A Brief History of the Hill of Tara: Seat of Secular and Spiritual Power.

A few miles south of Navan, Co. Meath lies the Hill of Tara, the ancient capital of Ireland.

Unlike our modern conception of a capital city, however, Tara appears to have been a symbolic or ritual capital, rather than a large center of commerce, administration, and public life. Evidence of extensive dwelling space or large-scale defensive earthworks have not been found, suggesting its use was primarily ritualistic: it was where one went to be crowned, set down laws, or settle disputes.

For the rest of this article and to follow the rest that the author posted on the subject of the Hill of Tara please click on this link: http://atriptoireland.com/2013/06/26/a-brief-history-of-the-hill-of-tara/

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Beltane — Holiday Details and History

Author: Christina Aubin [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: April 30th. 2000
Times Viewed: 258,199

Beltane is the last of the three spring fertility festivals, the others being Imbolc and Ostara. Beltane is the second principal Celtic festival (the other being Samhain). Celebrated approximately halfway between Vernal (spring) equinox and the midsummer (Summer Solstice). Beltane traditionally marked the arrival if summer in ancient times.

At Beltane the Pleiades star cluster rises just before sunrise on the morning horizon, whereas winter (Samhain) begins when the Pleiades rises at sunset. The Pleiades is a cluster of seven closely placed stars, the seven sisters, in the constellation of Taurus, near his shoulder. When looking for the Pleiades with the naked eye, remember it looks like a tiny dipper-shaped pattern of six moderately bright stars (the seventh can be seen on very dark nights) in the constellation of Taurus. It stands very low in the east-northeast sky for just a few minutes before sunrise.

Beltane, and its counterpart Samhain, divide the year into its two primary seasons, winter (Dark Part) and summer (Light Part). As Samhain is about honoring Death, Beltane, its counter part, is about honoring Life. It is the time when the sun is fully released from his bondage of winter and able to rule over summer and life once again.

Beltane, like Samhain, is a time of “no time” when the veils between the two worlds are at their thinnest. No time is when the two worlds intermingle and unite and the magic abounds! It is the time when the Faeries return from their winter respite, carefree and full of faery mischief and faery delight. On the night before Beltane, in times past, folks would place rowan branches at their windows and doors for protection, many otherworldly occurrences could transpire during this time of “no time”. Traditionally on the Isle of Man, the youngest member of the family gathers primroses on the eve before Beltane and throws the flowers at the door of the home for protection. In Ireland it is believed that food left over from May Eve must not be eaten, but rather buried or left as an offering to the faery instead. Much like the tradition of leaving of whatever is not harvested from the fields on Samhain, food on the time of no time is treated with great care.

When the veils are so thin it is an extremely magical time, it is said that the Queen of the Faeries rides out on her white horse. Roving about on Beltane eve She will try to entice people away to the Faeryland. Legend has it that if you sit beneath a tree on Beltane night, you may see the Faery Queen or hear the sound of Her horse’s bells as She rides through the night. Legend says if you hide your face, She will pass you by but if you look at Her, She may choose you. There is a Scottish ballad of this called Thomas the Rhymer, in which Thomas chooses to go the Faeryland with the Queen and has not been seen since.

Beltane has been an auspicious time throughout Celtic lore, it is said that the Tuatha de Danaan landed in north-west Connacht on Beltane. The Tuatha de Danaan, it is said, came from the North through the air in a mist to Ireland. After the invasion by the Milesians, the Tuatha faded into the Otherworld, the Sidhe, Tir na nOg.

The beginning of summer heralds an important time, for the winter is a difficult journey and weariness and disheartenment set in, personally one is tired down to the soul. In times past the food stocks were low; variety was a distant memory. The drab non-color of winter’s end perfectly represents the dullness and fatigue that permeates on so many levels to this day. We need Beltane, as the earth needs the sun, for our very Spirit cries out for the renewal of summer jubilation.

