This Celtic/Neo-Pagan cross-quarter "fire festival" of Samhain (SAH-wen) ushers in the "dark half" of the year and the beginning of winter, according to the Celtic (lunisolar Coligny) calendar, and thus is the Celtic New Year. The paleo-Celts in the British Isles divided the year into two halves or seasons; the dark half or winter, which began with Samhain, the eve of November 1, and the light half or summer, which began with Beltane on May 1. Just as they counted their new days beginning from dusk/sunset, likewise their year commenced at the dark half, which begins on Samhain (a Gaelic word meaning “summer’s end” and designating the month of November). Although it is thought that the paleo-Celts had no fixed date that marked the festival on the Celtic Wheel of the Year but celebrated it on the ancient druidic holiday at the beginning of the lunar month on the night of the full moon falling closest to November 1, it has customarily come to be celebrated beginning on the eve of November 1st (Oct 31st, our Hallowe'en). However, because there was originally no fixed date, the sacred Samhain festival was not just for the one night. According to the Celtic lunisolar calendar (Coligny calendar), Samhain was celebrated "from three nights before to three nights after" the date (for a total of seven days). Then, along with the modern "Fixed Date" for Samhain on the eve of November 1, there's the "Astrological Date," the astrologically calculated Samhain that technically occurs at the midpoint of Scorpio (15°) on November 7-8, which is the “cross quarter” date midway between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice. Celtic folklorists and cultural historians believe that the Christian festivals occurring around the same time — All Hallows' Eve (October 31), All Saints' Day (November 1), All Souls' Day and the Day of the Dead (Dia de Los Muertos, Nov. 1 and 2) — were all based upon this earlier Celtic pagan festival. (This is in connection with the Christian triduum of Hallowmas: All Hallows' Eve, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.) Thus, the important thing to remember is that for the paleo-Celts the festival of Samhain had no fixed date; November 1 is for convenience, in order to match up with our solar Gregorian calendar.
Click images to see the pre-Christian Coligny Calendar. The Gallic Coligny Calendar year (lunisolar, based on lunar months) began with Samonios (November), which is usually assumed to correspond to Old Irish Samhain (October 31), giving an autumn start to the year. It shows that Samhain was celebrated "three days before and three days after" the Novemeber 1 date.
Click on images to see Celtic/Neo-Pagan "Wheel of the Year"
Chant for Samhain
A year of beauty. A year of plenty. A year of planting. A year of harvest. A year of forests. A year of healing. A year of vision. A year of passion. A year of rebirth. A year of rebirth. This year may we renew the earth. Let it begin with each step we take. Let it begin with each change we make. Let it begin with each chain we break. And let it begin every time we awake.
Thematic Images for Samhain/Hallowe'en
Thematic Images for Hekate, Goddess of Witches
Hekate, as Queen of Witches and Night (“Queen of the Night”) and the crossroads greeter of souls after death, can be understood as the goddess of Halloween. But, Hekate's magic was not just about death and the underworld. As healer, she helped ease the transition of the dying, and she was also associated with sacred plants, wilderness, childbirth, protection, and growing and harvest -- through her connection to the phases of the moon. A goddess of magic, witchcraft, the moon, nighttime, ghosts and necromancy (communicating with the deceased), you will sometimes see Hekate holding keys to open the gates between the worlds. Hekate is a liminal (threshold) goddess who was present at all the boundaries and transitional moments in life. It can also be understood that Halloween "Trick or Treating" has its roots in the myths of Hecate, the Greek goddess of the crossroads. Known as a triple goddess of earth, sky, and sea, in mythological art and religious iconography Hekate was sometimes portrayed as three separate figures.
The end of summer and the beginning of winter was the time of year when the "veil between the worlds" was thought to be the thinnest and most easily penetrated, a time when the laws of space and time were temporarily suspended, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living. This was when Hekate made her “nocturnal wanderings.”
