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Posted on Friday, October 28 - 2005

" The Celtic Calendar was in common usage in Ireland 2,500 years ago. Ireland, being of a similar latitude on a moderating body of water, has many parallels to the Northwest in terms of daylight hours, temperature, vegetation and animals. If it’ll grow here, it will grow there.Three ..."

Samhain

The Celtic Calendar was in common usage in Ireland 2,500 years ago. Ireland, being of a similar latitude on a moderating body of water, has many parallels to the Northwest in terms of daylight hours, temperature, vegetation and animals. If it’ll grow here, it will grow there.Three significant days are ahead this week. Oct. 31 is the last day of autumn and Nov. 1 — brace yourself — is the first day of winter as well as Celtic New Year, Samhain. Nov. 2 is All Souls Day for Catholics everywhere and, in Mexico, it’s a celebration, the Day of the Dead. That is a modern adaptation of an Aztec-Mesoamerican ritual for the beginning and the end. Now, if that doesn’tbrighten your day, I can’t imagine what would.There’s nothing like the onset of winter to get you thinking deep, important thoughts. The modern world has children dressed fancifully and being herded door-to-door, winsomely demanding a “trick or treat” to celebrate Halloween.  The idea actually developed in ancient Ireland and was brought to the United States in the 1840s by Irish immigrants escaping English persecution and the potato famine. The idea is complex.

For a reason not clear to me, Oct. 31 was considered unattached to the previous or coming year. It was Betwixt and Between, which had heavy meaning. All the Spirits of the Restless Dead (not a rock group) were freed from their wet graves. Nature spirits, benign and malevolent, were on holiday acting out their resentments. The veilbetween the material and immaterial was lifted and otherwise rare events became ordinary. The Celts, in order to guard themselves from the disembodied tricksters, developed self-protective customs. They would put out all the hearth fires in order to make their places uninviting, bury anything of value and put protective charms on their animals. For instance, a good cow or horse would have a bloody bandage wrapped around a leg, in the hope of fooling a rustling ghost. The folks rubbed ashes in their hair and on their faces to simulate the pallor of death. They also wore at least one shabby old garment backwards. It seemed to work for them. The commercial bonanza and moderately amusing Halloween of our times may be a vivid example of how little serious attention we give those mysteries of creation and extinction. One of Lily Tomlin’s greatqu......


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