Celticsprite’s Blog

Hallowe’en Traditions in Northern Scotland
October 31, 2011, 3:34 pm
Filed under: Celtic Celebrations, Halloween

Hallowe’en Traditions in Brittany
October 30, 2011, 4:48 pm
Filed under: Celtic Celebrations, Halloween
THE Celts had been taught by the Druids that the soul is immortal. When the body died the spirit passed instantly into another existence in a country close at hand.
In the fourth century A.D., the men of England were hard pressed by the Picts and Scots from the northern border, and were helped in their need by the Teutons. When this tribe saw the fair country of the Britons they decided to hold it for themselves. After they had driven out the northern tribes, in the fifth century, when King Arthur was reigning in Cornwall, they drove out those whose cause they had fought.
So the Britons were scattered to the mountains of Wales, to Cornwall, and across the Channel to Armorica, a part of France, which they named Brittany after their home-land. In lower Brittany, out of the zone of French influence, a language something like Welsh or old British is still spoken, and many of the Celtic beliefs were retained more untouched than in Britain, not clear of paganism till the seventeenth century. Here especially did Christianity have to adapt the old belief to her own ends.
Gaul, as we have seen from Caesar’s account, had been one of the chief seats of Druidical belief. The religious center was Carnutes, now Chartrain.
The pagan belief that lasted the longest in Brittany, and is by no means dead yet, was the cult of the dead. Caesar said that the Celts of Gaul traced their ancestry from the god of death, whom he called Dispater. Now figures of l’Ankou, a skeleton armed with a spear, can be seen in most villages of Brittany.
This mindfulness of death was strengthened by the sight of the prehistoric cairns of stones on hilltops, the ancient altars of the Druids, and dolmens, formed of one flat rock resting like a roof on two others set up on end with a space between them, ancient tombs; and by the Bretons being cut off from the rest of France by the nature of the country, and shut in among the uplands, black and misty in November, and blown over by chill Atlantic winds. Under a seeming dull indifference and melancholy the Bretons conceal a lively imagination, and no place has a greater wealth of legendary literature.
What fairies, dwarfs, pixies, and the like are to the Celts of other places, the spirits of the dead are to the Celts of Brittany. They possess the earth on Christmas, St. John’s Day, and All Saints’. In Finistere, that western point of France, there is a saying that on the Eve of All Souls’ “There are more dead in every house than sands on the shore.” The dead have the power to charm mortals and take them away, and to foretell the future. They must not be spoken of directly, any more than the fairies of the Scottish border, or met with, for fear of evil results.
By the Bretons of the sixth century the near-by island of Britain, which they could just see on clear days, was called the Otherworld. An historian, Procopius, tells how the people nearest Britain were exempted from paying tribute to the Franks, because they were subject to nightly summons to ferry the souls of the dead across in their boats, and deliver them into the hands of the keeper of souls. Farther inland a black bog seemed to be the entrance to an otherworld underground. One location which combined the ideas of an island and a cave was a city buried in the sea. The people imagined they could hear the bells of Ker-Is ringing, and joyous music sounding, for though this was a city of the dead, it resembled the fairy palaces of Ireland, and was ruled by King Grallon and his daughter Dahut, who could lure mortals away by her beauty and enchantments.
The approach of winter is believed to drive like the flocks, the souls of the dead from their cold cheerless graves to the food and warmth of home. This is why November Eve, the night before the first day of winter, was made sacred to them.

“When comes the harvest of the year
Before the scythe the wheat will fall.”
–BOTREL: Songs of Brittany.The harvest-time reminded the Bretons of the garnering by that reaper, Death. On November Eve milk is poured on graves, feasts and candles set out on the tables, and fires lighted on the hearths to welcome the spirits of departed kinsfolk and friends.

