We’re coming up to Hallowe’en and all sort of daft imagery is appearing in the shops, supermarkets and on television … For Old Crafters, however, we follow the Old Calendar and for us this sacred time is observed on Old Samhain Eve on the 10th November. Traditionally Hallowe’en marked the beginning of the ancient Yule rites as this extract from ‘Old Year, Old Calendar, Old Ways’ explains:
31st [OS] Samhain. John Stow in his Survey of London (1603), gives a description of the appointment of the Lord of Misrule: ‘These Lordes beginning their rule on Alhollon Eu [Halloween], continued the same till the morrow after the Feast of the Purification, commonlie called Candlemas day: In all which space there were fine and subtle disguisinges, Maskes and Mummeries, with playing at Cardes for Counters, Nayles and pointes in euery house, more for pastimes then for gaine.’
The Lord of Misrule: The historian John Stow wrote: “At the feast of Christmas, in the king’s court, there was always appointed on All-Hallows Eve, a master of mirth and fun, who remained in office till the Feast of Purification [Candlemas]. A similar ‘lord’ was appointed by the lord mayor of London, the sheriffs and the chief nobility. Stubbs tells us that the mock dignitaries, had from twenty to sixty officers under them, and were furnished with hobby-horses, dragons and musicians. They went first to church with such a confused noise that no one could hear his own voice. The Lord of Misrule (called in Scotland ‘Abbot of Unreason’ and L’abbe de Liesse (jollity) in France), was prohibited in 1555.” [The Dictionary of Phrase & Fable]
31st [NS] Hallowe’en according to the Church calendar was the time when ghosts roamed abroad and is a contraction of All Hallows’ Evening. It begins the three-day observance of Allhallowtide the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed. It is widely believed that many Halloween traditions originated from Celtic harvest festivals with pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain, and that this festival was much later Christianised as Halloween. According to Robin Skelton in Earth, Air, Fire, Water the following is one of the many rhymes collected together under the title of ‘Mother Goose’, which are taken from several sources including Halliwell, Chambers, Sharp and Hazlitt. Today: Join in the modern revels or sit at home with the candles burning to welcome in any passing spirits. An ideal opportunity for divining the future
31st [OS] Teanlay Night: The vigil of All Souls, or the last evening of October, when bonfires were lighted and revels held for succouring souls in purgatory. Today: Light the candles or the patio heater and keep Vigil.
1st [NS] Hallowmas (All Saints’ Day) commemorates the faithful departed. In many traditions, All Saints’ Day is part of the triduum of All-hallowtide, which lasts three days from 31st October to 2nd November inclusive. Today: A time for remembering the dead.
2nd [OS] Day of the Dead – the day in the Celtic year when the Festival of the Dead took place. It was once the custom to leave doors open and food on the table to nourish the souls of recently departed family members. Today: In traditional witchcraft this might also involve holding a Dumb Supper, either today or more appropriately at Old Samhain.
10th [OS] Old Samhain Eve, Lá Samhna, Calan Gaeof. This is the winter season that traditionally runs from is about halfway between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, along with Imbolc, Beltaine and Lughnasadh. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Similar festivals are held at the same time of year in other Celtic lands; for example the Brythonic Calan Gaeaf (in Wales), Kalan Gwav (in Cornwall), and Kalan Goañv (in Brittany). Tonight: Hold the traditional observance for Samhain.
Old Samhain: The Festival is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain. It was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter. As at Beltaine, special bonfires were lit, which were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers and there were rituals involving them. Like Beltaine, Samhain was also seen as a liminal time, when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld could more easily be crossed. This meant the Aos Sí, the ‘spirits’, could more easily come into this world. Most scholars see the Aos Sí as remnants of the pagan gods and nature spirits and at Samhain, it was believed that the Aos Sí needed to be propitiated to ensure that the people and their livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink were left outside for them. The souls of the dead were also thought to revisit their homes seeking hospitality. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them at a Dumb Supper. [Britannica]
11th [NS] Better known since 1918 as Armistice Day, it is the time to remember the war dead and the Ancestors on Old Samhain. Today: Wear your poppy with pride.
Extract from Old Year, Old Calendar, Old Ways published by Ignotus Press UK and available direct from the printer, FeedARead, or from Amazon in paperback or e-book format. https://www.feedaread.com/books/Old-Year-Old-Calendar-Old-Ways-9781788762052.aspx