The Paleo Diet

Obesity is a modern day problem that leads to diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease and kidney problems. Eating certain additives have been linked to cancer. One way or another it will kill you.

How do I know? Because I have had to change my own lifestyle because I am prediabetic, with stage 1 hypertension and non alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Now I didn’t particularly think I had an unhealthy diet. I had cereal in the morning, bread and soup at lunch, and an evening meal with potatoes, rice or pasta, vegetables and meat or fish. I would also have a dessert afterwards.

I have 3 issues in my diet. Too many carbohydrates and too much processed food (tinned soup, prepared Kiev, etc.). I discovered that a cooked breakfast (without toast) is actually better for you than a wheat cereal, although oat based cereal is a lot better for you.

I was recommended a book by my family doctor called The Obesity Code by Jason Fung. Now I’m not a dietician, but he certainly has helped me start on the road to recovery. He recommends fasting days. That doesn’t mean you don’t eat anything, but you have a drink in the morning, clear broth for lunch and a light salad in the evening. The following day you might have porridge, bacon and eggs, and a delicious meal with vegetables.

However, the main thing about the diet is that it cuts out carbohydrates. Our ancestors will have eaten wheat, but most bread is made from refined, processed flour these days and is basically bad for your body to break down. Rice, potatoes and pasta also are high in carbohydrates. It is these, not natural fats that put on weight.

The paleo diet

Berries and nuts are also a great way to start the day. A paleo diet is basically going back to the foodstuffs available in ancient times. Also, use herbs like sage and time for seasoning. There were fasting days in ancient Ireland, with weekdays set aside for fasting: –

• Dé Luain – from Latin dies Lunae – Moon Day
• Dé Máirt – from Latin dies Martis – Mars Day
• Dé Céadaoin – referring to Gaelic fasting: from céad (first) aoin (fast) i.e., the first
fast of the week
• Déardaoin – the day between the fasts
• Dé hAoine – the day of the fast
• Dé Sathairn – from Latin dies Saturni – Saturn Day
• Dé Domhnaigh – from Latin dies Dominicus (an alternative Latin name for
Sunday, dies Solis being more common)

So, as you can see fasting was an important part of Irish Celts and probably all Celts. Considering the scarcity of food too, it was probably a necessity.

I’m not dictating how people eat, but I am not ready to shorten my life, so am serious about losing weight. So I am go on a low carbohydrate diet of proteins, vegetables and fruits, berries and nuts. But cutting out processed food, bread, pasta and rice. I’m hoping that it turns my health around.

May you live a long, healthy and happy life.

Filtiarn x

The Celtic Sea

The Celtic Sea is the area of the Atlantic Ocean off the south coast of Ireland bounded to the east by Saint George’s Channel. Other borders are the Bristol Channel, the English Channel, and the Bay of Biscay. It is adjacent to parts of Wales, Cornwall, Devon, and Brittany. The southern and western limits are decided by the continental shelf, which drops away sharply into the Atlantic Ocean. The Isles of Scilly are a group of small islands in the sea, in an area renowned for more shipwrecks than any other part of the world.

The Celtic Sea receives its name from the Celtic heritage of the adjacent lands. The name was first proposed by E. W. L. Holt at a 1921 meeting in Dublin of fisheries experts from Great Britain, France, and Ireland to recognise that it wasn’t just a British sea. Prior to that the northern portion of this sea was considered as part of Saint George’s Channel and the southern portion as a part of the “Western Approaches” to Great Britain.

The need for a common name arose because of the common marine biology, geology and hydrology of the area. It was adopted in France, many years before gaining common acceptance in Britain. Although marine biologists, oceanographers and petroleum companies used the name, it did not appear on a British Atlas until 1963. It is still commonly
known as the “Western approaches”, but now you know it as The Celtic Sea.

Please share and educate. Let’s celebrate the fact that this sea, is named to celebrate our heritage.

Oidhe Chlann Lir

The Children of Lir

The settings of the story takes place during the battle between the Tuatha Dé and the Fir Bolg- two supernatural races in the Irish mythology. Tuatha Dé won the battle and Lir was expecting to receive the title of Ard Rí (High king). He believed that he deserved to be the one made the Ard Rí. However, the kingship was granted to Bodhbh Dearg, instead. Because of this, Lir became enraged and he stormed out of the gathering place, leaving a storm of rage behind. Lir’s action had driven some of the Rí’s guards to decide to go after him and burn down his place for not showing submission or compliance. But, the Rí turned down their vengeful suggestion, believing that his mission was the protection of his people and not the other way round.