“We live with our dead,” Say the Bretons. First on the Eve of All Souls’ comes the religious service, “black vespers.” The blessedness of death is praised, the sorrows and shortness of life dwelt upon. After a common prayer all go out to the cemetery to pray separately, each by the graves of his kin, or to the “place of bones,” where the remains of those long dead are thrown all together in one tomb. They can be seen behind gratings, by the people as they pass, and rows of skulls at the sides of the entrance can be touched.
In these tombs are Latin inscriptions meaning: “Remember thou must die,” “To-day to me, and to-morrow to thee,” and others reminding the reader of his coming death.
A toast is drunk to the memory of the departed. The men sit about the fireplace smoking or weaving baskets; the women apart, knitting or spinning by the light of the fire and one candle. The children play with their gifts of apples and nuts. As the hour grows later, and mysterious noises begin to be heard about the house, and a curtain sways in a draught, the thoughts of the company already centred upon the dead find expression in words, and each has a tale to tell of an adventure with some friend or enemy who has died.
The dead are thought to take up existence where they left it off, working at the same trades, remembering their old debts, likes and dislikes, even wearing the same clothes they wore in life. Most of them stay not in some distant, definite Otherworld, but frequent the scenes of their former life. They never trespass upon daylight, and it is dangerous to meet them at night, because they are very ready to punish any slight to their memory, such as selling their possessions or forgetting the hospitality due them. L’Ankou will come to get a supply of shavings if the coffins are not lined with them to make a softer resting-place for the dead bodies.
The lively Celtic imagination turns the merest coincidence into an encounter with a spirit, and the poetic temperament of the narrators clothes the stories with vividness and mystery. They tell how the presence of a ghost made the midsummer air so cold that even wood did not burn, and of groans and footsteps underground as long as the ghost is displeased with what his relatives are doing.
Just before midnight a bell-man goes about the streets to give warning of the hour when the spirits will arrive.

“They will sit where we sat, and will talk of us as we talked of them: in the gray of the morning only will they go away.”
–LE BRAZ: Night of the Dead.The supper for the souls is then set out. The poor who live on the mountains have only black corn, milk, and smoked bacon to offer, but it is given freely. Those who can afford it spread on a white cloth dishes of clotted milk, hot pancakes, and mugs of cider.

After all have retired to lie with both eyes shut tight lest they see one of the guests, death-singers make their rounds, chanting under the windows:

“You are comfortably lying in your bed,
But with the poor dead it is otherwise;
You are stretched softly in your bed
While the poor souls are wandering abroad.
“A white sheet and five planks,
A bundle of straw beneath the head,
Five feet of earth above
Are all the worldly goods we own.”
–LE BRAZ: Night of the Dead.The tears of their deserted friends disturb the comfort of the dead, and sometimes they appear to tell those in sorrow that their shrouds are always wet from the tears shed on their graves. Wakened by the dirge of the death-singers the people rise and pray for the souls of the departed.

Divination has little part in the annals of the evening, but one in Finistere is recorded. Twenty-five new needles are laid in a dish, and named, and water is poured upon them. Those who cross are enemies.
Related Source:
“The Book of Hallowe’en” by Ruth Edna Kelley [1919] – (all rights reserved)

Ruth Edna Kelley (8 April 1893 – 4 March 1982) was an American librarian and author. She is chiefly remembered for The Book of Hallowe’en (1919), the first book-length history of the holiday.
Kelley was born in Massachusetts, the only child of Charles F. Kelley, a carpenter, and his wife Mary. She grew up in Lynn, Massachusetts, and received a master of arts degree. Her other book was A Life of Their Own (1947), which dealt with immortality and spirituality. Kelley died in Marblehead, Massachusetts at the age of 88. (Quote from wikipedia.org)

Hallowe’en: The Summer’s End Solar Festival
October 28, 2011, 4:01 pm
Filed under: Celtic Celebrations, Halloween

Undoubtedly among the Celts, there has always been a Sun Worship besides of the Lunar one… The Samhain Festival at the end of summer was a time of grief for the decline of the sun’s glory, as well as a harvest festival of thanksgiving to him for having ripened the grain and fruit.

Still remains the belief that on the last night of the old year (October 31st) the lord of death gathered together the souls of all those who had died in the passing year and had been condemned to live in the bodies of animals to decree what forms they should inhabit for the next twelve months. He could be coaxed to give lighter sentences by gifts and prayers.

Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit, lends us the harvest element of Hallowe’en; the Celtic day of “summer’s end” was a time when spirits, mostly evil, were abroad; the gods whom Christ dethroned joined the ill-omened throng; the Church festivals of All Saints’ and All Souls’ coming at the same time of year–the first of November–contributed the idea of the return of the dead; and the Teutonic May Eve assemblage of witches brought its hags and their attendant beasts to help celebrate the night of October 31st.
We should also observe that Yule-tide, the pagan Christmas, celebrated the sun’s turning north, and the old midsummer holiday is still kept in Ireland and on the Continent as St. John’s Day by the lighting of bonfires and a dance about them from east to west as the sun appears to move.
This Solar Festival is also a Fire Festival. As I discussed on a previous post ,fires were built as a thanksgiving  for harvest. The old fire on the altar was quenched before the night of October 31st, and the new one made, as were all sacred fires, by friction. It was called “forced-fire.” A wheel and a spindle were used: the wheel, the Sun Symbol, was turned from east to west, sunwise.
The sparks were caught in tow, blazed upon the altar, and were passed on to light the hilltop fires. The new fire was given next morning, New Year’s Day, by the druids to the people to light their hearths, where all fires had been extinguished. The blessed fire was thought to protect the year through the home it warmed.
In Ireland the altar was Tlactga, on the hill of Ward in Meath, where sacrifices, especially black sheep, were burnt in the new fire. From the death struggles and look of the creatures omens for the future year were taken.The year was over, and the sun’s life of a year was done. The Celts thought that at this time the Sun fell a victim for six months to the powers of winter darkness. 
From the idea that the sun suffered from his enemies on this day grew the association of Samhain with death.Fire rites which were continued so long afterwards were really only worshipping the sun by proxy, in his nearest likeness, fire.
Samhain was then a day sacred to the death of the sun, on which had been paid a sacrifice of death to evil powers.  Methods of finding out the will of spirits and the future naturally worked better then, charms and invocations had more power, for the spirits were near to help, if care was taken not to anger them, and due honors paid.
Related Source:
“The Book of Hallowe’en” by Ruth Edna Kelley [1919] – (all rights reserved)

Ruth Edna Kelley (8 April 1893 – 4 March 1982) was an American librarian and author. She is chiefly remembered for The Book of Hallowe’en (1919), the first book-length history of the holiday.
Kelley was born in Massachusetts, the only child of Charles F. Kelley, a carpenter, and his wife Mary. She grew up in Lynn, Massachusetts, and received a master of arts degree. Her other book was A Life of Their Own (1947), which dealt with immortality and spirituality. Kelley died in Marblehead, Massachusetts at the age of 88. (Quote from wikipedia.org)

The Fire Festivals: The Hallowe’en Fire Rites
October 28, 2011, 3:00 pm
Filed under: Celtic Celebrations, Halloween
From the foregoing survey we may infer that among the heathen forefathers of the European peoples the most popular and widespread fire-festival of the year was the great celebration of Midsummer Eve or Midsummer Day.

The coincidence of the festival with the summer solstice can hardly be accidental. Rather we must suppose that our pagan ancestors purposely timed the ceremony of fire on earth to coincide with the arrival of the sun at the highest point of his course in the sky.

If that was so, it follows that the old founders of the midsummer rites had observed the solstices or turning-points of the sun’s apparent path in the sky, and that they accordingly regulated their festal calendar to some extent by astronomical considerations.

But while this may be regarded as fairly certain for what we may call the aborigines throughout a large part of the continent, it appears not to have been true of the Celtic peoples who inhabited the Land’s End of Europe, the islands and promontories that stretch out into the Atlantic Ocean on the North-West.

The principal fire-festivals of the Celts, which have survived, though in a restricted area and with diminished pomp, to modern times and even to our own day, were seemingly timed without any reference to the position of the sun in the heaven. They were two in number, and fell at an interval of six months, one being celebrated on the eve of May Day and the other on Allhallow Even or Hallowe’en, as it is now commonly called, that is, on the thirty-first of October, the day preceding All Saints’ or Allhallows’ Day.

These dates coincide with none of the four great hinges on which the solar year revolves, to wit, the solstices and the equinoxes. Nor do they agree with the principal seasons of the agricultural year, the sowing in spring and the reaping in autumn. For when May Day comes, the seed has long been committed to the earth; and when November opens, the harvest has long been reaped and garnered, the fields lie bare, the fruit-trees are stripped, and even the yellow leaves are fast fluttering to the ground. Yet the first of May and the first of November mark turning-points of the year in Europe; the one ushers in the genial heat and the rich vegetation of summer, the other heralds, if it does not share, the cold and barrenness of winter.

