Samhain is the ancient Irish festival that became Halloween as we know it.
“The Celts believed the year was divided into two parts, the lighter half in the summer and the darker half in the winter. Samhain, or Halloween as it is now called, was the division between these halves. The Celts believed that the veil between our world and the other world was thinnest at this time. Oíche Shamhna (October 31) is Halloween and Lá na Marbh (November 1) is the Day of the Dead, or All Saints Day, when those who have passed away are remembered.
According to the American Folklife Center at the U.S. Library of Congress, Celts wore costumes to confuse the spirits now roaming our world and to avoid capture. (Irish Central)”
Want to learn more about Celtic Halloween legends? Read the rest of the article at Irish Central.
A mere ten feet below a suburb of Edinburgh Scotland, lies Gilmerton Cove, a mysterious network of tunnels and carved passageways. How old is this cove and what was it used for? There are many theories.
According to Julian Spalding, a writer, art expert, historian, and the former head of Glasgow’s museums and galleries, the temple could have been in use for centuries. He believes that further work at Gilmerton Cove may unlock many of the secrets connected with the mysterious labyrinth.
The official record states that the place was created by a blacksmith by the name of George Paterson in 1724. Until recently, no one had any proof to the contrary. Yet Julian Spalding believes that it may have been a temple used by the druids centuries ago and then buried to protect the sacred nature of the place. He says that the construction of the temple is too complicated for one blacksmith alone to make, and believes that Paterson simply discovered the place and used it for himself.
Now just because this place could have existed before Paterson, doesn’t necessarily make it a sacred druid site. There isn’t concrete proof to say that this is the case. But it is an interesting theory. And the carvings in the wall could a spiritual significance.
In the 1740’s, the site was used by the Hellfire club, a gentleman’s club that turned the cove into a den of vice: a place for drinking, enjoying music and sexual activity. Some researchers even believe that there were religious practices linked to these sex parties.
Then there are some other theories; that it was used by the Free Masons, and even the Knights Templar. Are any of these theories true? Who knows.
But it is interesting to think that just below the surface of a sleepy mining town and suburb, lies a piece of history, possibly charged with spiritual significance.
When people think of what it means to be Irish, Catholicism is one of the first thing that comes up. I myself am an American that hails from a family of Irish, Catholic immigrants. My grandma prayed to St. Anthony whenever she lost something (which was a lot in her messy house!)
However, in recent decades, the Catholic Church in Ireland has faced a steady decline, which has introduced somewhat of a cultural crisis, according to Olivia Cosgrove, co-editor of Ireland’s New Religious Movements. So alternative spiritualities are becoming more widespread. And I shouldn’t even say “alternative” here, because what Irish people are doing is returning to their roots.
In the ethnographic study “Neo-Paganism in Ireland,” Jenny Butler writes that the spiritual movement encompasses a wide variety of beliefs and practices. Yet the connection to the energies of nature remains a common theme.
Yet in Ireland, 84% of the population still consider themselves Catholic. So non-Catholics living in Ireland inhabit a world where laws and social norms fall into Catholic conventions. However, a recent Irish survey shows that religion ranks as the least important thing in people’s lives. So even among practicing Catholics, religion is becoming less of a priority.
In an article in onbeing, a few people in Ireland describe how they feel about practicing a pre-christian tradition.
“In Ireland we’ve had all sorts of problems and scandals. So what Irish people are finding is that shamanism connects them directly to the source of their own divinity, and they don’t have to have it mediated through a priest or a rabbi or another person. They can go and find that out for themselves.” – Martin Duffy
“We do rituals on the land, because Shamanism and Druidism is an earth-based spirituality. Our cathedrals and our churches are the sky and the trees and nature.” – Martin Duffy
“Shamanism changed my life. It’s in my DNA, in the land here in Ireland, and it’s coming up through me.” – Ann Peard
May Brigid bless the house wherein you dwell
Bless every fireside, every wall and door
Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof
Bless every hand that toils to bring it joy
Bless every foot that walks it’s portals through
May Brigid bless the house that shelters you.
