For those among us who try to keep ancient traditions alive there will be no reminding that the days of Samhain are upon us. For some, there will be a feeling or faith that once more the veil between the living and the otherworld is drawing to it's thinnest.
Tradition tells us that this is the time when our "ancestors" are contacted and their wisdom and protection are sought. In ancient times every member of the tribe of families who had passed on during the past year would be remembered.
I do believe this is the best time to pay tribute to those in our families and close friendships that have passed on during the past year and extend this to the people we have shred with who have passed on, and then to those who walked this earth before we came here yet are connected to us.
It seems that every year, lately, my approach to Samhain changes, especially in the way I approach its spirituality through physical rituals.
We now have our popular and established Two Worlds Tree Labyrinth that was commenced Samhain 2008 and
are about to commence our Triple Spirla Herb Labyrinth his Samhain.
In the field above is the remains of a sweathouse and a filled in well that became a lime kiln. Though the well is filled in nature still demands water to pass by so the cottage grounds has to provide a means for doing this.
A small burn has be re-opened through the land to meet a larger burn below and I would love to know what the larger burn meets up with and how the water eventually reaches the sea.
From what I can gather from my local Ordnance Survey map the water travel north west into the Feenagh lake, a lake that is almost the shape of Ireland is situated below the Keash (Cheis) Caves. From Lough Feenagh the water exits east then quickly south east into the Owenbeg River, into the Owenmore River, into Lough Gara, and then through a network of rivers into Lough Mask, Co. Mayo, into Lough Corrib and finally through Galway into the Atlantic.
I could not help but visualize
the traditions of the Chinese, Japanese and other oriental people who make origami boats, place lighted candles in them and let them float away to honour the people who have passed on. There’s a popular reference to this in Loreena McKennitt’s “All Soul’s Night” song.
What is well known, and I hope still well known, in English tradition, probably much of Wales too, is ducking for apples on “Halloween” night. An older tradition of this is to let apples float down a burn or river, in the same spirit of the lighted origami boats.
Before the apples are floated
….. a time of preparation and ceremony is required
Before sunset, gather a small amount of wood from trees of protection, rowan being the closest to this tradition, but other tre
es of protection are hawthorn, dog rose, crab apple and holly. If fact, holly should be last choice as it is the slowest to to re-grow again. Dead holly is ok, of course.
As the sun sets this fire should be lit in a place you feel is sacred to you. If you have access to a labyrinth, local stone circle or what you feel is your sacred place then this is wonderful. Those of us with gardens generally have a sacred place within it. If you are not sure where it is and have children, ask your children where it is.
It is said that medicine people, theshamans, lit these fires before the sun has fallen (if its a dull day check your chart for sunset time) as this would call upon the spirits passed on. For us humble mortals this appears to be a wonderful time to bring about personal thoughts and inner visions of those passed on. I also believe this is truly calling on the spirits of those who have passed on too.
It is said that the old Celtic shamans had labyrinths, that some may know as "medicine wheels". Most of you reading this will be familiar with what these are, especially when you view ancient stone art such as that on the entrance stone at Newgrange. Often these have a trinity of multiple circles, often a reminder of the catherine wheel fireworks that many used to explode at this time. I think they are illegal now.
Its is a ground reproduction of the top left and right circles that are powerful with the lower circle being a flow of water. A stream running from and between the circles is perfect.
This makes me think of the Hill Of Tlachtga in Co. Meath. Currently when the moon is at 10 degrees Scorpio at the time of a full and new moon close to the solar Samhain date there is an alignment formed between the ancient volcanic island of Lambay, through Fourknocks and Tlachtga and up to the quartz standing stone within cairn L at Loughcrew. From cairn L there is an underground stream that surfaces to become what is now known as the Yellowford River. This passes by the Hill Of Tlachtga before meeting the Boyne River. It is said that fires were lit at cairn L from flints gathered at Lambay. The fire was then carried alongside the Yellowford River until it could be navigated in a boat and then by boat to the Hill of Tlachtga where it would be used for the changing of fires ceremony.
I often wonder if there were labyrinths each side of the source of the Yellowford River.
A Labyrinth Ceremony, if you could set one up in your space, involves walking through the labyrinth from the left circles to the right circles. Through the left circles it is said we should call upon and face our doubts and fears. There would be an appointed “gatekeeper” beside the water between the left and right circles. The gatekeeper’s job is to challenge whether you have clearly faced doubts and fears dealt with them and let go of them. This is the time of "illumination".
If the “gatekeeper” has judged you are clear you are blessed with the water and invited to walk the right circles for complete cleansing and renewal ready for the new year. This can be well symbolized by the snake challenging you to let go of your old skin and embrace the freshness and new life of a new skin.
No wonder this is time of Scorpio and the snake imagery. I could expand this story, but that’s for a complete new blog.
Overall, the purpose of the “labyrinth” is one of healing and protection where personal `hex' is removed not by magic but by personal courage, conviction and sense of purpose that is inspired by the ritual of the labyrinth.
The entrance and end of the right circle ends up back at the point where the circles meet and the water is present and flows.
The final act is to walk away following the flow of the water. If your water is in a cauldron or bucket as you do not have a natural stream, you could pour out the water to create a stream.
In ancient times, before departing from the centre of the circles a druid, tribal leader or family leader would either be elected or the existing head or leader be confirmed to lead for the next 12 months. This would be done with the “gatekeeper” as witness.
With this complete and everyone bathed in the newness of the spirit for the fresh year ahead, it is time to head for the “feast”. A few baked tatties and other things wrapped in foil in the fire can serve this well :-) .
Oh, and the apples
Various ways you can handle these.
Certainly carry them with you through the first circle of the labyrinth, one apple for each person of remembrance that you are calling on. Remember you burned a small fire of wood from trees of protection before entering the labyrinth. As you come out of the left circle, place your apples in the fire embers or ashes. When you come out of the right circles, place your apples in the cauldron or bucket in the middle to wash them. If you are lucky to have a stream from the centre of the labyrinth let your apples float away like the origami boats of the orient. If you have a cauldron, after everyone has passed through the labyrinth, tip up the cauldron and let your water and apples flow. Election or confirmation of your leader is after this ritual, ….. and then onto the feast.
As this ceremony is a collection of the passing down of oral tradition it does mean you can improvise this to what feels good to you in relation to resources and space you have around you. Most labyrinths were not fixed features like stone circles and dolmens are. They can be assembled with small stones, tea lites or even Lego bricks.
Meanwhile, here’s wishing you a wonderful blessed and regenerated Samhain