Now these particular points of the year, as has been well pointed out by a learned and ingenious writer, while they are of comparatively little moment to the European husbandman, do deeply concern the European herdsman; for it is on the approach of summer that he drives his cattle out into the open to crop the fresh grass, and it is on the approach of winter that he leads them back to the safety and shelter of the stall.

Accordingly it seems not improbable that the Celtic bisection of the year into two halves at the beginning of May and the beginning of November dates from a time when the Celts were mainly a pastoral people, dependent for their subsistence on their herds, and when accordingly the great epochs of the year for them were the days on which the cattle went forth from the homestead in early summer and returned to it again in early winter. Even in Central Europe, remote from the region now occupied by the Celts, a similar bisection of the year may be clearly traced in the great popularity, on the one hand, of May Day and its Eve (Walpurgis Night), and, on the other hand, of the Feast of All Souls at the beginning of November, which under a thin Christian cloak conceals an ancient pagan festival of the dead. Hence we may conjecture that everywhere throughout Europe the celestial division of the year according to the solstices was preceded by what we may call a terrestrial division of the year according to the beginning of summer and the beginning of winter.

Be that as it may, the two great Celtic festivals of May Day and the first of November or, to be more accurate, the Eves of these two days, closely resemble each other in the manner of their celebration and in the superstitions associated with them, and alike, by the antique character impressed upon both, betray a remote and purely pagan origin. The festival of May Day or Beltane, as the Celts called it, which ushered in summer, has already been described; it remains to give some account of the corresponding festival of Hallowe’en, which announced the arrival of winter.
Of the two feasts Hallowe’en was perhaps of old the more important, since the Celts would seem to have dated the beginning of the year from it rather than from Beltane.

In the Isle of Man, one of the fortresses in which the Celtic language and lore longest held out against the siege of the Saxon invaders, the first of November, Old Style, has been regarded as New Year’s day down to recent times. Thus Manx mummers used to go round on Hallowe’en (Old Style), singing, in the Manx language, a sort of Hogmanay song which began “To-night is New Year’s Night, Hogunnaa!”

In ancient Ireland, a new fire used to be kindled every year on Hallowe’en or the Eve of Samhain, and from this sacred flame all the fires in Ireland were rekindled. Such a custom points strongly to Samhain or All Saints’ Day (the first of November) as New Year’s Day; since the annual kindling of a new fire takes place most naturally at the beginning of the year, in order that the blessed influence of the fresh fire may last throughout the whole period of twelve months.
Another confirmation of the view that the Celts dated their year from the first of November is furnished by the manifold modes of divination which were commonly resorted to by Celtic peoples on Hallowe’en for the purpose of ascertaining their destiny, especially their fortune in the coming year; for when could these devices for prying into the future be more reasonably put in practice than at the beginning of the year? As a season of omens and auguries Hallowe’en seems to have far surpassed Beltane in the imagination of the Celts; from which we may with some probability infer that they reckoned their year from Hallowe’en rather than Beltane.

Another circumstance of great moment which points to the same conclusion is the association of the dead with Hallowe’en. Not only among the Celts but throughout Europe, Hallowe’en, the night which marks the transition from autumn to winter, seems to have been of old the time of year when the souls of the departed were supposed to revisit their old homes in order to warm themselves by the fire and to comfort themselves with the good cheer provided for them in the kitchen or the parlour by their affectionate kinsfolk. It was, perhaps, a natural thought that the approach of winter should drive the poor shivering hungry ghosts from the bare fields and the leafless woodlands to the shelter of the cottage with its familiar fireside. Did not the lowing kine then troop back from the summer pastures in the forests and on the hills to be fed and cared for in the stalls, while the bleak winds whistled among the swaying boughs and the snow-drifts deepened in the hollows? and could the good-man and the good-wife deny to the spirits of their dead the welcome which they gave to the cows?