Many of us modern folk may think of the Spring Equinox on March 21st as the first day of Spring. But back in ancient Ireland, it was actually around January 31st. It was the day that marked the waning of winter and the coming of longer days. A time when the snow started melting, the animals began coming out of hibernation and birds started singing. A day in between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.
The term ‘Imbolc’ derives from Old Irish and means “in the belly,” or alternately “ewe’s milk,” pointing to the the time when the first lambs were born, associated with a celebration of fertility, reproduction and the young.
This is a day connected with the Celtic goddess Brigid, and Imbolc is one of the few contemporary Pagan holidays that is connected completely and solely to a Goddess. Brigid is the goddess of creativity, warfare, healing, fertility and the hearth.
In Christian times, the goddess Brigid was transformed to a Saint. Saint Brigid is still a pretty big deal in Ireland today. The second most popular saint after Saint Patrick. It is believed that Saint Brigid could perform miracles, such as healing the sick. She also acted a bridge between Christianity and Paganism. Even Brigid’s cross is both a reference to both Jesus and the Celtic sun wheel. So as a bridge between two religions, she is a fitting symbol of the threshold between winter and spring.
A good way to celebrate this holiday is by doing some spring cleaning. Getting rid of the old and preparing your home for the new season to come.
Since Brigid is a goddess of creativity, another good way to celebrate is by trying your hand at writing a poem, maybe even writing a song or doing some other creative project.
Most importantly, this is a time of renewal. Do you have any new projects you’d like to start? Or old ones that you need to finish? Is there something you’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t gotten around to doing it yet? Or any old habits that need to thaw out and melt away like the winter snow? This may be the time, and the strength of Brigid will help guide you through.
THEY AWOKE TO THE SCENT OF SPRING
(I know I shared this song before, but it’s a good one for the occasion)
Lady of The Flame (Metal-Gaia)
How to celebrate Imbolc (Pagan Wiccan)
The Right and Wrong of Imbolc (Patheos)
Imbolc 2016: Facts, Dates, Traditions And Rituals To Know (Huffington Post)
Pagans Celebrate Coming of Spring with Imbolc Festival (World Religion News)
Imbolc Poem (The Fellowship of The King)
In the days of old, our ancestors told the stories of their people by the fire side.
Today there is a podcast called the “Celtic Myth Podshow” that provides a modern version of this tradition. You can go to their website and hear the old Celtic myths told through the modern media of the internet. You can also download their app on your phone.
I in particular love hearing these stories aloud because I can never understand nor pronounce those weird Celtic names when I see them written down.
But in January they need to pay over £100 of web hosting fees, update their website and much of their recording equipment. They have been paying all these costs themselves to provide a free service to the public, but now they need help, since they can no longer afford to do this alone.
Check out the Celtic Myth Podshow and click the donate button, that’s on the left side of their website.
Here’s the latest episode, for the curious
I decided to share the article above because it has a great description of the Celtic wheel of the year. The Celtic year was lunar based, with thirteen months. Extra days were added in as needed at New Years as a ‘time between times.’
The Cascadia Grove of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) is looking to build a shrine to Cernunnos, God of liminality, commerce and the forest. This will be at the beautiful White Mountain Druid Sanctuary in Trout Lake, Washington state.
(This is an artistic rendition of the proposed Cernunnos shrine)
White Mountain Druid Sanctuary is created and owned by Kirk Thomas, the Arch Druid of ADF. On the Sanctuary’s property, he has already completed three shrines, a massive Stone Circle, and a Labyrinth. The three other shrines include Dagda, The Morrigan and Lugh.
There is also a Bed and Breakfast (Trout Lake Abbey) on the property. People can reserve an individual room, a bed in the hostel, or places to camp and pitch a tent.
White Mountain Druid Sanctuary is one of the few places in the country that has recreated an environment that we think may be similar to what the ancient druids worshiped in (at least based on what we know). They are interested in creating a place to worship in the spirit of the old Indo-European spirituality, and connect with the Gods and Goddesses, our ancestors and nature.