Beltane marks that the winter’s journey has passed and summer has begun, it is a festival of rapturous gaiety as it joyfully heralds the arrival of summer in her full garb. Beltane, however, is still a precarious time, the crops are still very young and tender, susceptible to frost and blight. As was the way of ancient thought, the Wheel would not turn without human intervention. People did everything in their power to encourage the growth of the Sun and His light, for the Earth will not produce without the warm love of the strong Sun. Fires, celebration and rituals were an important part of the Beltane festivities, as to insure that the warmth of the Sun’s light would promote the fecundity of the earth.

Beltane marks the passage into the growing season, the immediate rousing of the earth from her gently awakening slumber, a time when the pleasures of the earth and self are fully awakened. It signals a time when the bounty of the earth will once again be had. May is a time when flowers bloom, trees are green and life has again returned from the barren landscape of winter, to the hope of bountiful harvests, not too far away, and the lighthearted bliss that only summer can bring.

Beltane translated means “fire of Bel” or “bright fire” – the “bale-fire”. (English – bale; Anglo-Saxon bael; Lithuanian baltas (white)) Bel (Bel, Bile, Beli, Belinus, Belenos) is the known as the bright and shinning one, a Celtic Sun God. Beli is the father, protector, and the husband of the Mother Goddess.

Beltane is the time of the yearly battle between Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwythur ap Greidawl for Creudylad in Welsh mythology. Gwyn ap Nudd the Wild Huntsman of Wales, he is a God of death and the Annwn. Creudylad is the daughter of Lludd (Nudd) of the Silver Hand (son of Beli). She is the most beautiful maiden of the Island of Mighty. A myth of the battle of winter and summer for the magnificent blossoming earth.

In the myth of Rhiannion and Pwyll, it is the evening of Beltane, that Rhiannon gives birth to their son. The midwives all fell asleep at the same time, as they were watching over Rhiannon and her new baby, during which he was taken. In order to protect themselves, they smeared blood (from a pup) all over Rhiannon, to which they claim she had eaten her son. The midwives were believed, and Rhiannon was forced to pay penance for seven years. She had to carrying people on her back from the outside of the gate to the palace, although rarely would any allow her to do so. The baby’s whereabouts were a mystery. Oddly, every Beltane night, one of Pwyll’s vassals, Teirnyon Twryv Vliant, had a mare that gave birth but the colt disappeared. One Beltane night Teirnyon Twryv Vliant awaited in the barn for the mare to foaled, when she did, he heard a tremendous noise and a clawed arm came through the window and grabbed the colt. Teirnyon cut off the arm with his sword, and then heard a wailing. He opened the door and found a baby, he brought it to his wife and they adopted Gwri Wallt Euryn (Gwri of the Golden Hair). As he grew he looked like Pwyll and they remembered they found him on the night Rhiannon’s baby became lost. Teirnyon brought Gwri of the Golden Hair to the castle, told the story, and he was adopted back to his parents, Rhiannon and Pwyll, and and named by the head druid, Pryderi (trouble) from the first word his mother had said when he was restored to her. “Trouble is, indeed, at an end for me, if this be true”.

This myth illustrates the precariousness of the Beltane season, at the threshold of Summer, the earth awakening, winter can still reach its long arm in and snatch the Sun away (Gwri of the Golden hair). “Ne’er cast a clout ’til May be out” (clout: Old English for cloth/clothing). If indeed the return of summer is true than the trouble (winter) is certainly over, however one must be vigilant.

On Beltane eve the Celts would build two large fires, Bel Fires, lit from the nine sacred woods. The Bel Fire is an invocation to Bel (Sun God) to bring His blessings and protection to the tribe. The herds were ritually driven between two needfires (fein cigin), built on a knoll. The herds were driven through to purify, bring luck and protect them as well as to insure their fertility before they were taken to summer grazing lands. An old Gaelic adage: “Eadar da theine Bhealltuinn” – “Between two Beltane fires”.

The Bel fire is a sacred fire with healing and purifying powers. The fires further celebrate the return of life, fruitfulness to the earth and the burning away of winter. The ashes of the Beltane fires were smudged on faces and scattered in the fields. Household fires would be extinguished and re-lit with fresh fire from the Bel Fires.

