Samhain Traditions

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Abuzainab
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Samhain Traditions

Postby Abuzainab » 22 Oct 2013, 22:30

Peace to all,

Since Samhain is coming up shortly, and this will be the first year that I have celebrated it, I'd like to know more about the traditional Celtic customs that surround this festival (or if there is a thread here that may have more).

From what I have read, bonfires are lit, and I read that the ash from the fires are put on the planting fields. Also that the birch tree, the yew tree, the snake are symbolic of this time. What would the Celts have done to protect themselves from the sidhe at this time of year?

Anyway, I just wanted to know more about the traditional customs that were observed, also the folklore around the time, I am very interested in the Old Hag stories. Thank you all!

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Dysgwr
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Re: Samhain Traditions

Postby Dysgwr » 23 Oct 2013, 07:58

HI Abuzainab,

You will find some information in the brown ritual books that accompany the Bardic grade.

Ronald Hutton's Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain is an excellent book on the modern history of the ritual year. It's a bit academic and I didn't read it in one go. But, its great to dip into to find out about a specific festival.

I hope that whet's your appetite to keep exploring

Samhain greetings. :tiphat:
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samurai
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Re: Samhain Traditions

Postby samurai » 23 Oct 2013, 17:34

In our house we bring out photos of deceased ancestors,not just grandparents but furthur back. On our evening meal we lay another place so the ancestors can join us for our Samhuin meal. There just a couple of things we do during the sabbat period. I also book Samhuin of work on religious grounds.

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katie bridgewater
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Re: Samhain Traditions

Postby katie bridgewater » 23 Oct 2013, 20:49

The predominant feature in Samhain traditions is that of guising. Guising gives us the modern word 'diguising'.
House to house visiting is also widespread. In some places this is accompanied with some kind of 'death and resurrection' folk drama such as the traditional horse play or mummers play.
There is also 'soul-caking', a mediaeval custom, with the tradition of making 'soul cakes', cakes for the dead (or the living who represent them or take on their sins). Soul caking has songs associated with it, which are a useful addition for anyone wishing to conduct this ritual. We wrote an article for Pagan Dawn about it a few years ago - I will look it out on our old hard drive and post it on this thread if you are interested. There is a link to the song here:
http://ancientmusic.co.uk/sound_files/C ... g_Song.mp3

Samhain was traditionally the time when surplus animals were slaughtered, in particular cows and pigs, who would otherwise need food and shelter through the winter. I am sure this in part gave rise to more complex traditions, and in part explains the association with death. It also explains the very ancient evidence of feasting at this time of year.

It has always been the time when the first thick mists appear and the fire is lit properly and kept in for the winter. It's the end of summer, and the time when days shorten significantly and the first frosts fall. These are the things which would have been of great importance to all our ancestors.

I like to think that Samhain is not determined by the calendar, but is defined by these seasonal changes. For me, Samhain has always been the night when I light my fire in earnest (fire is absolutely crucial if you don't live in a house), and feel the change in the weather that I know means winter is truly upon us.

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Heddwen
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Re: Samhain Traditions

Postby Heddwen » 23 Oct 2013, 21:59

Just found a recipe for soul cakes here; http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/8607/soul-cakes.aspx so I'll be making some to add to my seasonal celebrations this Samhain.

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DaRC
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Re: Samhain Traditions

Postby DaRC » 28 Oct 2013, 14:32

We wrote an article for Pagan Dawn about it a few years ago - I will look it out on our old hard drive and post it on this thread if you are interested.
I'm always interested in what you guys have written :grin:

Heddwen they look almost like Rock Cakes, except they don't use self raising flour.
Most dear is fire to the sons of men,
most sweet the sight of the sun;
good is health if one can but keep it,
and to live a life without shame. (Havamal 68)
http://gewessiman.blogspot.co.uk Image

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Heddwen
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Re: Samhain Traditions

Postby Heddwen » 28 Oct 2013, 14:41

Hi DaRC, hopefully mine will turn out looking like rock cakes as well, now that I know what I 'm aiming for :grin:

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Re: Samhain Traditions

Postby Mannan » 10 May 2014, 19:16

Both Samhain and Bealtaine are associated with traditions which have been spread over a wider space of time than just those days associated with them. We usually understand Samhain to be from sunset on the 31st October and Bealtaine the sunset of 31st May. These festivals might be celebrated 'old style' on the Julian calendar, or in an even older 'reconstructionist' style on the nearest lunar advent or full-moon. What is more, traditions and customs found with them are spread over a wider space of time, such that Bealtaine customs are found observed at Easter/Spring Equinoxe through to the Summer Solstice, varying by regions. In the case of Samhain, these customs are spread between Michaelmas/Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice.

Movable 'Samhain' customs include fruit-gathering, guising bands, sports and games, fire-celebrations, animal slaughter and feasting, and family/ancestor-centric activities. Prominent customs relate to the spirits of the active dead, divination etc. Cold-water swimming might be another one...

Movable Bealtaine customs include fire-kindling and saining with smoke and ashes, flower-strewing and garlanding, well-visiting, collecting well-water and dew before sunrise, guising bands and mock battles, processions and hill-climbing. Every effort is made to appease abstracting forces at this time of growth and plenty.

It often confuses people when they read old folklore literature and records and see Beltane and Midsummer confused. Or the Scots 'Hogmanay' (start of the solar year) and the Manx 'Hoptunaa' (Samhain) which is the start of the 'celtic' year. Also, guising was a Hebridean pre-christmas tradition (read John Gregorson Campbell!). In the Isle of Man fire-rekindling happened at Easter (blame St Patrick) whereas in the Scottish Highlands it was a Bealtaine custom (May Eve). In Ireland, May Eve and Midsummer was occasion for Bealtaine' bonfires, depending on what part you visited and when.

Samhain Eve starts with the rising of the constellations you cannot see at Bealtaine (when they are hidden by the sun's glare)


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