Sunday, October 29, 2006

Kindling The Celtic Spirit

What to do on the holidays

From now until Imbolc, the three months of Celtic winter when the ancestors, angels and swans guard, guide and protect us, as the traditions tell, my enquiry emails are more about what traditions can be followed. I receive interesting enquiries about rituals, decor, food recipes, more than enquiries about visiting Ireland. I still do tours through winter, though.

Its Samhain season now, which is not just reflecting on the year past or even dreading the winter to come. In Europe we tend to look to Christmas as our time of "gathering the tribe" the time of getting together with family, inviting the neighbours and having a "sacred" feast. In the USA this is more important at Thanksgiving, a bit closer to Samhain.

Create Your Own Feis

Its occurred to me that really this is the best time to for gatherings, our own little "Feis Of Tara", or own cleaning of the hearth and re-kindling the flame and lighting new candles. It is also the time for Kindling the Celtic Spirit. During my brief spell as a market gardener, years ago, I remember this as being a time when the nursery seed catalogues arrived and we planned for the growing season of the next year and even ordered our seeds now, before the best ones were sold. After the seed order was the time to build things, rockeries, pools, and walls. Its what led to my years as a stone mason.

This is truly a time of conception and plans. By meeting our family, neighbours and friends its a wonderful time to heal wounds of disputes and trade to form treaties to plan a better peace ahead, just like they did in the High King's court at Tara, Our home is our Tara

One thing we do not have any more is the local priest or minister delivering us a flame from a sacred place for our fire. Some places do have bonfires at sacred places where we could take our carved turnip or pumpkin and pick up our blessed fire. So where is your local Tlachtga?

At Christmas we give presents but Samhain was a time of sacrifice, not of the Hammer Horror vision but as gifts from what was abundant from our harvest and our year. Today its a bit of money or something we don't use any more as few of us farm or fish so we cannot tithe a portion of our yields. A bag or two of coal, peat or wood is a good and appropriate gift.

Another loving tradition that seems to have long gone, though we did it when I was a child, was to say prayers of prayer to blend into objects we held, objects that were related to the person of the prayer and then cast the object to the fire. Prayers were also said and writing onto cloth or paper, also put into the fire. For some this might seem demonistic, occultish and even voodoo but prayers need to have sincerity to be powerful and passage to the flame at this time of year seems to enhance that essential healing power of prayer.

This is surely the time of beginnings, kindling new dreams, and commencing projects we've promised to start. Its an ideal time to start new routines that start with plans, writings and construction indoors to prepare for the outdoor creations ahead.

Apple Magic

How about ducking, "dooking", for apples at your "feis"?.. At the heart of the celtic otherworld is an apple tree. Legends say that the reason the first people arrived in Ireland from the west was news of the apple tree of life being here. Ducking for apples is a re-enactment of crossing the sea for that magic apple tree.

Baking them in foil in your hearth coated in brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg is good too and then taken from the hearth with a hazel or rowan stick to eat your apple from. This is said to bless you with the healing flame of Brighid to protect you from the snake.

Oh, before you light your fire fetch three stones from the nearest natural water source to where you live, a stream, brook, bubbling well, each for your mind, body and spirit. Circle them in your hearth to get hot, and that is where you place your apple. As you eat your hot, spicy, sticky apple and as it warms you inside say a quiet prayer for guidance or solution to problems, and somehow, before the apple is fully eaten, a solution will be brought to you. A wonderful way to Kindle The Celtic Spirit.

The Book

Once day I should write a book of all of this lore I collect but while I think of it there is a nice easy read out there by another traveller, Mara Freeman, that is rich in lore and recipes for all of the Celtic celebrations and seasons ..............




This book is an easy read compendium sharing stories, recipes, poetry, symbols, and Gaelic expressions that go with each of the Celtic festivals and celebrations. She sets this out month by month. Very useful is the February chapter covering Brighid, Brigit, and Imbolc. Samhain is very well covered with spooky stories and poems plus how to carve turnip lanterns, using a large rutabaga (swede) 

You can read more about
Kindling the Celtic Spirit
here, and order worldwide
arriving in time to prepare for Yule and Imbolc.


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