Celebration includes frolicking throughout the countryside, maypole dancing, leaping over fires to ensure fertility, circling the fire three times (sun-wise) for good luck in the coming year, athletic tournaments feasting, music, drinking, children collecting the May: gathering flowers. children gathering flowers, hobby horses, May birching and folks go a maying”. Flowers, flower wreaths and garlands are typical decorations for this holiday, as well as ribbons and streamers. Flowers are a crucial symbol of Beltane, they signal the victory of Summer over Winter and the blossoming of sensuality in all of nature and the bounty it will bring.

May birching or May boughing, began on Beltane Eve, it is said that young men fastened garland and boughs on the windows and doors of the young maidens upon which their sweet interest laid. Mountain ash leaves and Hawthorne branches meant indicated love whereas thorn meant disdain. This perhaps, is the forerunner of old May Day custom of hanging bouquets hooked on one’s doorknob?

Young men and women wandered into the woods before daybreak of May Day morning with garlands of flowers and/or branches of trees. They would arrive; most rumpled from joyous encounters, in many areas with the maypole for the Beltane celebrations. Pre-Christian society’s thoughts on human sexuality and fertility were not bound up in guilt and sin, but rather joyous in the less restraint expression of human passions. Life was not an exercise but rather a joyful dance, rich in all beauty it can afford.

In ancient Ireland there was a Sacred Tree named Bile, which was the center of the clan, or Tuatha. As the Irish Tree of Life, the Bile Pole, represents the connection between the people and the three worlds of Bith: The Skyworld (heavens), The Middleworld (our world), and The Otherworld. Although no longer the center life, the Bile pole has survived as the Beltane Maypole.

The Maypole is an important element to Beltane festivities, it is a tall pole decorated with long brightly colored ribbons, leaves, flowers and wreaths. Young maidens and lads each hold the end of a ribbon, and dance revolving around the base of the pole, interweaving the ribbons. The circle of dancers should begin, as far out from the pole as the length of ribbon allows, so the ribbons are taut. There should be an even number of boys & girls. Boys should be facing clockwise and girls counterclockwise. They each move in the direction that they are facing, weaving with the next, around to braid the ribbons over-and-under around the pole. Those passing on the inside will have to duck, those passing on the outside raise their ribbons to slide over. As the dances revolve around the pole the ribbons will weave creating a pattern, it is said that the pattern will indicate the abundance of harvest year.

In some areas there are permanent Maypoles, perhaps a recollection of ancient clan Bile Pole memory. In other areas a new Maypole is brought down on Beltane Eve out from the wood. Even the classical wood can vary according to the area tradition is pulled from, most frequently it seems to be birch as “the wood”, but others are mentioned in various historical documents.

Today in some towns and villages a mummer called Jack in the Green (drawing from the Green man), wears a costume made of green leaves as he dances around the May pole. Mumming is a dramatic performance of exaggerated characters and at Beltane the characters include Jack in the Green and the Fool. The Fool, and the Fool’s journey, symbolism can be understood in relation to Beltane as it is the beginning of beginnings, the emergence from the void of nothingness (winter), as one can also see the role of the green man as the re-greening of the world.

Traditionally in many areas Morris dancers can be found dancing around the Maypole. Morris dancing can be found in church records in Thame England going back to 1555. Morris dancing is thought to have originated many centuries ago as part of ancient religious ceremonies, however it seems that Morris dancing became associated with Mayday during the Tudor times, and its originating history is not all that easily traced, as is the way with many traditions.

The Maypole dance as an important aspect of encouraging the return of fertility to the earth. The pole itself is not only phallic in symbolism but also is the connector of the three worlds. Dancing the Maypole during Beltane is magical experience as it is a conduit of energy, connecting all three worlds at a time when these gateways are more easily penetrable. As people gaily dance around and around the pole holding the brightly colored ribbons, the energy it raises is sent down into the earth’s womb, bringing about Her full awakening and fruitfulness.

