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"
Astronomical diagram of "cross-quarter days" in Celtic "Wheel of the Year"
The Celtic Wheel Horologium indicates the current date with respect to the solstices, equinoxes, and cross-quarter days, as well as the positions of the sun, moon, and stars. The view is that of an observer looking down at the solar system from above the earth’s north pole. The vertical blue line is the meridian, the line passing from the north to the south celestial poles through the zenith of a terrestrial observer. Times and dates are local based on the user’s system time.
The Celtic year was quartered by the solar events with which we are familiar—the solstices (“sun-standing”) and the equinoxes (“equal-night”)—and then it was quartered again at the midpoints between the solar events, the “cross-quarter days.” The result was that the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, was midsummer’s day, not the first day of summer as we observe it. The same goes for the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the middle of winter in the old system. (It never made sense to me that as soon as summer begins, the days start getting shorter, or that it has already been cold for some time by the “first day of winter.”)
The true cross-quarter dates are calculated based on the position of the earth in its elliptical orbit (or the sun’s “ecliptic longitude” as seen from earth) and are actually a few days later than the traditional dates of Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain. The major solar events occur at the 0°, 90°, 180°, and 270° points with respect to the vernal equinox; the cross-quarter dates are placed at the 45° points between them, which may be up to 12 hours away from the midpoint between the calendar dates.
The position of the moon is indicated as well; it will be adjacent to the sun when new, and opposite when full. The names of the zodiac constellations indicate their true sidereal positions in the sky. Accurate sidereal and solar times require knowledge of the observer’s longitude. Time zone is used by default as a rough estimation, but in some parts of the world it can be two hours off.
As to the timing of Samhain, a “cross-quarter” day on the Celtic/Neopagan Wheel of the Year, it is traditionally celebrated on October 31, the eve of November 1. This is known as the “Fixed Date.” However, there are two other dates on which it is celebrated; the astrological and the astronomical dates, which go by a lunisolar calendar. The “Astrological Date” is when the Sun is at the 15th degree of Scorpio on November 6-7. The “Astronomical Date” is the cross-quarter day approximately the midway point between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice (for us in the Northern Hemisphere). Astronomical time is based on the meridian overhead, not midnight, so the actual position of the sun in the sky is opposite that of solar time. These two dates are sometimes referred to as “True Samhain.” This year, 2022, both the astrological and the astronomical dates fall on November 6-7.
I shall be Autumn this Halloween, with leaf draped skirt, and folds of boysenberry velvet wine flowing to the ground.
Brown stained face, eyes rimmed in gold, nails dripping sunset, a crown of twigs to cover my head.
You may gather from me the spring of my youth, my summer of maturity, and hold onto with me, the solace of these days of remembering before the frost.
~ Judith A. Lawrence, "Autumn Offering"
October brings us panoramic scenes
Picassoesque impressionistic style From reds to browns and earth tones in between When nature paints those landscapes that beguile
The helpful sun provides hot yellow paint Which bleeds and blends from mountains to the seas There are no signs that nature shows restraint As hues are scattered by the autumn breeze
Yet with her madness comes a masterpiece The reason for spring's jealousy of green Before her creativity has ceased Her orange and black spills on Halloween
October means peace, love, and harmony Get with your friends, enjoy fall's scenery
~ Daniel Turner, “Painting Autumn”
The perfect weather of Indian Summer lengthened and lingered, warm sunny days were followed by brisk nights with Halloween a presentiment in the air.
~ Wallace Stegner
October proved a riot a riot to the senses and climaxed those giddy last weeks before Halloween. ~ Keith Donohue
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
Even now this landscape is assembling. The hills darken. The oxen Sleep in their blue yoke, The fields having been Picked clean, the sheaves Bound evenly and piled at the roadside Among cinquefoil, as the toothed moon rises:
This is the barrenness Of harvest or pestilence And the wife leaning out the window With her hand extended, as in payment, And the seeds Distinct, gold, calling Come here Come here, little one
And the soul creeps out of the tree
~ Louise Gluck, "All Hallows"
“Samhain” by Annie Finch
In the season leaves should love, since it gives them leave to move through the wind, towards the ground they were watching while they hung, legend says there is a seam stitching darkness like a name.
Now when dying grasses veil earth from the sky in one last pale wave, as autumn dies to bring winter back, and then the spring, we who die ourselves can peel back another kind of veil
that hangs among us like thick smoke. Tonight at last I feel it shake. I feel the nights stretching away thousands long behind the days till they reach the darkness where all of me is ancestor.
I move my hand and feel a touch move with me, and when I brush my own mind across another, I am with my mother's mother. Sure as footsteps in my waiting self, I find her, and she brings
arms that carry answers for me, intimate, a waiting bounty. "Carry me." She leaves this trail through a shudder of the veil, and leaves, like amber where she stays, a gift for her perpetual gaze.
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"
Samhain is the threshold to the Season of Death. The fertile fields of summer give way to the bare forests of autumn. As crops slowly die and winter takes over, the cycle of life is once again approaching a renewal. ~ Dacha Avelin
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
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