As a means of peaceful resolution, an Rí Bodhbh Dearg offered his daughter to Lir for marriage in order to put down the fire that he set inside of himself. So, Lir married Bodhbh’s eldest daughter, Aiobh (commonly known as Eva in modern versions of the story). Aiobh and Lir had a cheerful life where she bore four beautiful children. They were one girl, Fionnuala, a boy, Aodh, and two twin boys, Conn and Fiachra. People had commonly known them as the children of Lir and they all made a big happy family. But, their happiness started fading away when Eva got sick. She remained sick for a few days before it was time for her to pass away and leave the world behind. Aiobh’s departure left her husband and children in a terrible mess. She was the sunshine of their lives. However, an Rí Bodhbh seemed to always care about the happiness of Lir. Thus, he sent his other daughter, Aoife, to marry Lir. Wanting to give the children a caring mother to look after them, Lir agreed and he married her right away.

Aoife was the caring mother they longed to. She was a loving and caring wife as well. But, her pure love transformed into jealousy as soon as she realised Lir’s remarkable affection for his children. She was jealous of the fact that Lir dedicated most of his time for playing with his own children. For that reason, children of Lir became her enemies instead of her stepchildren. She started planning for executing them out so that she could have Lir’s time all to herself. She thought about killing them with the help of the servants. But to her surprise, they refused to do so. She wasn’t courageous enough to murfer them outright all by herself, for she believed that their spirits would haunt her forever. Instead, she used her magic.

On one fine day, she took the children of Lir for a swim in Lough Derravaragh while Lir was away hunting. The sky was brightly shining and the children were having a great time. Aoife watched them while they playfully swimming in the lake, unaware of their awaited fate. While they were getting out of the water, Aoife spelt her cast and turned all four of them to beautiful swans. The children of Lir were no longer children, not human beings at all; they were swans. Her spell kept them swans for 900 years where they had to spend every 300 years in a different region. The first three hundred years, they lived on Lough Derravaragh (in northern modern day West Meath). The second three hundred years, they lived on the Sea of Moyle ( the Northern Channel), and the last ones were on the Isle of Inish Glora  ( Bay of Erris, Co. Mayo). The children of Lir transformed into swans, but their voices remained. They could sing and talk and that was how their father knew the truth. Lir, in his grief and vengeance,  turned Aoife into an air spirit (in some accounts a crow) in which she was disappeared for good.

(Most of the old legends and sagas face the misfortune of undergoing slight changes through the passage of time. The story of the Children of Lir is no exception. The repetition of the story hasn’t included changes throughout the years; however, the real ending of the story remained mysterious. Several versions had come to appearance, making the possibilities of knowing the ending of the original story very remote. The only similarity that all the versions shared was the fact that the ending was not a ‘happily ever after’ one.)

Ending I

The First Ringing Bell in Ireland and Naofa Caemhoch:

In this version, Aoife stated that the spell would break once the first Christian bell rings in Ireland. That was the version where Lir found his children and spent once they changed into swans. He remained a good and caring father to his swan children. For the first three hundred years of their spell, Lir lived by the Lough Derravaragh with them. He enjoyed spending time with his children, listening to their enchanted voices while they sang. They had long happy years until it was time for them to leave, according to the rules of the spell. It was time for them to say goodbye to their father and leave to the Sea of Moyle. During their time in the Sea of Moyle, they had the toughest time of their lives. However, they survived the fierce storms and endured the wounds they got. Sadly, they separated for more than a few times, but they reunited eventually. It was time for them to travel once again. Together, they went accordingly to their destiny and headed to the Isle of Inish Glora. It was the last destination that they were entitled to before their spell broke. By that time, their father had passed away in his mourning and the fortified home in which the children of Lir lived was nothing but ruins. One day, they heard the first Christian bells coming from the first church in Ireland. That was when they knew that the end of their spell was so soon. The children of Lir or, more precisely, the swans followed the sound of the bell until they reached a house that was by the lake. That house belonged to a holy man called Caemhoch. He took care of the four swans during the last days of their spell. But again, things went against their wishes. An armoured man appeared at the house, claiming that he was the Rí of Connacht. He claimed that he came all the way to that place after hearing about the swans that had beautiful voices. He wanted to take them away and threatened to burn down the whole monastery grounds had they refused to follow his decree. As soon as he was stretching his hands out to grab them, the bells rang for the second time. But this time, it was a call for the spell to break. The swans were about to return back to their original forms as children, the beautiful children of Lir. The Rí of Connacht panicked and started fleeing out of the building. The ending that supposedly had to be happy turned out to be a tragedy when the children started ageing rapidly. They were ancient, over 900 hundred years old. Caemhoch the holy man was there all along. He realised that the supposed-to-be children were only a few days, or even hours, away from death. As a follower of Patrick, he baptised them, so they would die faithful believers of the newly arrived god of the East. In some variations of this, Caemhoch ( St. Caomhog) is replaced by different saints. Patrick and Mochua are other popular candidates.

Ending II

The Provincal marriage of a King and Queen:

In this version, when Aoife cast her spell on the children, Fionnuala asked her when would they be children again. At the instant, Aoife’s answer included that they shall never return back to their human form unless a king from the north marries a queen from the south. She also stated that this should happen after they hear the first bell in Ireland. Throughout the plot of the story, those details did not change. But, in that version, another king showed up to take the swans and not the king of Connacht. This time, it was the King of Leinster, Lairgean. This king married Deoch, the daughter of the King of Munster. Deoch heard about the beautiful singing swans that lived on a lough by a monastery. She wanted them for herself, so she asked her husband to attack the place and take the swans away.  Lairgean, did what his wife asked for. He seized the swans and bound them together in chains made of silver. He travelled back to his wife with them. By that time, the silver chains that attached the four swans together broke open. They were free of any chains and changed back to human beings. But again, they were ancient, so they died.

There are other variations and are told and told again much to the joy and sorrow of both young and old. It is a tale that captivates the imagination the world over. No one really knows the true ending of the famous tale from the Mythological Cycle but one theme that connects all is that the tale ends in tragedy. But in saying that, one can draw lessons from the tale of the Children of Lir or “Oidhe Chlann Lir” (the Fate of the Children of Lir). It belongs to a Trio of Tragedy in Irish mythology called “Trí Truagha na Scealaidheachta” (The three Sorrows of Storytelling) along with “The Exile of the Children of Uisneach” and the “Fate of the Children of Tuireann”.

Swans are amazing creatures and are protected by both Irish and English Law. They had always been part of the Irish mythology. In fact, the story of the Children of Lir was not the only tale where swans take a significant part of the story; there are a lot of other tales in Irish mythology such as the “Dream of Wandering Aoenghus”, “the Wooing of Etain”, the tragic saga of the ‘Norse wife to be’ of Cú Chulainn and others. Swans have several types, including white, mute, black, and more. The world sees the swan archetype as a symbol of love and purity. Obviously, the reason behind this symbolisation is because these creatures are wired to mate for life. No wonder the Irish mythology used them to describe those who possess clarity and fidelity within their heart. Mythologies have always depicted swans as shapeshifters. They drove people to believe that swans can shift to the form of human beings by their will and the other way around. Such misconception has driven people in Ireland, in particular, and the world, in general, to treat swans like they treat humans. The Irish word for swan is Eala. Swans are also some of the rare animals that can live up to twenty years in the wild, so imagine how long they can live in captivities. According to the Irish mythology, swans were capable to travel between the real world and other worlds that existed in different realms.  it is easy to guess why the children of Lir were changed into swans for they represent transparency, innocence, and purity. The same applies to the four poor children. They were kids when their life turned upside down. As with the naivety, they went with their stepmother for spending a fun day by the lake, unaware of what was waiting for them in the future. The world is a cruel place and sometimes you have to grow up fast.

Go raibh maith agat as do chuid ama ag léamh seo,

Seán Ó Tuama.