In Padstow, Cornwall, Beltane morning a procession is led by the “obby oss” a costumed horse figure, in a large circular banded frock and mask. The procession is full of song, drums and accordions. Professor Ronald Hutton of Bristol University points out that the first account of the Padstow May Day ‘Obby ‘Oss revelries was written in 1803. He offers evidence however that, like English Morris Dancing, its origins lie in English medieval times. This does not discount the possibility that its roots lay in the foundation of the fertility rites of Beltane, a more politically correct transmutation of fertility acts.

There is also a Queen of May. She is said in many areas to have worn a gold crown with a single, gold leaf at its front, in other areas her crown was made of fresh flowers. She was typically chosen at the start of the Beltane festival, which in time past was after sundown on the eve before Beltane day. Many accounts mention both a May Queen and King being chosen, whom would reign from sundown the eve before the Beltane day to sunset on Beltane. Among their duties would be to announce the Beltane games and award the prizes to the victors. The rudimentary base of this practice can be drawn back to the roots of Beltane festivities, the union of the Goddess and Her Consort, the joining of earth and sun, the endowment of summer. The Goddess has many guises: Danu – The Great Mother, Blodeuwedd (the Flower Bride), Isolt (Iseult, Isolde) and many, many others. The consort can also take many forms including the Green Man, Cernunnos or Tristan.

As Beltane marks this handfasting (wedding) of the Goddess and God, it too marks the reawakening of the earth’s fertility in its fullest. This is the union between the Great Mother and her Young Consort, this coupling brings new life on earth. It is on a Spiritual level, the unifying of the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine to bring forth the third, consciousness. On the physical, it is the union of the Earth and Sun to bring about the fruitfulness of the growing season.

It is customary that trial unions, for a year and a day, occur at this time. More or less these were statements of intent between couples, which were not legally binding. The trial marriages (engagements) typically occurred between a couple before deciding to take a further step into a legally binding union. It seems ancient wisdom understood that one does not really know another until they have lived with them, and when you live together things change and we change, as well. With this understanding unions were entered upon, first as a test period, and then if desired, a further commitment could be taken. It through always knowing that it is only through the choice of both to remain, that the relationship exists favorably.

May, however, according to old folklore is not a favorable time for marriages in the legal and permanent sense. There is reference after reference in the old books of this belief, and according to my Irish grandmother, May is not the month to marry, woe is to had by those who do. I can understand the premise of this folklore, May is the Goddess and God’s handfasting month, all honor would be Hers and His.

Water is another important association of Beltane, water is refreshing and rejuvenating, it is also imperative to life. It is said that if you bathe in the dew gathered before dawn on Beltane morn, your beauty will flourish throughout the year. Those who are sprinkled with May dew are insured of health and happiness. There are other folk customs such as drinking from the well before sunrise on Beltane Morn to insure good health and fortune.

The central color of Beltane is green. Green is the color of growth, abundance, plentiful harvest, abundant crops, fertility, and luck. White is another color that is customary, white brings the energies of cleansing, peace, spirituality, and the power to dispel negativity. Another color is red who brings along the qualities of energy, strength, sex, vibrancy, quickening, health, consummation and retention. Sun energy, life force and happiness are brought to Beltane by the color yellow. Blues and purples (Sagittarius energies: expansion, Good Fortune, magic, spiritual power, Success), and pinks (Venus energies). Beltane is rich in vibrant color, lighting the eyes and cheering the Spirit as we leave the dreariness of winter behind.

It is customary to bake a colorful fruit and spiced filled bread for festivals in the Celtic lands, traditionally this festival bread is sweet dough made with sweetmeat and spices. In Scotland they are the bannock – Bonnach Bealtain – for Beltane, in Wales – Bara Brith, Ireland it is Barm Brack and in Brittany Morlaix Brioche. For Beltane this bread was made the eve before Beltane day, is it said that the bread should not allow it to come into contact with steel during preparation (steel is harmful, deadly to the faery folk).