But it is not only the souls of the departed who are supposed to be hovering unseen on the day “when autumn to winter resigns the pale year.” Witches then speed on their errands of mischief, some sweeping through the air on besoms, others galloping along the roads on tabby-cats, which for that evening are turned into coal-black steeds. The fairies, too, are all let loose, and hobgoblins of every sort roam freely about.
Yet while a glamour of mystery and awe has always clung to Hallowe’en in the minds of the Celtic peasantry, the popular celebration of the festival has been, at least in modern times, by no means of a prevailing gloomy cast; on the contrary it has been attended by picturesque features and merry pastimes, which rendered it the gayest night of all the year. Amongst the things which in the Highlands of Scotland contributed to invest the festival with a romantic beauty were the bonfires which used to blaze at frequent intervals on the heights. “On the last day of autumn children gathered ferns, tar-barrels, the long thin stalks called gàinisg, and everything suitable for a bonfire. These were placed in a heap on some eminence near the house, and in the evening set fire to. The fires were called Samhnagan. There was one for each house, and it was an object of ambition who should have the biggest. Whole districts were brilliant with bonfires, and their glare across a Highland loch, and from many eminences, formed an exceedingly picturesque scene.”

Like the Beltane fires on the first of May, the Hallowe’en bonfires seem to have been kindled most commonly in the Perthshire Highlands. In the parish of Callander they still blazed down to near the end of the eighteenth century. When the fire had died down, the ashes were carefully collected in the form of a circle, and a stone was put in, near the circumference, for every person of the several families interested in the bonfire. Next morning, if any of these stones was found to be displaced or injured, the people made sure that the person represented by it was fey or devoted, and that he could not live twelve months from that day.

At Balquhidder down to the latter part of the nineteenth century each household kindled its bonfire at Hallowe’en, but the custom was chiefly observed by children. The fires were lighted on any high knoll near the house; there was no dancing round them. Hallowe’en fires were also lighted in some districts of the north-east of Scotland, such as Buchan. Villagers and farmers alike must have their fire.

In the villages the boys went from house to house and begged a peat from each householder, usually with the words, “Ge’s a peat t’ burn the witches.” When they had collected enough peats, they piled them in a heap, together with straw, furze, and other combustible materials, and set the whole on fire. Then each of the youths, one after another, laid himself down on the ground as near to the fire as he could without being scorched, and thus lying allowed the smoke to roll over him. The others ran through the smoke and jumped over their prostrate comrade. When the heap was burned down, they scattered the ashes, vying with each other who should scatter them most.

In the northern part of Wales it used to be customary for every family to make a great bonfire called Coel Coeth on Hallowe’en. The fire was kindled on the most conspicuous spot near the house; and when it had nearly gone out every one threw into the ashes a white stone, which he had first marked. Then having said their prayers round the fire, they went to bed. Next morning, as soon as they were up, they came to search out the stones, and if any one of them was found to be missing, they had a notion that the person who threw it would die before he saw another Hallowe’en.

According to Sir John Rhys, the habit of celebrating Hallowe’en by lighting bonfires on the hills is perhaps not yet extinct in Wales, and men still living can remember how the people who assisted at the bonfires would wait till the last spark was out and then would suddenly take to their heels, shouting at the top of their voices, “The cropped black sow seize the hindmost!” The saying, as Sir John Rhys justly remarks, implies that originally one of the company became a victim in dead earnest.

Down to the present time the saying is current in Carnarvonshire, where allusions to the cutty black sow are still occasionally made to frighten children. We can now understand why in Lower Brittany every person throws a pebble into the midsummer bonfire. Doubtless there, as in Wales and the Highlands of Scotland, omens of life and death have at one time or other been drawn from the position and state of the pebbles on the morning of All Saints’ Day. The custom, thus found among three separate branches of the Celtic stock, probably dates from a period before their dispersion, or at least from a time when alien races had not yet driven home the wedges of separation between them.

In the Isle of Man also, another Celtic country, Hallowe’en was celebrated down to modern times by the kindling of fires, accompanied with all the usual ceremonies designed to prevent the baneful influence of fairies and witches.
Related Source:
The Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazer -[1922](all rights reserved)
Before Joseph Campbell became the world’s most famous practitioner of comparative mythology, there was Sir James George Frazer. The Golden Bough was originally published in two volumes in 1890, but Frazer became so enamored of his topic that over the next few decades he expanded the work sixfold, then in 1922 cut it all down to a single thick edition suitable for mass distribution.