Thematic Images of Witches, Faeries, and Other Samhain/Hallowe'en Spirits
Thematic Images for Old Halloween Misrule & Contemporary Halloween Night
Thematic Images for Celtic God & Goddesses of Samhain-- Lugh, The Dagda, Medb, Morrigan, Macha, & Triple Goddess
Lugh, "The Shining One" and "The Long Arm, the Master of All the Arts," is the presiding god of Samhain
Thematic Images for Samhain-Halloween Gothic Weather
Samhain-Halloween Gothic Weather: - cloudy skies - howling winds - rain and storms - fog and mist
Thematic Images for Samhain's Stormy "Wild Hunt"
The "People/Phantoms of the Night" are roughly equivalent to the Celtic otherworldly "fairie" folk. Associated with the medieval “Witchcraft” phenomenon, other magical elements accrued themselves onto this folklore complex of the “People /Phantoms of the Night,” such as: (1) the legend of the wild “night-riders” (sometimes led by Herne), who could be heard thundering through the countryside on horseback or even through the air; (2) the legend of the pagan goddess of the Hunt, Diana (or, “Holda”), who lured women to “night flying,” or nocturnal travels of riding upon wild beasts— “the game of Diana.”
Samhain Wild Hunt
Samhain Wild Hunt
Samhain Faerie Wild Hunt
Thematic Images for Witches' Sabbath & Wild Hunt
Witches' Sabbath & Wild Hunt
Hecate's Nocturnal Wanderings & The Wild Hunt
Often seen roaming around the countryside with her following of ghosts, Hekate was both honored and feared. As a moon-goddess, when the moon was full, Hekate became the leader of the Wild Hunt on the night of the "Witches Sabbath."
When the pale white moon is climbing slow, Through the stars to the heavens height, We hear Thy hooves on the wings of night! As black tree branches shake and sigh, By joy and terror we know Thee nigh. We speak the spell Thy power unlocks, At solstice, sabbat and equinox. Word of virtue, the veil to rend, From primal dawn to the wide world's end!
For more information about "The Wild Hunt" in Celtic and European folklore and its phenomenon during the Samhain festival in Celtic countries, click here
For poem on the Wild Hunt, "Åsgårdsreien," by Johan Sebastian Welhaven, click here
For William Butlar Yeats' poem referencing the Wild Hunt, "Under Ben Bulben," click here
For the spirits of Samhain/Halloween, go to page # 11, The School of the Night. See, specifically, the section "The School of the Night & the Night-Riders."
Thematic Images of Annwn, Gwyn Ap Nudd & The Wild Hunt
'The Song of Amergin' is a riddle about the very force of creation, that mysterious force from the Otherworld, of Annwn, that permeates every single aspect of our world and brings it into manifestation, the great mystery itself.
I am a wind across the sea I am a flood across the plain I am the roar of the tides I am a stag of seven tines I am a dewdrop let fall by the sun I am the fierceness of boars I am a hawk, my nest on a cliff I am a height of magical poetry I am the most beautiful among flowers I am the salmon of wisdom Who but I is both the tree and the lightning that strikes it Who but I is the dark secret of the dolmen not yet hewn I am the queen of every hive I am the fire on every hill I am the shield over every head I am the spear of battle I am the ninth wave of eternal return I am the grave of every vain hope Who but I knows the path of the sun or the periods of the moon.
Thematic Images for The Dark Goddesses (The Triple Goddesses) The Celtic Cailleach Beara, Maiden-Mother-Crone, & The Greco-Roman Hecate
The Cailleach Dark Goddess
I Am The Crone
I am the Oldest of the old, Wisest of the wise, the Power behind power. I am Hecate, Heqt, Cerridwen, Kali, Caillech, Hel, Cybele, Morrigan, Ala, Mara, I am the Old Hag of many names. I am the light in the dark and the dark of the moon. I am the One behind the veil, the Threshold to be crossed. I am the dealer of Death, giver of Rebirth. I am the greatest of Teachers, with the deepest of lessons. I am Transition and Connection, the spider in the web. I am Dusk, Midnight, and the dark before Dawn. I am Surrender when you need to let go. I am the chill wind in Autumn, the whisper of Winter. I am the Three-Way Place, the center of the Crossroads. I am the all-seeing Owl, the Frog under the mud, the flesh-eating Vulture, the Raven and the Wolf. I am the Destroyer, and your Protector as well. I am the One to lead you through the Dark, through the Fire, into a new day. I am the Crone, Oldest of the old, Wisest of the Wise, the Power behind power.