Bannocks are actually uncut scones originally cooked on a griddle. Wheat does not grow well in the Highlands, originally bannocks were made with oat or barley flour made into dough with little water and no leavening. Traditionally, a portion of the cake was burned or marked with ashes. The recipient of the burnt cake jumped over a small fire three times to purify and cleanse him or herself of any ill fortune. Offerings of bannocks and drink are traditionally left on doorsteps and roadways for the Faeries as an offering, in hope of faery blessings.

May is the month of sensuality and sexuality revitalized, the reawakening of the earth and Her Children. It is the time when we reawaken to the vivid colors, vibrant scents, tingling summer breezes, and the rapture of summer after a long dormant winter. It is a time of extraordinary expression of earth, animal, and person a time of great enchantment and celebration.

The excitement and beauty of Beltane can not be better expressed than through the gaiety and joy of our children. There is not doubt “spring fever” hits at Beltane, and hits hard. Children are full of unbridled energy charged up and ready to go! Children always amplify the seasonal energies and the thrill of their change, they bring richness and merriment wherever they go.

It is the child’s unrestrained expression of bliss and delight that is what Beltane is all about. It is the sheer joy of running through fields, picking flowers, rapturing in the sunlight, delighting in the fragrance of spring, dancing in the fresh dew covered grass. Our children guide us through the natural abandonment of our adult sensibilities and show us how to take grand pleasure, warmth and bliss from the gift of Beltane.

Blessed Beltane to you and yours!

Christina Aubin
Beltaine 2000

Samhain – A Very Irish Feast The Roots of Halloween in Celtic Ireland

November 1st was traditionally known assamhain, literally translated the “end of summer” and pronounced something likesow-een. This was the end of the Celtic year, the start of winter, a time for reflection. And part of a sometimes confusing tradition …

From Darkness Comes Light

One of the Celtic idiosyncrasies was the concept of beginning in darkness and working towards the light. As the year started with winter, the days started at sundown. Thus the night from October 31st to November 1st was part of samhain, known as oiche shamhna or “evening of samhain“.

Samhain was one of the four “quarter days” of the Celtic calendar, along with imbolc(February 1st, start of spring – also known asSaint Brigid’s Day), bealtaine (May 1st, start of summer) and lughnasa (August 1st, start of the harvest). We do not have any undisputed information about how these festivities were conducted in pre-Christian times. Samhain seems to have been a specifically Irish tradition and first mentioned by Christian chroniclers. Feasting seems to have taken the best part of a week, a few days either side of the actual samhain day.

Samhain – Preparing for Winter

The preparations concerned mainly cattle and other livestock – all members of the herd were caught, brought into enclosures or sheds near the homestead. And some were marked for death – those animals too weak to survive the winter were slaughtered. Not for any ritual reasons, this was down to purely practical considerations. And filled the larder for winter.

At the same time all corn, fruits and berries had to be harvested and stored. There still is a widespread belief in Ireland that after November 1st all fruit is bewitched and thus inedible. The pooka was said to roam free atsamhain – a black, ugly horse with red eyes and the ability to talk. And with a penchant for kidnappings and copious urination on berries. On the other hand a respectful contact with the pooka could show you the future …

Communal Activities – Samhain as a Day of Reckoning

Many legends concern the big meetings at samhain – this was the time to take stock and decide upon future activities. At the Hill of Tara or on lakeshores. A general armistice during this period made meetings between sworn enemies, diplomacy and social activities beyond tribal and political boundaries possible. All debts had to be settled and horse-racing as well as charioteering provided a peaceful contest.

But spiritual activities were an integral part of the feast.

Traditionally all the fires were extinguished when oiche shamhna set in, making this the darkest night of the year. The fires were then re-lit, marking the start of the new year.