Faerie Lore: The Llanfabon Changeling
October 27, 2011, 6:12 pm
Filed under: Faerie Lore, Fairy Music
Hi to all bloggers!… I would like to share with you this welsh singular legend called “The Llanfabon Changeling” regarding an amusing fairy changeling. Posted from the book “The Welsh Fairy Book” by W. Jenkyn Thomas (1908) (Obtain this full work and many more backups by clicking here!) Illustrations by Willy Pogány – New York, Stokes [1908]

AT a farmhouse called Berth Gron, in the parish of Lianfabon, there once lived a young widow. She had a little boy whom she loved more than her own eyes. He was her only comfort, and she was afraid of letting the sun shine on him, as the saying goes. Pryderi–that was the name she had given him–was about three years old, and a fine child for his age.
At this time the parish of Llanfabon was full of fairies. On nights when the moon was bright, they often used to keep the hard-working farmers awake with their music until the cock crew in the morning. On nights when the moon was dark, they delighted in luring men into desolate bogs by displaying false lights. Even in the daytime they would play tricks on people if they were not very careful.
The widow knew that the Fair Family were very fond of stealing babies out of their cradles, and you can imagine how careful she was of her little treasure. She hated leaving him out of her sight by night or day: if ever she had to do so, she was miserable until she returned to him and found him safe and sound.
One day when he was lying asleep in his cradle, she heard the cows in the byre lowing piteously as if they were in great pain. As there was nobody in the house but herself to look after her precious boy, she was afraid at first of going out to see what was amiss. The lowing, however, became more and more agonised, and she became frightened. Not being able to stand it any longer, she rushed out, forgetting in her fright to place the tongs crossways on the cradle.
When she got to the cow house, she was amazed to find that there was nothing whatever the matter with the cattle: they were chewing their cud placidly, and they turned their great meek eyes in mild surprise upon her, evidently wondering why she had burst in upon them so unceremoniously. Realising that she had been the victim of some deception, she ran back to the house as fast as her feet could carry her, and to the cradle. She was afraid of finding it empty, but bending over it she found a little boy in it who greeted her with “Mother.” She looked hard at him: he was very like Pryderi, and yet there was a something about him which made her think that he was different from him. At last she said doubtingly, “You are not my child.”
“I am truly,” said the little one. “What do you mean, mother?”
But something kept whispering to her constantly that he was not her child, and as time went on she became convinced that she was right. The little boy after a while became cross and fretful, unlike Pryderi, who was always as good as gold. In a whole year he never grew at all.
Pryderi, on the other hand, was a very growing child. Besides, the little fellow seemed to get uglier every day, whereas Pryderi had been getting prettier and prettier: at least his mother thought so. She did not know what to do.
Now, there was in the parish of Llanfabon a man who had the reputation of being well informed on matters which are dark to most people. This reputation he had gained by living at a place called the Castle of the Night. This castle had been built of stones from Llanfabon Church, and was haunted. Many men had tried to live there, but had been compelled to leave because ghosts plagued them so. That this man was able to dwell there in seeming peace and comfort was proof positive, in the eyes of the people of Llanfabon, that he had some control at least over the powers of darkness.
The widow went to this wise man and laid her trouble before him. After hearing her story he said to her, “If you follow my directions faithfully and minutely, I think I shall be able to help you. At noon to-morrow take an eggshell and prepare to brew some beer in it. See that the boy watches what you are doing, but take care not to tell him to pay attention. He will ask you what you are doing. You are to say, ‘I am brewing beer for the harvestmen.’ Listen carefully to what he says when he hears that, but pretend not to catch it. After you have put him to bed to-morrow night, come and tell me all about it.”
The widow returned home, and the next day at noon she followed the cunning man’s advice. She took an eggshell and got everything ready for brewing beer. The boy stood by her, watching her as a oat watches a mouse. Presently . he asked, “What are you doing, mother?” She said, “I am brewing beer for the harvestmen, my boy.” Then the boy said quietly to himself:
“I am very old this day,
I was living before my birth,
I remember yonder oak
An acorn in the earth,
But I never saw, the egg of a hen
Brewing beer for harvestmen.”
The widow heard what he said, but pretended not to have caught it, and asked, “What did you say, my son?” He said, “Nothing, mother.” She then turned round and saw that he was very cross, and the angry expression on his face made him very repulsive to look upon.
After she had put him to bed that night, the widow went to the Castle of the Night, as she had been ordered. As soon as she entered, the wise man asked, “Were you able to catch what he said?”
“He spoke very quietly to himself,” answered the widow, “but I am quite sure that what he said was:
‘I am very old this day,
I was living before my birth,
I remember yonder oak
An acorn in the earth,
But I never saw the egg of a hen
Brewing beer for harvestmen.'”
