Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Few Oíche Shamhna Traditions

To get into the season, I've been reading a book by David J. Skal entitled Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween (link), and I'm really enjoying it despite its depressing introduction. But there are some nice little tidbits in chapter one that I'd like to share regarding Gaelic traditions, which I'm sure fellow Gaelic Polytheists might want to incorporate into their celebration(s).

First off, I had no idea that Halloween derives from the Middle England hallowen, which means hallowed or sacred. Yeah, put that in your pipe and smoke it fundies who believe it is an evol holiday full of devilry. And with that random tangent over, on to the fun stuff!
"In Scotland, young people went blindfolded into the garden to pull kale stalks; later , before the crackling fireplace, the plants would be "read" for revealing signs of the future wife or husband—short and stunted, tall and healthy, withered and old, and so on. The amount of earth clinging to the root was believed to indicate the amount of dowry or fortune the player could expect from a mate. The stalks were hung above the door in a row, and each subsequent Halloween visitor was assigned the identity of a vegetable-spouse in turn. Cabbages and leeks were similarly used." (page 29 -- didn't find a source listed)
Also on page 29-30, there's a great recounting of a incident in Leinster (Ireland) of the power spells cast on Halloween have. A lady named Sarah had a dream where she was walking in an unfamiliar part of the Irish countryside and came upon a cottage. Seeking rest and something to eat, she enters the cottage but she lacked the will to sit down. When she became too exhausted to stand any longer, she flees the house, back up the road and once again through the unfamiliar countryside. The next morning she wakes and tells her husband of the dream. He replies, "My dear Sarah, you will not long have me beside you; whoever is to be your second husband played last night some evil trick of which you have been the victim."

Within a few months, Sarah's finds herself a widow and a few years later her uncle introduces her to another man. The man is in shock, he recounts how one Halloween he cast a spell, and sat up all night to see the results. While by the fire a woman—Sarah—walked into the house, stood there a bit and then disappeared as quickly as she came. A very eerie tale indeed (by the way, they ended up married and happy).
"In Ireland, "Ashes were raked smooth on the hearth at bedtime on Hallowe'en, and the next morning examined for footprints. If one was turned from the door, guests or a marriage was propheised; if toward the door, a death." (page 30 -- Ruth Edna Kelley, Book of Halloween, 1919, listed as the source)
"Halloween was also the time when Irish children would return to the place where they had hung up an herb called "livelong" on Midsummer Eve. Those whose herb had retained their color would prosper, those whose plants had withered would die themselves." (page 30-31 -- Ibid. source) 
"Scottish children replenished the population by piling up cabbage stalks before retiring on Halloween, in the belief that a new brother or sister would shortly be provided to them—this, obviously, a variation on the belief that babies were found in cabbage patches." (page 31 -- William S. Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs, 1897, listed as the source)
Page 33 mentions some pranks from Ireland and Scotland, but this post is running rather long, so I'll probably do another post later. The above traditions, though, would work very well as part of a family celebration, especially those with children.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Celtic scholar Barry Raftery dies

I can't believe I'm a month late in hearing about this (of course, I don't hang around Yahoogroups as much as I used it):

THE DEATH has taken place of Prof Barry Raftery, emeritus professor of archaeology at UCD.

Prof Raftery, who was recognised as the country’s leading scholar on the archaeology of later prehistoric societies, was appointed to the chair of Celtic archaeology in UCD in 1996.

He was visiting professor of European prehistory in Ludwig-Maximilians Universität Munich in 1969-70, and was visiting professors at Kiel University (1991) and the University of Vienna (1997).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rachel Allen: Bake!

I discovered a new show by accident today while my little sister was watching The Cooking Channel. It's called Rachel Allen: Bake! and stars Irish chef, Rachel Allen (who studied at Ballymaloe Cookery School founded by  Darina Allen [who is, for those who like fun little tidbits, Rachel's mother-in-law]).  I've read a couple of Darina's books and I've found them some of the best places for learning some great Irish recipes so I was really excited to see this show available here in the States.

Rachel's program doesn't always show traditional Irish cooking, but I was lucky to see an episode today featuring traditional soda bread. While recipes on paper are great, nothing beats actually seeing it made. I can follow recipes fairly well, but visuals are always better in my opinion. So, I thought I would mention this in a post in case there is anyone else out there with a fondness for Irish cooking who might be interested in watching it.

To learn more about the show and to see a program schedule, go here.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Image of Reconstructionism

Gorm has started a great discussion on the way Reconstructionism is viewed by the wider pagan community and the misconceptions most have about us. If interested, please join in the conversation over at Three Shouts on a Hilltop.