Tradition has it that druids lit a huge bonfire on the Hill of Tlachtga (near Athboy, County Meath) and burning torches were then carried from there to every household during the night – alas, a physical impossibility. Though the reputed special tax levied by the king for this “service” certainly seems believable in light of the modern Irish state’s revenue ideas …

We All Have to Make Sacrifices

Other rituals involving fire were not so quaint and definitely easier to arrange – the “wicker men”. Basically a cage made from wickerwork in a rough resemblance of the human form, then stuffed with (living) sacrificial offerings. Like animals, prisoners of war or unpopular neighbors. Which were then burned to death inside the “wicker man”. Other rituals involved drowning … Happy New Celtic Year!

But these human sacrifices should not be seen as the undisputed norm. Though sacrifices were undoubtedly made, they may only have involved milk and corn spilled into the earth. And there might even have been nocturnal human activities connected to fertility rituals. It was considered a good omen if a woman became pregnant at samhain!

The Non-Human Touch at Samhain

Not everybody joining in the samhain celebrations was necessarily human … or of our world. The night from October 31st to November 1st was a time “between years” to the Celts. And during this time the borders between our world and the otherworld(s) were flexible and open.

Not only the pooka was out and about … bean sidhe (banshee) could be killed by humans during the night, fairies were visible to human eyes, the underworld palaces of the “gentry” (an Irish title for fairies) were open to come and go. Humans could drink with mighty heroes and bed their beautiful female companions … as long as you did not make any mistakes, broke any rules or violated even the most ridiculous taboo. The problem being that the chances to foul up far outweighed the chances of a good night out – so most people opted for a quiet night in. Doors securely locked.

Last but not least Uncle Brendan might come knocking, even though he has been buried the last twenty years in New York. Samhain was also a time when the dead could walk the earth, communicate with the living … and call in old debts.

“Druidic” Confusion

All this belongs to the conservative picture of samhain. Which has been thoroughly muddled by neo-pagans and esoteric authors detailing “lost knowledge”. To such a degree that even a Celtic god of death called samhain appeared – a pure invention.

Colonel Charles Valency is to blame for many inventions. In the 1770s he wrote exhaustive treatises on the origin of the “Irish race” in Armenia. Many of his writings have long been consigned to the lunatic fringe. But Lady Jane Francesca Wilde carried his torch in the 19th century and her “Irish Cures, Mystic Charms and Superstitions” – which is still being cited as an authoritative work.

Samhain meanwhile mutated into All Hallows E’en and Halloween. And samhain or Halloween is still celebrated in Ireland in various ways – complete with fortune telling andspecial meals.

A Samhain Ritual

 

by Joann Keesey

Even though in Irish, sam means summer, Samhain (pronounced sah’-wen)is the festival of November eve and the beginning of the dark half of the year for the Celts. In the Coligny calendar, a series of engraved bronze plates unearthed in France in 1897, the year begins with a month marked”SAM” and a festival known as Samonios or “summer’s end.”Alwyn and Brinley Rees comment in Celtic Heritage that this arrangement harmonizes with Caesar’s testimony concerning the precedence of night over day. “The Gauls, he says called themselves sons of the god of night and defined ‘the division of every season, not by the number of days, but of nights…”

The ritual outlined below makes use of the symbolism of apples quite extensively,along with honoring the ancestors, which was a common Celtic practice at the commencement of winter. If apples are not available, nuts can be used. Keeping with a Celtic theme, hazel nuts or filberts, for the divinatory aspects would be a good choice.

This ritual was designed for public use and, as such, has a few caveats.The format is extremely simple but the preparations are fairly extensive. In our case, the person chosen to be the apple woman was from another coven. We talked quite extensively about how I envisioned the role and what she would bring to it, and she was given a small but working sickle to meditate on for a week beforehand. That sickle also formed part of her ritual attire and was worn on a cord around her waist. She had a deep basket which held about 25 apples. We had 22 participants. The apple cores were gathered up afterwards and used for garden compost. Alternatively, the seeds could be planted by someone or the apples eaten completely. For a smaller group,it could also be feasible to carve a small sigil on the apple before it’s eaten.

