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From the President
Samhain is my favorite time of year. I love to see the radiant oranges, yellows, and reds that currently decorate the landscape here in Central NY. I enjoy the Hallowe’en decorations floating about, the ghosts and pumpkins, bats and skeletons adorning the front yards of most houses with children (and some without). I am as excited as the children-turned-spirits who go door-to-door for candy. My heart thrills at the idea of divining for the coming year, formally thanking the land spirits for their help over the growing season, and welcoming the honored Ancestors to the annual meal.
Samhain is an important Celtic feast day. As with most things “Celtic” in America, “Hallowe’en” is a diluted and perverted form of the original Samhain customs. Some Pagans find that offensive, but I don’t. I take pride in knowing that this American holiday derived from the ancient customs of my People and will carry on in some form (maybe) forever. It is part of the legacy of my ancestors, even as far removed from the original intent as these traditions have become. As a Druid, I realize that it is my job, my purpose, to help the People understand where the customs of “Hallowe’en” came from, and to understand the original intent of dressing up like something else, or offering food to spirits who come to the door on this night. It is always a Druid’s job to know the deeper parts of things, to know the truth under the surface. And it is also a Druid’s responsibility to make sure the People begin to understand in some way, too, and perhaps return some original intent to the motions of the day. So I decorate and I dress up and I give out treats to the “spirits” who come to my door, and thoroughly enjoy the fact that I am (albeit covertly) celebrating an ancient feast with my neighbors.
A wise friend of the Bardic persuasion once put forth in conversation that the modern Druid is a guardian of Celtic culture and its philosophical and ethical tenets. If it is indeed our job to guard and protect Celtic culture, then we need to get much better at it. We need to understand what is truly Celtic and what is mere fantasy. We need to respect our heritage enough to put forth the effort to really know it in order to know how to disseminate it, to defend it confidently, and to be true to our ancestral ways so that we can be true to ourselves. Recently there was some discussion on a Celtic-based e-list about what should be required for the modern Druid. One thing that was important to many was that Druids should know the tales and be able to tell them around the fire in order to disseminate the traditional cultural foundation among those who would follow a modern Celtic path. It is important for us, as Celts and as Celtic Reconstructionists, to know where we came from in order to know where we’re going.
Since Samhain is also the start of the Dark Half of the Year, when it is considered traditional to tell the old stories, perhaps we might consider entertaining our guests and Groves this Samhain with an appropriate tale from the Irish literature. We could start the Dark Half the way our ancestors once did – with a marvelous story from our ancient past, such as the death of Donn from the Coming of the Sons of Mil, or an excerpt from the Second Battle of Mag Tured wherein the Dagda and the Morrigan make a union at Samhain to ensure the success in battle of the Tuatha de Danann against the Fomorians, or the Samhain happenings from The Boyhood Deeds of Finn. Even the long Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel has some message for us this night, and might be told in increments starting at Samhain.
Samhain also begins a time of personal rediscovery. The Samhain season begins the inward journey, bringing us back to our Core and the reality of who we are and what we are doing here. We are Celts, and we are Druids. We feel it in our blood and in our hearts, and we are working hard to re-discover where we began, in order to better understand and preserve what is beautiful and special about our traditional ways. Learning, telling, and re-telling the traditional stories are one way to fulfill our role as guardians of a rich and glorious cultural heritage that should never be forgotten or diluted. Committing to that would certainly be a wonderful New Year’s Resolution for a Keltrian Druid to make.