Drumbeg Stone Circle

Drumbeg Stone Circle

Located between Rosscarbery and Glandore, Skibereen, Co. Cork, Ireland take is this perfectly preserved Bronze aged Stone Circle. From Clonakilty take the N71 west to Ross Carberry, just after the causeway take a left turn onto the R597, then after about 4 kilometres take a left turn, sign-posted for Drombeg circle, there is a car park on your right about 400 metres down this road.

Drombeg Stone Circle is also known as The Druid’s Altar and is probably Irelands most famous stone circle. It is an axial stone circle with the recumbent or axial stone lying to the south-west.

Axial stone in South West of circle

An axial stone is laid with the longest side in a horizontal, rather than vertical position.

Pillar stones

The circle consists of thirteen remaining pillar stones (there were originally seventeen) that are graded from the two large portal stones, each 2 metres high, at the north-east towards the axial stone. The pillar stones are local sandstone and the axial has two cup marks, and an axe type carving, on it’s upper surface.

Fulacht Fiadh and Huts

Fulacht fiadh

Also present at the site is a “Fulacht fiadh”, a communal cooking pit with a hearth. Hot stones were taken from the fire and dropped into the water trough. You can also see the remains where two circular stone huts would have been with a doorway between them.

Excavations at the circle uncovered the charred remains of a cremated burial that has been dated to between 150 and 130 BC. So, although the circle was constructed in the Bronze Age, it was still being used when the Celtiberians arrived in Ireland.

Two other stone circles of Bohonagh and Reanascreena South are not far away.

Looking back and forward

As one year draws to a close, it is a great time to reflect on both your achievements and failures of the past year.

What are you most proud of? and what are you most ashamed of?

What are you strengths and weaknesses? In a year of great pressure and living in bubbles we have all exposed both. Some of us have adapted extremely well, whilst others have been badly affected mentally, physically and spiritually. We’ve probably all had our ups and downs.

Loneliness has been extremely difficult for many. Livelihoods of many have been put in jeopardy. Businesses have closed, whilst jobs in the health sectors and care have become new vocations for many.

Sadly many people have suffered losses and have moved on into the next life. It is the ones left behind who suffer though and it has been a year of grief.

Remember, you are never alone in your suffering and the majority of people have shown great adaptability and resilience during 2020.

Many people actually do care for others, although social media can be a vicious, cruel place. Sometimes we say something that we later regret, maybe a comment or a post. It takes great humility to apologise and delete unintentional hurtful comments. Sadly, some prominent, famous, respected proud figures would rather dig themselves a bigger hole than apologise. Pride certainly comes before a fall.

Let us always exercise kindness and acceptance. We aren’t here to pass judgment on any gender, sexuality, faith, ethnicity, disability or addictions. To do so may elevate ourselves in our own eyes at the expense of others. However, we would lose total respect by the majority of people.

Personally I like New Year resolutions, but resolutions need to be an ongoing thing, reviewed and revised throughout the year. Set achievable, but realistic goals for yourself.

But most of all, have a happy, healthy and fulfilling New Year. Thank you for supporting this site in 2020.

I want to bring you more lessons in 2021, with a personal of objective to complete the course and have accredited Bards, Vates and Druids and move us forward.

Filtiarn x

An Mac Tíre: The Wolf and the Irish Son of the Earth; Fact and Lore

In the Brehon Laws, the wolf was dealt with in it’s context for being a threat to young livestock, particularly calves. ‘The Book of Werewolves’, S Baring-Gould. Wolf hunting was considered a public duty, with one law stating that a client had to go on a hunting excursion at least once a week for his landlord. Also, if it was known that a pack of wolves lived in a particular area, it was an offence for someone to drive their neighbours livestock towards them. These Laws even deal with a wolf being taken from the wild and treated as a domestic pet. The Law treated any offences commited by this wolf the same way as a domesticated dog. One thing to note is that the Brehon Laws did not discuss the threat of a wolf to a human as there is nothing mentioned about this scenario. The general consensus would be that such attacks were rare with the exception written in the ‘Annals of Connaught’ 1420 that “many persons were killed by wolves”. It is more than likely a very harsh Winter made the wolves desperate.