The second caveat has to do with the one non-Celtic element in this ritual.The second chant is a Yoruban ancestor chant from a South Carolina village that has worked extensively to recreate an African village compound in this country. It is not a chant to be used lightly. It does call the ancestors. There should be a trance medium or one who is used to working with ancestor spirits present. For those who are new to the topic or have not yet realized that you can work with ancestors other than your own, I would advise the substitution of another chant. Finally, for those who have recently lost friends or family, this chant may bring the fresh feelings of grief to the fore, and both the apple-woman and the presiding priestess as well as any other elders present should be prepared to deal with these appropriately.

The meditation, the ground of being, and the first ancestor chant are the work of Erynn Laurie from Seattle, who has a wonderful Celtic Internet list called nemeton-l. For those with Internet or e-mail access, you can subscribe by sending a message to majordomo@io.com which simply says in the body of the message “subscribe” and your e-mail address. Erynn also has a fine book out called A Circle of Stones: Journeys and Meditations for Modern Celts.

I would be happy to hear about peoples’ use of this ritual and will answer any questions. Write care of the Obsidianpost office box to Joann Keesey.

The apple is considered feminine, ruled by the planet Venus. Its element is water, and it is associated with the following deities: Venus, Dionysus, Olwen, Apollo, Hera, Athena, Diana, Zeus, Aphrodite, and Iduna. The powers of the apple are love, healing, garden magic and immortality. Folk names for the apple retain these associations; for example, Fruit of the Gods,Fruit of the Underworld, Silver Branch, and Tree of Love. Halloween apple games descended from Celtic feasts of Samhain at the end of October. If you bobbed for apples and got one, the luck of the year would accompany you. If you managed only water, then the prospects were not so bright. Iduna(1) guards her apples well,and only the worthy will emerge victorious. Throughout the Indo-European culture complex, apples represented the Goddess’s sacred heart of immortality,displaying the pentagram when cut across.

Hey ho for Hallow E’en
A’ the witches tae be seen
Some in black and some in green
Hey ho for Hallow E’en.

In the Celtic countries, this was the time when ghosts and spirits of the dead came back to their former homes looking for warmth and food. The harvest had been gathered in, the cattle bedded down in their winter stalls. Families could hardly deny the shades of relatives the welcome they gave their cattle.On Samhain Eve, a fire would be built up and a table set with food to welcome them. Sometimes there was even a dumb supper with the company of those who had gone before. Throughout Gaul and Britain, fires were kindled on the hilltops to serve as a guide to those well disposed and a warning to deter those bent on mischief. Hundreds of years after Samhain had been replaced by All Hallows’ Eve, people were still building up the fire and setting the table for a feast, then leaving the house unlocked and departing for church. The custom only died out when not only the food was gone, but also the silver and other family heirlooms. Italians and Latin Americans still make an elaborate celebration, often having picnics in the cemeteries.

Apple rust, and cinnamon rust,
And cloves like rusty nails,
Turn my head to an iron box
And my ribs to rusty rails.

Long a symbol of life and fertility, nuts were an indispensable part of the holiday feast. In some parts of the British Isles, Hallows was known as Nutcrack Night. Nuts were divinatory, especially as far as romance was concerned. For each couple, a pair of nuts would be placed near the fire or on a hot shovel. In Wales, if both “pop and fly” simultaneously,the couple will marry, but if they explode at different times, they will part. In Scotland and Northern England, the nuts should burn quietly together.If they spring apart, so will the couple, but in the South the rhyme has it:

If he loves me, pop and fly!
If he hates me, lie and die.

Samhain Ritual

Items needed:
4 quarter candles
altar decorations
stone, feather, water
large basket with apples or nuts
cakes and wine (good non-alcoholic choice here is apple cider)
container to dispose of apple cores

Cast the Circle

East, South, West, North! Let the people gather forth!
Air, Fire, Water, Earth! Sacred circle now sees birth!

Call the Quarters

EAST: (Lights Eastern candle)
Let there be a light kindled from the spirit.
Blessed be this Eastern Gate and blessed be the element of Air.

SOUTH: (Lights Southern candle)
Let there be a light increasing and illuminating the South.
Blessed be this Southern Gate and blessed be the element of Fire.

