Samhain: Halloween’s Predecessor

Samhain, pronounced SAH-win or SOW-in, is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the Fall harvest season and the beginning of Winter. Celebrated from sunset on October 31st until sunset on November 1st, it sits nearly halfway between the Autumnal Equinox and Winter Solstice.

It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, alongside Imbolc, Beltane/Beltaine, and Lughnasadh/Lughnasa, and was observed in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. Similar festivals, however, were celebrated elsewhere in the Celtic lands(the Brythonic Calan Gaeaf in Wales, Kalan Gwav in Cornwall, and Kalan Goanv in Brittany in the North of France.)

Samhain is mentioned in some of the oldest surviving Irish literature and does have pre-Christian roots. In Irish mythology, many important events began on Samhain.
The souls of the dead were said to visit their families and the fairies, or Aor Si, could enter this world much more easily. Modern scholars also view the Aor Si as the remnants of the Celtic Pagan Gods and Nature spirits.
Mumming and guising were a part of ancient Samhain celebrations. It consisted of dressing in costumes or disguises and going door-to-door, usually reciting a verse in exchange for food. The costumes could have been to imitate the Aor Si or to hide from them. In the late 19th Century, Sir John Rhys and and Sir John Frazer equated Samhain to a “Celtic New Year”, this theory being repeated by other scholars as time drew on.

Samhain is still celebrated today by Neo-Pagans, Celtic Reconstructionists, and Wiccans around the globe. The modern and “Christianized” version, Halloween, is celebrated by even more.

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The Iron King, Part 1

In a land forgotten, there once lived a boy named Cahir. Cahir was the son of a farmer and a seamstress and being such, he knew little of the world but he did know the value of gold. He also knew that, being raised by a poor couple, that it was hard to come by. Especially after his mother passed.

Just after his seventeenth birthday, he was helping his father plow in the fields near their small cottage. It was nearly dusk and, having no light to work by, the two returned home to find the King’s tax collectors waiting. They came every four months like clockwork, but this time felt different.

“Good evening, farmer.” The Lord Collector said, smiling. “I should hope the fields have been productive.”

“Not as productive as usual, Lord Collector, but we manage.”

“I see.” The Lord Collector replied, pacing. “Taxes have risen, Campion. You shall be paying the King twice the old rate.”

Cahir’s father was shocked to find that taxes had risen again. They had barely enough to survive with the taxes at the old rate, but a tax increase he could not afford.

“But, sir, I do not have that kind of money.” Cahir’s father stated, shakily.

“Then I am truly sorry, my old friend.” The Lord Collector replied, “But I must seize your property immediately, under the King’s own orders. Anyone who can not pay on demand…is subject to this new law.”

“But this is my home!” Campion exclaimed, feeling his chest tighten. “How does the King expect taxes when he is seizing peoples…” His voice trailed off as everything darkened around him.

Campion collapsed into the arms of Cahir and The Lord Collector, who both yelled for help. But nothing could be done as Campion was already dead. His heart, tethered to the land where he had raised his family, had broken and failed. It was at that moment, Cahir became an orphan.

“I am very sorry, boy.” The Lord Collector said, covering Campion with his cloak. “You know me as Lord Collector, your father knew me as Aidrian.”

“Lord Collector Aidrian,” Cahir said, through grinding teeth, “I bid you no ill will as it was the King’s taxes that caused my fathers death. You were merely the messenger. But I swear, as the Gods are my witnesses, I will seek vengeance upon the King.”

“Hold your tongue!” shouted the other collector, drawing his sword. “What you speak is treason, boy! You will be punished-”

“That’s enough, Gadhra!” Aidrian replied, standing. “The boy just lost his father, anger is a part of grief. Let it pass as we are to blame for a portion of it.”

“What is your name, boy?” Aidrian asked, turning back to Cahir.

“My name is Cahir, son of Campion.” Cahir replied, still furious from his loss.

“Take your horse, Cahir, and ride to Avonesse near Lyndon. Find the lady named Falon, she is my sister and will take you in and give you work.”

“I must give my father an appropriate funeral, but thank you, Aidrian.”

“We will assist you in the undertaking.”

Together, the three men carried Campion into the cottage, doused it with lamp oil, and wrapped the man in a shroud, dousing it as well. Once outside, Aidria handed Cahir a lit torch.

