October 31, 2002
Anocht Oidhche Shamhna/Happy New Year!!!

Well, today is Samhain/Halloween, the Celtic New year. Happy New Year!!!

What am I talking about? I'll let an expert, Issac Bonewits explain, by quoting from his excellent article Halloween History: the Real Origins:


"Samhain or "Samhuinn" is pronounced "sow-" (as in female pig) "-en" (with the neutral vowel sound) ó not "Sam Hain" ó because "mh" in the middle of an Irish word is a "w" sound (donít ask me why, itís just Irish). Known in Modern Irish as LŠ Samhna, in Welsh as Nos Galen-gaeof (that is, the "Night of the Winter Calends"), and in Manx as Laa Houney (Hollantide Day), Sauin or Souney, Samhain is often said to have been the most important of the fire festivals, because (according to most Celtic scholars) it may have marked the Celtic New Year. At the least, Samhain was equal in importance to Beltane and shared many symbolic characteristics. Samhain was the original festival that the Western Christian calendar moved its "All Saint's Day" to (Eastern Christians continue to celebrate All Saints' Day in the spring, as the Roman Christians had originally). Since the Celts, like many cultures, started every day at sunset of the night before, Samhain became the "evening" of "All Hallows" ("hallowed" = "holy" = "saint") which was eventually contracted into "Hallow-e'en" or the modern "Halloween."

Whether it was the Celtic New Year or not, Samhain was the beginning of the Winter or Dark Half of the Year (the seasons of Geimredh=Winter and Earrach=Spring) as Beltane was the beginning of the Summer or Light Half of the Year (the seasons of Samradh=Summer and Foghamhar=Fall). The day before Samhain is the last day of summer (or the old year) and the day after Samhain is the first day of winter (or of the new year). Being "between" seasons or years, Samhain was (and is) considered a very magical time, when the dead walk among the living and the veils between past, present and future may be lifted in prophecy and divination."

I've felt an ambivalence about this holiday for a long time, and I'm not sure why. I certainly like the idea of it as a new year celebration rather than a candy grab fest... maybe I'm just old and the commercialization of holidays is getting to me now. Or maybe it's because anytime I try to get myself up in a costume, it sucks.

Whatever the cause, I do like thinking of today as the new year, because it just feels more sensible (I've never been particularly fond of december 31st/New Years Eve either). Am I just being difficult? Do I just have a knee-jerk reaction to the status quo and try as hard as I can to dissent?

Nah. The staus quo sucks, and society is run by the kids you hated in school. I'm right as rain. The only problem is, who do I celebrate new year with? I don't know any pagans, and I sort of even feel weird thinking of myself as a pagan... maybe it's because pagan is an exterior term, imposed by the romans. It's weird also, because even though I accept polytheism as true (or is that more true?), I don't really worship any gods or anything. I'm just not a worshipping kind of person. I don't even worship nature. I don't even go camping.

Happy New Year!

Posted by illovich at October 31, 2002 09:34 AM
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