Gouel an Anaon

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ennys
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Gouel an Anaon

Postby ennys » 22 Oct 2008, 16:13

Hi Everyone,
Today I had my last classes before the Toussaint (all saints) holidays, and I remembered I had promised over here to write something about the traditions in Brittany surrounding this time of the year.

First, some Breton terminology :grin: .
Hollsent = All saints. (holl an sent = all the saints). On this day Breton churxhes are the fullest, and in the afternoon people go to the graves of their beloved (this is a living tradition) to clean them and to leave flowers.
In earlier days they would also leave food, of have a dinner at home, and leave the table decked with food and all, for the dinner of the death. People would go to bed early and not go out of bed all night, because it was forbidden to see the dead feasting. People would also leave fod outside for the dead without a home to go to, and especially at places that were known as an entrance to the anaon. The traditional food to leave was crepes (breton pancakes) and cider.
Gouel an Anaon = all souls. Gouel (pronounce 'gwel' , or in some parts of Brittany, 'gwyl') means festival in the religious sense of the word, Anaon is the exact cognate of the more know welsh variant 'Annwn'. The word may mean 'souls of the dead', but also 'the place where these souls reside', more or less a purgatory. There are some places that give entrance to the Anaon, and these places are feared and respected.
An Ankoù = Death personified. According to some, the Ankoù is a spirit with a personality, according to others, it is a roulating function, and according to this version, every year at Hollsent the spirit of the person who died the latest will take over the function of the Ankoù.

The Ankoù rides in a cart, and his presence is known by the creaking sound this cart makes. When people heard this sound, they were sure someone was going to die. There were more signs of a coming death; also famous are the 'lavandièered de la nuit', washerwomen of the night, who washed clothes in the river while crying. When such a women was seen, it was a sign of death.
But I was talking about the Ankoù. There are many stories connected to the Ankoù, many of thel about people who met the Ankoù when they were alon outside in the night, and taken away by him. Where did the Ankoù go witgh the spirits? To the Anaon would be logical, but there are also many legends associated to the 'baie des trépassés' (bay of the dead) , in the far west of Brittany. Legend ahs it that the Ankoù would bring the dead to this bay, and row them over to the islands a bit farther away. I do not know much of this legend...

In the old days, people would not go outside between the evening of 31 October and 2 November, if they could prevail it. Too many spirits and ghosts outside, or maybe the Korriganed would play you tricks - the little people in Brittany, their name litterally tranlates 'little kinglets'. There are other names for the small ones but this is the best known one.

The reason I was reminded of writing a post here was because I found an interesting song in the book 'Carnets de Route' by Yann-Fañch Kemener, a traditional Breton singer and collector of traditional music. In this book he has publicised many songs he has collected while travelling to Brittany; this one comes from the south, from Bro Gwened or the Pays Vannetais, in French.
The song was sung by people going from door to door on the evening of 31 October, to waken everyone who had gone to bed to go out and pray for the dead. It is christian, of course, the translation is my own. I have also 'normalised' the spelling a bit, as it was written in dialect.

GWERZ AN ANAON. 'gwerz'* of the souls

Tudigoù paour, n'oc'h ket souezhet? poor people, are you not surprised?
E-barzh toull ho nor on erruet I have arrived in the opening of your door
Jezuz en deus ma digaset Jesus sent me
D'ho tihuniñ ma oc'h kousket To awaken you if you are asleep

D'ho tihuniñ ma oc'h kousket To awaken you if you are asleep
Da bediñ evit ho tud tremenet to pray for your departed ones

Mar 'peus ur bedenn bennak da laret, if you have some prayer to say
Deuit war an douarn yen d'he laret come on the cold earth to say it
Marse (or: marteze) emañ ho tad pe ho mamm Maybe is your father or mother
Er purgadoer e-kreiz ar flamm in the purgatory in the middle of the flames

Marse (or: marteze) emañ ho preur pe ho c'hoar Maybe is you brother or sister
E-kreiz an tan-flamm er purgatoer In the middle of the flaming fire of the purgatory
Emaint eno war o genoù they are lying there
O krial forzh d'ho pedennoù. Crying out for your prayers.

It is not a happy song...but it is tradition.
I'd love to explain some things about the Breton to you, but I have no idea where to start..So I leave it at this.

x
Ennys

* Gwerz is a bit an untranslatable word; it means a piece of poetry, normally narrative, of an educational nature. There are many gwerzioù about historical events, but also religious ones, like this one, and gwerzioù telling legends...It is a genre of Breton folk-poetry. The welsh cognate of the word gwerz is....gwers.
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Re: Gouel an Anaon

Postby D'Arzhur » 24 Oct 2008, 21:28

Thanks Ennys ! I enjoyed reading this :)
PS : I just came back from Bretagne (Sougeal a small village under Pontorson -north of Rennes) where we just bought a house...a 300 y. old house with lots of land in the middle of nature...a dream come true and perfect for a druid... :wink:
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ennys
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Re: Gouel an Anaon

Postby ennys » 27 Oct 2008, 15:02

It sounds like perfect, a dream house!!
Will you post some pictures some tile? I'd love to see them!
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Re: Gouel an Anaon

Postby D'Arzhur » 01 Nov 2008, 20:15

oops I missed your post Ennys sorry ! I am putting a web album together and it would be ready if I did not spend hours reliving the time we had there with every single picture ! Can't wait to go back :) will send you the link if you want...
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Re: Gouel an Anaon

Postby Beith » 03 Nov 2008, 21:51

Hi Ennys & D'Arzur

Ennys I very much enjoyed reading the Breton folklore you posted above. Some things are of course similar to the celebration of Samhain and its Christian practice here (we also have the "death coach", the "Banshee"/washerwoman etc) and of course myriad customs for the celebration of Samhain.

Thanks also for posting the song. It's always nice to see something of another language and songs/poetry help to see the form of how words rhyme or alliterate etc.

D'Arzur - fabulous news on your new house! I hope you will inaugurate it well and enjoy life there. It sounds wonderful!

Good wishes to you both
Beith

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Re: Gouel an Anaon

Postby D'Arzhur » 03 Nov 2008, 22:07

Hi Ennys & D'Arzur


D'Arzur - fabulous news on your new house! I hope you will inaugurate it well and enjoy life there. It sounds wonderful!

Good wishes to you both
Beith
Thank you Beith ! we will navigate between the Netherlands (lovely country) and France... I am blessed !
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Re: Gouel an Anaon

Postby ennys » 16 Jan 2009, 13:30

Something I heard lately relating to the ankoù:

A Breton prover, translating 'when a magpie crosses the road, it is sure someone will die'.
The magpie (bik in breton) is associated with the Ankoù

so is the owl (kaouenn), especially the white one, and the raven (bran).

I read a storie of a magpie visiting everyday a sick woman, everyday approaching her a bit nearer. The day she died, the magpie was sitting on her ebd.

In the old times, these birds were sometimes killed very cruelly, because they were seen as killers: where they went, the predicted death.

Just a small bit of information I wanted to share with you quickly, lust go to class now.

x
Ennys
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