Samhain and All Hallows Day, the beginning of the ancient year

Yesterday was Samhain, the beginning of the dark half of the year. It is the time of retrenchment, of communal pursuits rather than individual enterprises, as the land gets colder with the waning Sun. It was the time of harvest, the last of the plenty of summer.

Though the air hasn’t yet picked up the winter crispness, the first frosts have improved the sprouts and parsnips. Birds are feeding communally, finch flocks are massing in the countryside. Yesterday I was near Grundisburgh and a huge flock of chaffinches worked their way over a hawthorn hedge. The arrow-shaped blaze of white in their tail feathers, only visible in flight, flickered daintily against the green and red of the remaining leaves and berries.

Closer to home the goldfinches are calling to each other are their growing flocks seek out seeds as they swoop over the fields. The sound is a charming metallic tinkle mixed in with resonant lower buzzing tones rich in harmonics.

On the way back I called in at Tesco, where I observed a stupendous tack-fest that Halloween has become. Somewhere in China there are factories beavering away producing plastic rubbish that is designed for landfill after one night…

Sounds of the Halloween display in Tesco. The cheer obviously doesn’t extend to the presumed Tesco off-duty employee fearful of being fired if her kid broke something.

3 Nov 2010, 8:19am
by MarkyMark


Phew! Glad you’re back – I was beginning to get worried there!

Somw Wiccan was on Jeremy Vine on Monday on his annual lazy ‘Is Trick or Treat a Good Thing’ phone-in nonsense. (Answer: ‘Not really – but get over it’).

She said that in her belief it’s traditional to have a gathering at which the lives of those recently departed are celebrated, even so far as setting an extra empty place at the table. I really liked that idea, though it saddened me to think that yet another part of our rich ancient tradition has been lost by so called progress…

Thanks for the kind words :)

The changing of the year feels like one to the defining traditons in Northern Europe. It’s probably only with the advent of central heating that there’s need for people to gather together in the colder months in the heated rooms.

I have come across the setting for absent friends at the Christmas table in Germany. Perhaps their ancient traditions melded into the new, along with the odd bit of tree-reverence too. It’s nice thing to do, a last tip of the hat so to speak.

 

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