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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Celebrating Samhain

   I've blogged about this before, but several people have asked this year so here is how I celebrate Samhain:

  For my family Samhain is a three day holiday which begins on October 31st. Although I tend to favor the idea that originally the holiday was agrarian based and timed depending on environmental signals which would have brought the herds in from summer pastures, I chose a set time for convenience and so my children could look forward to the date. Since generally the four fire festivals are dated on the kalends of the month, which would make Samhain on November 1st, I start my celebration the day before and end it the day after that date.
  The first day of the holiday is dedicated to the daoine sidhe and wandering ghosts. Since we also celebrate secular Halloween with trick or treating my children give the sidhe a tithe of candy from their take at the end of the night. Porridge is offered as well, left out near the woods and I tell the kids fairy-stories. After the kids go to bed I also re-swear my oath to my Druid Order because this is the anniversary of my dedication as a Druid in White Oak.
   The second day is dedicated to the Gods. Usually an Morrighan and an Dagda, but this year I am honoring Macha and Nuada instead. As part of this I tell my children stories about the Gods or spirits and things that happened on Samhain, of which there are many to choose from in Irish myth. This year I'm planning on talking about the second battle of Moytura and the Tuatha De overcoming the Fomorians. As part of my ritual I extinguish all the candles on my altar and relight them to symbolically re-enact the Samhain fire lighting at Tlachtga. We have a small ritual feast as well, of pork and apples with seasonal vegetables, some of which is offered to the Gods, spirits, and ancestors. 

   The third and final day is for the ancestors. I light candles on my ancestor altar and tell my children stories about the family members who have passed from this life. We set an extra place at dinner and leave out a plate of food for the dead. I also often talk to my children about the turning of the seasons and the approach of winter now. We take our Halloween pumpkins and offer them to the woods to feed the deer and other wildlife. 


  1. Just a slight note that probably doesn't affect matters much: the Coligny calendar seems to show the festival TRINO[X]SAM[ONIOS] happening at the ides of the month SAMON[IOS] (day 17, which means that, if TRINOSAM is the 3rd night of SAMON, then the festival SAMON starts on the 15th), rather than the kalends. Since the parallel festival from India, Diwali, occurs at the full moon (Nov 3 this year), that would seem to offer at least weak evidence that, assuming the Coligny months begin at or near the dark moon, the festival happened at or near the full moon. (You can see how the calendar is labeled here. Interestingly, though, day 7 is the one listed as IN[N]IS[I] R[II] "full moon", so there's a lot more to consider here, in terms of that calendar.)

    1. fascinating. I'm definitely researching possible lunar connections to the dating of the holiday, so I'll have to look into this more.

    2. I do want to correct an obvious mistake. I forgot that Diwali is timed on the dark moon, not the full (and 3 Nov will be the dark moon, of course). Which adds yet another level of complexity to this matter (or perhaps it simplifies things, depending on how you take it).