Cailleach, "The Veiled One"
I am Cailleach, the meager blue hag. My face is blue My teeth are red And I have only one eye. I am the Winter Queen. My name means "dark of the sun". I am ruler of the "Little sun of winter."
The summer of youth where we were has been spent along with its harvest; winter age that drowns everyone, its beginning has come upon me. -- "The Hag of Beare" (translated by Lady Gregory, 1852-1932)
"Hag" or "Cailleach" as the leader of the Wild Hunt
Traditionally, the Hag is a wizened old woman, or a kind of fairy or goddess having the appearance of such a woman, often found in folklore and children's tales. Hags are often seen as malevolent, but may also be one of the chosen forms of shapeshifting deities, such as the Celtic figure of Morrígan or Badb, who are seen as neither wholly beneficent nor malevolent. In Irish and Scottish mythology, the "Cailleach" (see images below) is a hag-goddess concerned with creation, harvest, the weather and sovereignty. In partnership with the goddess Bríd, she is a seasonal goddess, seen as ruling the winter months while Bríd rules the summer. In Scotland, a group of hags, known as "The Cailleachan" (The Storm Hags), are seen as personifications of the elemental powers of nature, especially in a destructive aspect, thus giving rise to the phenomenon of the "Wild Hunt." They are said to be particularly active in raising the windstorms during the period known as "A Chailleach." Hags, as sovereignty figures (e.g., "Sovereignty Goddess" or "Lady Sovereignty," who the king must wed to insure the fertility and adundance of the land), abound in Irish mythology. The most common pattern is that the Hag represents the barren land, who the hero of the tale must approach without fear, and come to love on her own terms. When the hero displays this courage, love, and acceptance of her hideous side, the sovereignty hag then reveals that she is also a young and beautiful goddess.
For more information about the Cailleach,click here
For song about the Cailleach, "Cailleach's Whisper," click below.
Thematic Images for the Stormy "Night-Riders" & "The Riders of the Storm"
See video of William Butler Yeats' poem "The Hosting of the Sidhe," put to music by the band Primordial
The host is riding from Knocknarea And over the grave of Clooth-na-Bare; Caoilte tossing his burning hair, And Niamh calling Away, come away: Empty your heart of its mortal dream. The winds awaken, the leaves whirl round, Our cheeks are pale, our hair is unbound, Our breasts are heaving our eyes are agleam, Our arms are waving our lips are apart; And if any gaze on our rushing band, We come between him and the deed of his hand, We come between him and the hope of his heart. The host is rushing 'twixt night and day, And where is there hope or deed as fair? Caoilte tossing his burning hair, And Niamh calling Away, come away.
Fairy Dance Around the Moon
For a poem about Halloween from the great eighteenth-century poet of Scotland, Robert Burns, click here
Thematic Images for the Ballad of Tam Lin
Tam Lin & The Faery Host
O I forbid you, maidens a', That wear gowd on your hair, To come or gae by Carterhaugh, For young Tam Lin is there.
(Child Ballad #39A Tam Lin. The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, 1882-1898 by Francis James Child.)
For the background of the ballad "Tam Lin" and lyrics, click here
Thematic Images for October's "Hunter's Moon"
Full Moon: October 27, 5:05 A.M. PDT; 12:05 P.M. UT.
October Hunter's Moon or Blood Moon
Traditionally, tribes spent the month of October preparing for the coming winter. This included hunting, slaughtering and preserving meats for use as food. This led to October’s full Moon being called the Hunter’s Moon or Full Harvest Moon and sometimes Blood Moon or Sanguine Moon. Many moons ago, Native Americans named this bright moon for obvious reasons. The leaves are falling from trees, the deer are fattened, and it’s time to begin storing up meat for the long winter ahead. Because the fields were traditionally reaped in late September or early October, hunters could easily see fox and other animals that come out to glean from the fallen grains. Probably because of the threat of winter looming close, the Hunter’s Moon is generally accorded with special honor, historically serving as an important feast day in both Western Europe and among many Native American tribes.