The extensive areas of wilderness that existed in Ireland ensured the survival of wolves for a good while with the growing population of humans. ‘The Fauna of Ireland’, FJ O’Rourke. During the 1500’s, there was a substantial trade for wolf skins from Ireland to the port of Bristol with a range of 100-300 skins being exported each year. Up to 1652, wolves were still found in the outskirts of Dublin with a public wolf hunt organised in Castleknock. A Cork city Official wrote in 1698, describing wolves in the city district. As with Irish Catholics, the wolf population also fell foul of the Cromwellian governing body. ‘To Hell or Connaught’, P Ellis-Bereford. The Protestant Planters were horrified that wolves were still common and a bounty was set by the Parliment with £6 per female and £5 per male. Because of this and the ongoing destruction of the Irish natural woodlands, the wolf population decreased rapidly from the 1600’s to the late 1700’s. The last recorded wolf kill was in 1786 by John Watson of Ballydarton, county Carlow who hunted a lone wolf who was killing his livestock of sheep on Mount Leinster.Since then the Irish wolf has been extinct in the country. However all is not lost. https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/northern-ireland-public-goes-wild-for-bears-and-wolves-roaming-free-at-sanctuary-in-donegal-38631553.html

In Irish, Mac Tíre is a relatively newer descriptive word and has two other names as well. Bréach and Faol. These are dialect variations that are found in townland names. Foe example, Britway in county Cork in Irish is Bréach Maigh or the Plain of the Wolf, Feltrim, county Dublin is Faol Droim or Wolf Ridge and Clashavictory, county Tipperary is Clais an mhic Tíre or Ravine of the Wolf. There are many more around the country that have these descriptions. ‘Wolf-Forgotten Irish Hunter’, K Hickey.

The above history would suggest that humans and wolves did not get on but it’s qualites were revered and respected by all. It was admired for it’s bravery and warlike attributes which, in legend made the wolf a symbol of kings and warriors. Also, in the legends, it is shown as an animal that responds with good deeds when treated with respect.

When we look at the tales given the Christian filter, especially when they involve saints, their miraclous powers and compassion tame the wolf’s predatory nature. ‘Book of Werewolves’, S Baring-Gould. In ‘The Life of Saint Cainnech’, the saint tames a wolf that had eaten a calf. The owner of the alf complained to Cainnech, who in turn told him to go back to his livestock and clap his hands. When the owner did this, the wolf returned and stood in the place where the calf had normally stood. The cows licked it and accepted its presence, while they were being milked. The wolf returned each morning for the remaining season getting the same treatment. According to ‘The Life of Patrick’, a wolf made off with one of the shepard boys charges and in turn was rebuked by the woman of the house. The next day, the wolf returned with the calf in it’s mouth unharmed and dropped it at the boys feet, before running back to the woods. Saint Colman is supposed to have had a covenant with the wolves in the nearby forest. They would come to hime each day and behave like domesticated dogs around him. Saint Molua is described to have taken pity on a pack of starving wolves by providing them with cooked calf meat in the guest quarters of the monastary. This became an annual event and the wolves protected the monastary and livestock. Another is a tale from ‘De Ingantaib Érenn’ where Patrick’s preaching is vehemetly opposed by the people of Ossary “ It is told that when the holy Patricius preached Christianity in that country, there was one clan which opposed him more stubbornly than any other people in the land; and these people strove to do insult in many ways both to God and to the holy man. And when he was preaching the faith to them as to others and came to confer with them where they held their assemblies, they adopted the plan of howling at him like wolves”. Patrick responded by praying for God to punish the clan, resulting in them suffering “a fitting and severe though very marvelous punishment, for it is told that all the members of that clan are changed into wolves for a period and roam through the woods feeding upon the same food as wolves; but they are worse than wolves, for in all their wiles they have the wit of men, though they are as eager to devour men as to destroy other creatures.”

Sounds fantastical and miraclous, doesn’t it. But there could be a logical reason that is unwritten and the wolves could be human. The Irish werewolf is different from the Teutonic or European werewolf, as it is really not a “monster” at all. Unlike its continental cousins, this

shapeshifter is the guardian and protector of children, wounded men and lost persons. According to some ancient sources, the Irish werewolves were even recruited by kings in time of war. Known in their native land as the faoladh or conriocht, their predatory behaviour is typical of the common wolf, not beneath the occasional nocturnal raid. It’s a possibility that the saints came across them or employed their services. In some folklore, werewolves became so by donning the hide of a wolf. The people of Ossary could have been a group of mercenary warriors who wore wore pelts as a form of uniform and invoked the attributes of the wolf archetype in their daily lives as the wolf was also a symbol in Early Ireland of people who lived close to nature.

