Samhain has finally come and gone. Our local Grove had originally planned to gather on the 31st but the main participant, our Chief Bard, fell ill so we decided to reschedule for the pre-Julian calendar Samhain, November 13th. This was all well and good anyway since we had decided to do a primarily Gaelic Traditionalist celebration.
I still had my own personal rites on the 31st, performing an enhanced daily devotional and divination as mentioned in my previous post as well as pumpkin carving and other seasonal activities.
When the 13th arrived it was unseasonably mild in temperature but very gusty. In Gaelic tradition, the entire village would put out their hearth fires on Samhain and then the men would create a new need-fire in the center of the village from which the hearth fires would be relit. So, starting the need fire was the first order of business. This is not a simple task.
Prior to planning for the ritual, I had no experience with bow drills. So, I tried my hand at making one and got pretty good at creating a lot of smoke, but try and try as I might I could not make a coal. So, I did not even bother bringing the bow, instead bringing flint and steel. However, one of the other men did bring his bow drill kit and apparently he has succeeded in making fire in the past. Unfortunately not even with a prayer to Brigid could he make one that night. It was time for Plan B: the flint and steel. Even this was not easy with the great gusts of wind. Fortunately our Chief Bard led the group into the chant
come fire come we welcome you
come fire come we honour you
and with the power thus raised, we finally kindled the tinder and had our fire. Our Bard did most of the rest of the work, talking about the role of fire in Celtic life, how the Celts prepared for winter, and the ever presence of death in the cycle of life. Following a meditation we offered letters written to the departed to the fire and then passed around whiskey and told stories of our ancestors. Our Bard then gave us a tale of Cailleach.
We had planned a Morris dance as well, but this fell through as one of the dancers did not attend. We’ll have to wait until next year for that. The remainder of the night was devoted to the potluck, after first setting a place for the ancestors. A lovely, powerful celebration.