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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Halloween....or should that be Samhain?

Celtic seasons wheel
Tomorrow is Halloween, or Samhain as it was called in the time of the Celts.

At ECI most of our classes tomorrow will have a "Halloween feel" and below is a reading class that may get used. Enjoy, but don't get too scared.........

 The Origins of Halloween

(Text taken from http://celticanamcara.blogspot.com.es/2009/10/celtic-halloween.html full article can be read there)

The first time I knew there was something more to October 31st than trick or treating and witches, was when I was a teenager. I was reading the first chapters of Thomas Hardy's "The Return of the Native”. In this book the residents of England's “Egdon Heath” celebrated the night with giant bonfires built on hilltops.

For the last 20 years or so I have been studying the ancient traditions and customs practiced by the Celts of Scotland and Ireland.  I learnt that Celtic Halloween, or Samhain, pronounced SOW-en or SOW-in, is from the Old Irish language. The word means "summer's end", the end of the light half of the year and the beginning of the dark half.

The more I read, the more I learned that the Romans, the Catholic Church and commercialized modern society reinvented this festival for their own purposes. But traces of Halloween's ancestral past remains tucked inside the modern celebrations.

For the Celts, Samhain was one of the two most important days of the Celtic year. It marked the beginning of winter, which they celebrated as their New Year, November 1st being their New Year's Day. As with all Celtic holidays, the eve before is when the celebrations took place, because the Celtic "day" began at night. This night was a time when the laws of time and space are temporarily suspended. It was said that during Samhain, the veil between this world and the afterlife was especially thin or lifted entirely.

The Celts felt that during this time they were privy to supernatural and otherworldly knowledge. It was a world filled with the forces of magic, a night of mystical glory. It was referred to as "Time Which Is No Time". It was very magical, but also very dangerous. 

An important part of Samhain was the lighting of giant bonfires on hilltops. These bonfires were full of symbolism. They gave the Celts a festive feeling and a sense of warmth. Bonfires were wonderful gathering places for storytelling, chanting and singing, and it was considered good luck to jump over the bonfire as it died down. Hilltop fires also mirrored the light, warmth and colour of the sun in the sky.

Family hearth fires were extinguished and then re-lit from the sacred communal fires. These huge bonfires were thought to consume all the miseries of the past year. They were also used to secure a promise from the sun god not to disappear altogether during the cold months ahead. The Celts hoped that the tall bonfires would rise high enough to reach the tired sun, fully rejuvenating him.

In England and Scotland, Samhain marked the final harvest of the year, and it was a time for herding the cattle from their summer pastures. Sometimes two bonfires would be built close together and people would drive their cows and other livestock between the fires as a cleansing ritual for all.

To protect themselves from mischievous spirits, the Celts would dress in frightening disguises so that the spirits would mistake them for one of their own and pass them by. They would also parade around and make loud noises to drive unwanted spirits to the edge of the community.

En la más alta
One of their own
Uno de ellos
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