In the Cycles, Lebor Gabala claims that the Tuatha Da Danann roamed Irealnd in the forms of wolves. In the Ulaid Cycle, a poem about Queen Maedbh describes her as “ a fair-haired wolf-queen”, the Ulster warrior Conall Cearnach’s name is derived from ‘cunovalos’ meaning ‘strong like wolf’ and in ‘Táin Bó Cuailnge’, an Morrigú attacks Cú Chulainn in the form of a wolf. In the Osiniac Cycle, Fionn mac Cumhaill is said to have ‘ loved the music of far off wolves leaving their lairs’ and Caoilte of the Fianna recounts ‘the music of the wolves’. The 8th Century text ‘Cormac’s Glossary’ defines wolves as creatures of uplifting howls. In the Cycle of Kings, Cormac McAirt, is nursed by a she-wolf and in ‘Suibhne Geilt’, Mad Sweeney says on his death bed “Ba binne liom robhaoi tan, Danálach na gcon alla, Ina guth cléirigh astaoigh, Ag meilighis ag meigeallaigh.” or as Béarla “It was melodious to me once, the cries of the wolves, than the cleric indoors, a-bleating and a-baaing.”

I could go on about describing the attributes of the wolf archetype but that is subjective and the wolf has a personal meaning to each individual. That is for you to make of alone. Seas os comhair na gealaí agus canadh fonn an mac an tíre. Do amhrán ón taobh istigh. Seán Ó Tuama.

Celtic Christian Druids

Celtic Christian Gravestones

A lot of people assume that because I am a pagan Druid I am anti Christian. Nothing could be further than the truth. The Bible is actually a great resource and the passages in the book of Colossians about “love” are some of the greatest descriptions of love ever written.

Let’s face it, all ancient writings contain a mixture of chaos and order. We can see how society changed from the war mongering Hebrews who killed every man, woman and child at Jericho to the later civilisation that were held in Babylonian captivity and influenced by the Persians, Greeks and Romans.

The sad thing about fundamentalist Christians is that they concentrate too much on the judgmental parts and tend to skip the parts on “unconditional love”, “judge and be judged” and ignoring sins of adultery, whilst condemning entire groups of people as gross sinners.

However, many, many Christians are NOT like that. They run soup kitchens for the poor, they send aid to Africa and the developing world. In my home town, one church started off the very first food bank, which grow un number each year. I love these people and other religious groups that do similar.

I don’t think the vocal minority represent Christians as a whole and most are kind and considerate.

If you are interested in both Druids and Christianity there needn’t be a conflict.

The attached link takes you into a rich resource of material that may interest you. Whether you are pagan or Christian, you are welcome to the Order of Celtic Wolves.

Samhain 2020

Finally, the time of the end of the old and beginning of the new cycle has arrived. A celebration of a tradition that has survived adversary and those who are supposed to oppose it celebrate it indirectly through evolving traditions. Great fires will be lit heralding the new age and ritually cleansing the land. Sweet treats will be made or bought and used in traditional activities and feasting. Even Chritianity conceded and let the days remain as a celebration and rememberance of our dear departed. The Sídhe wander the land taking offering to quench their thirst for revenge or leave a wake of mischief to lay note that all is not forgotten. Trick or treat anyone? Carving a vegetable to ward off those who seek you harm and lighting a candle in front of photographs of those who passed before you.

In Ireland, as well as the celebration of the end of harvest (October as Gaeilge is Deireadh Fómhair or End of Harvest),it is the anniversary of many. From the annual tribute of the Neméd to the Fomór , the fatefull battle of the Tower of Conrág, the Fire of Rememberance of the 3 sons of the powerful Tlagtha who died giving birth to them, the 1st and 2nd battles of Moy Turadh to the defeat of the grandson of an Dagda by Fionn MacCumhail at Tara. There are many others. The door of the House of Donn open allowing visits of ancestors to their homes for a brief period and the 4 of the Tuatha Dé who stayed behind after the banishment, wander the nights wreaking trouble and strife upon households of the bloodline of Mil unless an offering is left for them and sate the appetite of an Púca. According to the ‘Flight of Diarmuid and Gráinne’ from the Óisín Cycle, more peaceful of the Sídhe will wage a rivalry with the Mil bloodline in a friendly game of hurling. All of the aforemented survive in some shape or form today. The Old Ways are always remembered.

