A sad Samhain

This Samhain, my girls’ Granny passed away. She was an extraordinary woman disguised as a bird like, little old lady. Selfless, hardworking, incredibly loving and with a sense of mischief that would surprise you again and again. We are missing her greatly.

This time of year is called Samhain (pronounced sowan), In Celtic Ireland about 2,000 years ago, Samhain was the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter). At Samhain the division between this world and the otherworld was at it’s thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through.

It seemed to me that Maureen’s funeral was the best of what good community can be. Each part bringing their offering to bear (words, flowers, humour, food, service), to carry the family through the day.  It struck me that funerals are such a good idea. The ritual of the service giving respect and poetry and solace. The final painful, but necessary, moments of saying goodbye at the graveside and afterward the stories and the hugs and the tears and the laughter over food.

During Samhain, the family’s ancestors were honoured and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. People wore costumes and masks to disguise themselves as harmful spirits and to avoid harm. Bonfires and food played a large part in the festivities. Household fires were extinguished and started again from the bonfire. Food was prepared for the living and the dead, food for the ancestors who were in no position it eat it, was ritually shared with the less well off.

The wearing of costumes and masks to ward off harmful spirits survived as Halloween customs. The Irish carried their Halloween traditions to America when they emigrated in great numbers during the 19th century especially around the time of famine in Ireland during the 1840’s.

‘Samhain marks a moment of pause, celebration and ritual each year.’ This Halloween we are taking things a little slow, but we will light a bonfire and invite Maureen’s spirit home. ‘We will take pause, celebrate and allow the ritual to help us tune into our inner voice and wisdom at a time when we need it the most.’ Source Clare Mulvany


Notes on Samhain from newgrange.com

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