“It is only fitting that we use the house he built with his own two hands.” Cahir said as he lit the thatched roof and oils.

“This is the King’s property now and I cannot allow this to continue!” Gadhra protested. Stop or be arrested!”

“We were the messengers of his fathers death, Gadhra!”, Aidrian said and gripped his sword. “And who says the King need know we have been here yet?”

“Are you daft?” Gadhra asked. “Do you have no honor or allegiance to your King?”

Aidrian silenced him with a kick to the midsection and turned to Cahir, “You must go.”

“Will you two be all right?” Cahir asked as he gripped the reins to his fathers horse. “This land has seen enough death for today.”

“I can handle this. He is young and full of fury, much like you. Go seek my sister. She will help you.”

Cahir nodded and climbed onto the horse, his few belongings packed behind the saddle. He rode into the night as the home he had known for seventeen years burned to cinders behind him. As hard as it was, he never looked back and would never forget the kindness of the stranger, Aidrian. But his fury burned for the King, and again he swore to the Gods that he would have his vengeance.

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Army of Stone

My army stands immobile’
Atop this grassy knoll.
For in our hearts, a darkness built
To claim our lasting souls.

The war was won with darkest deeds,
The coffers did we fill.
Now we stand rooted for all time,
Atop this round green hill.

Our armor gone and broken,
turned to bright red rust.
A fate, for us, far too kind,
We can never turn to dust.

Our battles have been all condemned,
By all the many Gods.
But we had broken every expectation,
Shattered all the odds.

We wanted fame fortune,
For every one to see.
Our banners flying higher,
Now on to victory.

Angering the Gods they say,
Is a penalty of Death.
I do suppose that’s true then,
At least for all the rest.

Our everlasting punishment,
Ours and ours alone.
To guard our blood earned treasures,
As a ring of standing stones.

All who wish immortal,
Remember this tale well.
Those who wish immortality,
Ours is truly Hell.

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As a Druid…

As a Druid, a member of an ancient, pre-Christian religion based in the British Isles and parts of mainland Europe, I am often mistaken for something I am not. Druidism is a Pagan religion yes, as is Wicca, Buddhism, Shinto, Satanism, and pretty much every other religion outside of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

There was a very recent dramatic issue on Facebook involving a slanderous, hate-filled page based in Africa. It claimed that all Pagans and witches should be “burned by fire”. The page went on to claim that “all Pagan’s worship Satan,or the Devil. This is absurd beyond belief as most Pagan religions do not have the concept, nor believe in, a Devil.

Not all Pagans practice magic or witchcraft. This is another misconception. Some do however, including Druids and Wiccans, but this magic comes from the elements and Nature, not “demons” or “darkness” as most believe. Older versions of witchcraft, I can not ascertain for sure.

Not all Pagans practice sacrifice. At least, not of living animals, people, or other creatures. I have offered candy and other sugary treats and, from what I can see and have seen with my own eyes, the Universe likes sugar. Skittles especially. Some offer milk or honey or plain sugar.

Not all magic-casting Pagans cast spells on people or other living beings. When they do, it is a healing or “white magic” spell or ritual. Why do we not? Because we have strict moral codes on what we can cast. Wiccans and Druids both have the rule “Harm none”. We are also not allowed to tamper with free will, which means compelling another being to harm or casting “love spells” is out.

Wiccans have the “Rule of Three”, stating that whatever energy they put into the Universe, positive or negative, is directed back upon them multiplied by three. Many Druids, including myself, follow the same guideline.

We also do not attempt to convert people or ask for donations to any Pagan causes. However, if someone is investigating a Pagan way of life, most of us would welcome them with open arms, as we are friendly people.

This is but a fraction of the many misconceptions in the world today, thanks to Hollywood horror movies and Sci-fi dramas, and fueled even more by people who do not understand and even fear the Old Ways. Pagans only wish to live in peace with the land and the others upon it, be it animal or vegetable. We are people too, just like you. We just choose to live and worship an older tradition in a way that is not the same as everyone else.

So, I now ask of you, do not judge us by our labels and misconceptions. We would rather not be judged at all. But everyone, everywhere judges at some point on our path through life, so if you do judge us, do it by our merits and reputations as people, not a Hollywood movie expectation.

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