“It is well,” said the wise man. “If you follow my directions faithfully and minutely, I think I shall be able to help you. The moon will be full in four days, and you must go at midnight to where the four roads meet above the Ford of the Bell. Hide yourself somewhere where you can see everything that comes along any of the roads without being seen yourself. Whatever happens, do not stir or utter a sound. If you do, my plans will be frustrated and your own life will be in danger. Come to me the day after and tell me what you see.”
By midnight on the appointed day the widow had concealed herself carefully behind a large bush near the cross-roads above the Ford of the Bell, where she could see everything that came along any of the four roads without being seen herself. For a long time there was nothing to be seen or heard: the moon shone brightly, and the melancholy silence of midnight lay over all. Before long dark clouds obscured the moon, and at last the anxious widow heard the faint sounds of music in the far distance. The strains came nearer and nearer, and she listened with rapt attention. Before long the melody was close at hand, and she saw a procession of fairies coming along one of the roads. Soon the vanguard of the procession came up, and she saw that there were hundreds of fairies marching along. They were singing the sweetest songs she had ever heard, and she felt that she could listen to them for ever. Just as the middle of the procession came opposite her hiding place, the moon emerged from behind a black cloud, and in the clear, cold light which then flooded the earth she beheld a sight which turned her pleasure into bitter pain and made her heart beat almost out of her body. Walking between two fairies was her own dear little boy. She nearly forgot herself altogether, and was on the point of springing into the midst of the fairies to snatch her darling from them. But she remembered in time that the wise man had warned her that his plans would be upset and her own life in danger if she carried out her intention, and controlling herself by a supreme effort she neither stirred nor uttered a sound. When the long procession had wound itself past and the music had died away in the distance, she issued from her concealment and went home to bed, but her heart was so full of longing for her lost child that she never slept a wink all night.
On the morrow she went to the wise man early. He was expecting her, and as she entered he perceived by her looks that she had seen something to disturb her. She told him what she had witnessed at the cross-roads, and he again said, “it is well. If you will follow my directions faithfully and minutely, I think I shall be able to help you.”
He then brought out a great book, bound in calf-skin, opened it, and pored long over it. After much deliberation he said, “You must find a black hen without a single white feather, or one of any other colour than black. Do you burn peat or wood?”
“I burn peat,” said the widow.
“After you have found the hen,” resumed the wise man, “you must light a wood fire and bake the hen before it, with its feathers and all intact. After you have placed it to bake before the fire, close every passage and hole in the wall, leaving only the chimney open. After that, avoid looking at the boy, but watch the hen baking, and do not take your eyes off it until the last feather has fallen off it.”
Strange as the directions of the wise man appeared, she determined to follow them as faithfully and minutely as she had the previous directions. But oh, the weary tramp she had before she could find a black hen without a single white feather or one of any other colour than black. She tried every farm in the parish of Llanfabon in vain, and she was nearly driven to the conclusion that if this breed of hens had ever existed on the earth it had become extinct. It was weeks before she secured the right hen, and it was at a farm miles away from Llanfabon that she was successful in her search.
Her repeated disappointments were all the more bitter because she was forced to hide her disgust with the little fellow who was there instead of her boy. When he addressed her as “Mother,” it was almost more than she could bear, but she was just able to make no difference in her behaviour towards him, though he seemed to be getting smaller, crosser and uglier every day.
Having found the black hen, she built up a wood fire, and when it was burning brightly she wrung the hen’s neck and placed it as it was, feathers and all, in front of the fire. She then closed every passage and hole in the walls, leaving only the chimney open, and sat in front of the fire to watch the hen baking. The little fellow called to her several times, but though she answered him she was careful not to look at him. After a bit she fell into a swoon. When she came out of it she saw that all the feathers had fallen off the hen, and looking round the house she saw that the changeling had disappeared. Then she heard the strains of music outside the house, and they were the same as those she had heard at the cross-roads. All of a sudden the music ceased, and she heard a little boy’s voice calling, “Mother.” She rushed out, and lo! and behold, who should be standing within a few paces of the threshold but her own dear little boy.
She snatched him up in her arms and almost smothered him with kisses. She laughed and wept in turn, and her joy was greater than words can tell. When asked where he had been all this long while, the little boy had no account to give of himself except that he had been listening to lovely music. He was pale and wan and thin, but under his mother’s loving care he soon became his bonny self again, and mother and son lived happily ever afterwards.