WEST: (Lights Western candle)
Let there be a light radiating in the West.
Blessed be this Western Gate and blessed be the Element of Water.

NORTH: (Lights Northern candle)
Let there be a light reflecting in the North.
Blessed be this Northern Gate and blessed be the Element of Earth.

Casters: Let these powers be as one.

All: So mote it be.

Meditation

Stand quietly and relax with your hands resting at your sides. Clear your mind and concentrate on your breathing. Breathe in and out slowly and follow along with this meditation.

Take three breaths. On the fourth, raise the hands from the sides to the heart, palm over palm.

We are at the center of the World.

Exhale, move to one knee with palms on the ground before you.

We stand firmly upon the Land.

Inhale and rise to your feet, moving the hands behind at hip height, palms up, cupping. Exhale and move the hands in an arc until they meet in front.

The sea always surrounds us.

Inhale and move hands to the sides, spread the fingers wide, palms forward.Exhale and raise the arms, bringing the hands together above the head, thumb and forefinger meeting to create a triangle.

The sky spreads itself above us.

Inhale and lower hands to heart again.

We are at the center of the Three Realms.

Exhale and lower hands to the sides.

Ground of Being

Take stone and raise it above the head, lower it to touch the ground.

May Talamh Naomh (2)support us.

Set stone back. Take water and tip some salt into it. Swirl water three times clockwise. Walk three times clockwise around group.

May Farraighe Siorai (3)surround us.

Place water back and take feather. With the feather, describe an arc from east to west over the group.

May Speir Eigriochta (4)watch over us.

Honoring of the Ancestors

After pouring the libation, the Priest/ess says:

Let us make offerings to the ancestors and land spirits. Meditate upon our debt to them, for without them we would not exist.

All chant (in one-note chant):

Here I stand on sacred land
The sky is over my head
All around me the endless sea
We honor the Mighty Dead.

Priest/ess then says:

Beginning with [name of person in circle] and continuing deosil around the circle, when you are ready go to the Apple woman and receive your offering of immortality after you have remembered those who have gone before.

All chant:

Wole wa, egun gun, wole wa (three times)
Oh, ohh… wole wa. (5)
(Continue entire chant until all have visited the Apple woman)

The fruit is eaten, and the Priest/ess then says:

As we have eaten of the fruit of life, so our ancestors live in our fruitful memories of them.

Apple cores are collected and disposed of in the manner chosen.

Cakes and Wine

Dismissal of the Ancestors

All chant:

Dobayo, egun gun, dobayo (three times)
Oh…ohh Dobayo!

Dismissal of the Quarters

NORTH: By the power of the stone at Midnight, I transform, send forth and remain at Peace.

WEST: By the power of the setting sun and rising moon at Twilight,I transform, send forth and remain at Peace.

SOUTH: By the power of the radiant Sun at Noon, I transform, send forth, and remain at Peace.

EAST: By the power of the rising sun and morning star at Dawn, I transform, send forth and remain at Peace.

Priest/ess: Let these powers be as none.

All: So mote it be.

Opening of Circle and Closing

North, West, South, and East! All have eaten of the Feast!
Earth, Water, Fire, and Air! Circle is open with joy and care!

The circle is open…

JOANN KEESEY has been a witch for ten years. She belongs to a small working coven that specializes in British and Celtic folklore.

FOOTNOTES:

1. The goddess Induna lives in Asgard and possesses magical apples which the Gods eat and, as a result, never grow old.(Return to text)

2. Pronounced “Talav Noom.” (Return to text)

3. Pronounced “Farrah Sheer.”(Return to text)

4. Pronounced “Spear Eg-greesh.” (Return to text)

Further reading:
McNeill, F. Marian, The Silver Bough, Volume Three, a Calendar of Scottish National Festivals, Hallowe’en to Yule, (Glasgow: William Maclellan,240 Hope Street, Glasgow, 1959).
Rees, Alwyn and Brinley, Celtic Heritage, Ancient Tradition in Irelandand Wales, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1961).