Getting the facts down… and some ideas for the coming night…
Samhain… a few notes, Etymology, Symbology….
Poetry: Ancient Irish Poems…
Sacred Elixirs Photos: The last batch, with thanks to Mike for his contributions.
A brilliant weekend for you all.
“Those who flee temptation generally leave a forwarding address.”
“A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.”
“It’s no longer a question of staying healthy. It’s a question of finding a sickness you like.”
“Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one.”
“History is more or less bunk.”
“What some call health, if purchased by perpetual anxiety about diet, isn’t much better than tedious disease.”
“Cabbage: A familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man’s head.”
“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”
“Sometimes when you look in his eyes you get the feeling that someone else is driving.”
Samhain… a few notes
Irish samhain is from Old Irish samain, samuin, samfuin, referring to 1 November (lathe na samna, “samhain day”), and the festival and royal assembly at that date in medieval Ireland (oenaig na samna, “samhain night”). Its meaning is glossed as “summer’s end”, and the frequent spelling with f suggests analysis by popular etymology as sam “summer” and fuin “sunset, end”. Old Irish sam “summer” is from PIE *semo- , cognates are Welsh haf, Breton hañv, Old Norse language sumar all meaning “summer”, and Sanskrit sáma “season”.
W. Stokes in KZ 40:245 (1907) suggests an etymology from Proto-Celtic *samani with a meaning “assembly”, cognate to Sanskrit sámana, Gothic samana). Compare to this cetemain “1 May, beltane”, related to Middle Welsh kyntefin “1 May, calan haf, May” from *kintu-samino- “beginning of summer” (G. Murphy in Early Irish Lyrics 52), mehefin “June, middle of summer”. J. Vendryes in Lexique Étymologique de l’Irlandais Ancien (1959) concludes that these words containing *semo- “summer” are unrelated to samain, remarking that furthermore the Celtic “end of summer” was in July, not November, as evidenced by Welsh gorffennaf “July”.
We would therefore be dealing with an Insular Celtic word for “assembly”, *samani or *samoni, and a word for “summer”, saminos derived from *samo- “summer” (alongside samrad < *samo-roto-). Irish samain would be etymologically unrelated to "summer", and derive from "assembly". But note that the name of the month is of Proto-Celtic age, c.f. Gaulish SAMON[IOS] from the Coligny calendar, and the association with "summer" by popular etymology may therefore in principle date to even pre-Insular Celtic times.
Confusingly, Gaulish Samonios (October/November lunation) corresponds to GIAMONIOS, the seventh month (the April/May lunation) and the beginning of the summer season. Giamonios, the beginning of the summer season, is clearly related to the word for winter, PIE *g’hei-men- (Latin hiems, Slavic zima, Greek kheimon, Hittite gimmanza), c. f. Old Irish gem-adaig “winter’s night” (the vocalism of gam “winter” is influenced by sam, Thurneysen KZ 61:253). It appears, therefore, that for some reason already in Proto-Celtic the first month of the summer season was named “wintry”, and the first month of the winter half-year “summery”, possibly by ellipsis, “[month at the end] of summer/winter”, so that samfuin would be a restitution of the original meaning after all. This interpretation would either invalidate the “assembly” explanation given above, or push back the time of the re-interpretation by popular etymology to very early times indeed.
Bealtaine, Lúnasa and Samhain are still today the names of the months of May, August and November in the Irish language. Similarly, Lùnasdal and Samhain are the modern Scots Gaelic names for August and November.
In the country year, Samhain marked the first day of winter, when the herders led the cattle and sheep down from their summer hillside pastures to the shelter of stable and byre. The hay that would feed them during the winter must be stored in sturdy thatched ricks, tied down securely against storms. Those destined for the table were slaughtered, after being ritually devoted to the gods in pagan times. All the harvest must be gathered in — barley, oats, wheat, turnips, and apples — for come November, the faeries would blast every growing plant with their breath, blighting any nuts and berries remaining on the hedgerows. Peat and wood for winter fires were stacked high by the hearth. It was a joyous time of family reunion, when all members of the household worked together baking, salting meat, and making preserves for the winter feasts to come. The endless horizons of summer gave way to a warm, dim and often smoky room; the symphony of summer sounds was replaced by a counterpoint of voices, young and old, human and animal.
In early Ireland, people gathered at the ritual centers of the tribes, for Samhain was the principal calendar feast of the year. The greatest assembly was the ‘Feast of Tara,’ focusing on the royal seat of the High King as the heart of the sacred land, the point of conception for the new year. In every household throughout the country, hearth-fires were extinguished. All waited for the Druids to light the new fire of the year — not at Tara, but at Tlachtga, a hill twelve miles to the north-west. It marked the burial-place of Tlachtga, daughter of the great druid Mogh Ruith, who may once have been a goddess in her own right in a former age.
At at all the turning points of the Celtic year, the gods drew near to Earth at Samhain, so many sacrifices and gifts were offered up in thanksgiving for the harvest. Personal prayers in the form of objects symbolizing the wishes of supplicants or ailments to be healed were cast into the fire, and at the end of the ceremonies, brands were lit from the great fire of Tara to re-kindle all the home fires of the tribe, as at Beltane. As they received the flame that marked this time of beginnings, people surely felt a sense of the kindling of new dreams, projects and hopes for the year to come.