Divinations for the Promise Moon (9-27-11 to 10-25-11)
October 25, 2011, 3:07 pm
Filed under: Lunar Calendar, Meditation and Healing

This is a time for Prophecy

This moon requires use of the forethought and far-seeing skills necessary to deciding what to keep and what to discard as we consider the uncertainty of survival through the seasons to come.

You have been growing with this years’ Wheel to understand and appreciate the mysteries of re-birth as Winter changed to Spring, and you have grown to understand the magic and power of fertility as Spring changed to Summer.

Now it is time to grow again in your understanding that from the fullness of Summers’ bounty comes the necessity for future planning as you consider the best use for all that you have harvested with this turn of the wheel.

In the last moonphase you honored vitality and the sacrifices which balance it through the rituals of Lammas. This moonphase will begin, wax to fullness, wane, and grow dark before the next celebration in the eight-spoked Wheel of the Year is upon us. Just as you actively move forward with each turn of the Wheel of the Year, you will rest and plan your next step between those turns. Now is one of those times. Now is the time of prophecy.

It is the time of outward action to see to the needs of the future.

It is the time of preserving and discarding that which is no longer needed.

It is the time of choosing the path you follow, and the paths which you must abandon.

It is the time to separate what you wish to carry into the coming season from what is an unnecessary burden and should be shed before Winter begins.

You may call this the Wine Moon, the Hunters’ Moon, the Barley Moon, the Promise Moon, the Berry Moon, or the Ivy Moon. Whatever the name, you will know it as a time when the energy you have recently channeled into growth and harvest must now be turned to preservation and preparation for the coming season.

So, let the prophetic planning begin! The cool thing about making future plans is that you don’t need to break a sweat, or move any major muscle groups to accomplish mighty marvels, so, Sugar… stay right in that lawn chair while I get you another frosty beverage and you do what your Gramma used to call “daydreaming”.

Yeah… that’s it, what do you want to see come to pass before this year rolls on into history?

Where do you want to be when the new year rolls around?

What little tasks do you need to finish up before these daydreams reach the borders of reality?

What useless habits have you been dragging around that would best be dropped altogether?

Sit back… close your eyes… and we’ll take a look at what you need for your own best possible future…

Related Source
(All rights reserved by the author and re-posted under her kind permission)

Loreena McKennitt: " Celtic Footprints Tour 2012" – Official Press
October 25, 2011, 2:06 pm
Filed under: Loreena McKennitt

Quinlan Road Community Update

We’re thrilled to announce that Loreena will once again be taking her music on the road when she embarks on the Loreena McKennitt Celtic Footprints Tour 2012 this coming spring. The tour presently launches March 17 and winds up April 25.

The 41-day, 11-country European tour will take Loreena back to some of her favourite countries, audiences and venues, while introducing a few new destinations along the way.

“I’m very much looking forward to heading back to Europe again,” says Loreena. “Since our last tour, we’ve recorded The Wind that Shakes the Barley, an album that includes songs that inspired me when I first discovered Celtic music, particularly those of Irish, Scots and English origin. We’re looking forward to performing some of those songs during the tour, along with other old-time favourites, plus pieces inspired by the Celts’ eastern roots.” Loreena will be accompanied on the tour by most of her long-standing complement of gifted musicians.

Tickets will be offered exclusively to members of the Quinlan Road Community beginning Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 10 a.m. local time in each country. These pre-sale tickets will be available for only 48 hours, until 10:00 a.m. local time Friday, Oct. 29. Box office ticket sales will then be open to the general public. To see a list of concert dates and countries CLICK HERE. Return Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. to see the complete list of concert venues and take advantage of the opportunity to purchase your pre-sale tickets.

Click here for tour dates and return on October 26 for presale links.