This year is different however, with the pandemic. Ireland is in a national lockdown and we cannot travel beyond 5km unless it is for work reasons or essential shopping and cannot have large gatherings in public or at home. We do have to protect one another. And to add to it, there is currently a storm outside, but as I am writing this piece, dawn is breaking and the rain has stopped as well as the clouds parting to offer a great view of the approaching dawn. I can’t go up to the Knocknacoille Stone Circle. Many of us cannot travel to our personal places of ritual decompression but does it matter. The Gods and Goddesses are archetypes of Nature and are always around us. We can perform our own personal ritual decompressions at home either solitary or online if you wish to take part in a large ceremony. It is a time for celebrating the end of Harvest and remembering your loved ones. Perform your decompressions solemnly and enjoy the festivities that you create. Carve your vegetable produce of choice and leave it lit with the offering for an Púca. Light a candle, place it before your cherished photographs with a food offering. Remember those loved ones fondly. Celebrate the day with your family. Bob for apples or wear blindfolds and try to bite the hanging apple. Have a feast of treats with them. Leave out bags of treats for the naughty little Sídhe who come a knocking on your gate or before your door. Recount the legends of old to the young. It is both a time for serious reflection and also fun and games.

Beannachtaí Laisir Mhór na Samhna agus an timthriall nua ar gach duine. Seán Ó Tuama.

Calan Gaeaf

Whilst we are familiar with Samhain, which originates in Ireland and Scotland, we should also acknowledge Calan Gaeaf, an ancient Welsh celebration with lots of similarities with Samhain and Halloween.

Calan Gaeaf is the name of the first day of winter in Wales, observed on 1 November. The night before is Noson Galan Gaeaf, an Ysbrydnos (English – Spirit Night) when spirits are abroad.

Children building a Coelcerth

During Calan Gaeaf, children and women would dance around a village fire (Coelcerth) and everyone would write their names on rocks and place them in and around said fire. When the fire started to die out they would all run home, believing if they stayed, Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta (the tailless black sow) would devour their souls.

The following morning, all the stones would be checked. If a stone was missing, the person who wrote their name on the absent stone would be believed to die within one year.

Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta

Adref, adref, am y cyntaf’,
Hwch ddu gwta a gipio’r ola’.

Home, home, at once
The tailless black sow shall snatch the last.

The Celtic Origin of Halloween

During the second battle of Mag Tuired on the Eve of Samhain those slain by the Fomorians were brought back to life by the magical waters of the Slaine Well to return to battle until their secret was later discovered. Many lost their lives from both sides during battle and this sets the tone for Samhain, a remembrance of those who have passed from this life to the next.

Samhain is one of the four main festivals of the Gaelic calendar, marking the end of the harvest and beginning of winter. In Serglige Con Culainn (‘Cúchulainn’s Sickbed’), it is said that the festival of the Ulaid at Samhain lasted a week. Three days before, Samhain itself, and the three days after.

In public gatherings people feasted, drank alcohol and held contests. Bonfires were lit and stones cast into the fires. Every third Samhain a Gaelic cultural festival was held at Tara and the nobles and Ollams (highest ranking Bards/Poets with equal standing to the king) of Inisfail (Ireland) met to create and renew the Brehon laws, and to feast. Druids lit a sacred bonfire at Tlachtga, making sacrifices to the gods by burning them in the fire.

Ancient Neolithic tombs in Ireland are aligned with the sunrise around the time of Samhain. Samhain is a time when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld could more easily be crossed. This meant the Sidhe (the “Fae”), could more easily come into our world. Offerings of food and drink were left outside to appease them. Divination rituals and games were also a big part of the festival and often involved nuts and apples. Departed kin were requested to attend feasts and a place set for them. Mummers’ plays and disguises were part of the festival, and involved people going door-to-door, reciting verses in exchange for food.