The Samhain fires continued to blaze down the centuries. In the 1860s the Halloween bonfires were still so popular in Scotland that one traveler reported seeing thirty fires lighting up the hillsides all on one night, each surrounded by rings of dancing figures, a practice which continued up to the first World War. Young people and servants lit brands from the fire and ran around the fields and hedges of house and farm, while community leaders surrounded parish boundaries with a magic circle of light. Afterwards, ashes from the fires were sprinkled over the fields to protect them during the winter months — and of course, they also improved the soil. The bonfire provided an island of light within the oncoming tide of winter darkness, keeping away cold, discomfort, and evil spirits long before electricity illumined our nights. When the last flame sank down, it was time to run as fast as you could for home, raising the cry, The black sow without a tail take the hindmost!
Even today, bonfires light up the skies in many parts of the British Isles and Ireland at this season, although in many areas of Britain their significance has been co-opted by Guy Fawkes Day, which falls on November 5th, and commemorates an unsuccessful attempt to blow up the English Houses of Parliament in the 17th century. In one Devonshire village, the extraordinary sight of both men and women running through the streets with blazing tar barrels on their backs can still be seen! Whatever the reason, there will probably always be a human need to make fires against the winters dark.
Symbolism of Samhain:
Third Harvest, the Dark Mysteries, Rebirth through Death.
Symbols of Samhain:
Gourds, Apples, Black Cats, Jack-O-Lanterns, Besoms.
Herbs of Samhain:
Mugwort, Allspice, Broom, Catnip, Deadly Nightshade, Mandrake, Oak leaves, Sage and Straw.
Foods of Samhain:
Turnips, Apples, Gourds, Nuts, Mulled Wines, Beef, Pork, Poultry.
Incense of Samhain:
Heliotrope, Mint, Nutmeg.
Colors of Samhain:
Black, Orange, White, Silver, Gold.
Stones of Samhain:
All Black Stones, preferably jet or obsidian.
The Lament of Queen Maev
Raise the Cromlech high!
Mac Moghcorb is slain,
And other men’s renown
Has leave to live again.
Cold at last he lies
‘Neath the burial stone.
All the blood he shed
Could not save his own.
Stately, strong he went,
Through his nobles all,
When we paced together
Up the banquet-hall.
Dazzling white as lime,
Was his body fair,
Cherry-red his cheeks,
Raven-black his hair.
Razor-sharp his spear,
And the shield he bore,
High as champion’s head–
His arm was like an oar.
Never aught but truth
Spake my noble king;
Valour all his trust
In all his warfaring.
As the forkéd pole
Holds the roof-tree’s weight,
So my hero’s arm
Held the battle straight.
Terror went before him,
Death behind his back,
Well the wolves of Erinn
Knew his chariot’s track.
Seven bloody battles
He broke upon his foes,
In each a hundred heroes
Fell beneath his blows.
Once he fought at Fossud,
Thrice at Ath-finn-fail.
‘Twas my king that conquered
At bloody Ath-an-Scall.
At the Boundary Stream
Fought the Royal Hound,
And for Bernas battle
Stands his name renowned.
Here he fought with Leinster–
Last of all his frays–
On the Hill of Cucorb’s Fate
High his Cromlech raise.
The March of the Faerie Host.
In well-devised battle array,
Ahead of their fair chieftain
They march amidst blue spears,
White curly-headed bands.
They scatter the battalions of the foe,
They ravage every land I have attacked,
Splendidly they march to combat
An impetuous, distinguished, avenging host!
No wonder though their strength be great:
Sons of kings and queens are one and all.
On all their heads are
Beautiful golden-yellow manes:
With smooth, comely bodies,
With bright blue-starred eyes,
With pure crystal teeth,
With thin red lips:
Good they are at man-slaying.
Vision of a Fair Woman
(Aisling air Dhreach Mna.)
Tell us some of the charms of the stars:
Close and well set were her ivory teeth;
White as the canna upon the moor
Was her bosom the tartan bright beneath.
Her well-rounded forehead shone
Soft and fair as the mountain-snow;
Her two breasts were heaving full;
To them did the hearts of heroes flow.
Her lips were ruddier than the rose;
Tender and tunefully sweet her tongue;
White as the foam adown her side
Her delicate fingers extended hung.
Smooth as the dusky down of the elk
Appeared her shady eyebrows to me;
Lovely her cheeks were, like berries red;
From every guile she was wholly free.
Her countenance looked like the gentle buds
Unfolding their beauty in early spring;
Her yellow locks like the gold-browed hills
And her eyes like the radiance the sunbeams bring.
Sacred Elixirs, Last Installment (all photos by Gwyllm unless noted)
Gwyllm, Earl and Sasha…. (Thanks Mike @ plantconsciousness.com)
Mike Crowley leading the band on stage….(another from Mike @ plantconsciousness.com)
Peter Stafford & Clark Heinrich on Sunday… (another Mike shot!)
Sasha, Mike and Earl before the last talk…
Mary from L.A., Susie Bright and Friend…
Sylvia Thyssen helping at Erowid Table…
Dee Goofing around….
Happy Faces, mostly from L.A….
Audience at the end of Sasha and Earls’ Presentation…
Getting the facts down… and some ideas for the coming night…