamhna!