Celebrating Celtic New Year

I’ve been exploring the meaning of the eight Celtic seasonal festivals for many years, and trying out different ways to celebrate them – often at Hazel Hill Wood. Early in this process, I stayed on the remote island of Inishmore on the west coast of Ireland, where the old Celtic seasonal traditions are still deeply honoured.

One thing I’ve learned is that each festival is a transitional period which extends for a couple of weeks each side of the core date. So if you’re reading this in mid-November, you’re not too late!

The word Samhain is pronounced sow’eine, and means the first day of November, celebrated by the ancient Celts as a festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It’s best celebrated outdoors, in the dark, with a bonfire. You can give a stick or dying foliage into the fire to represent what you’re releasing with the end of the year.

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Here are some insights on Samhain from Glennie Kindred’s book, see more in book blog:

“The veil between the seen world of matter and the unseen world of Spirit becomes thin, especially at dawn and dusk. This creates opportunities for us to slip through the fabric of space and time, beyond the limitations of our rational mind, and gain wisdom from within.”

This is the best time of year to honour the dead, and to open to guidance from them. Imagining your ancestral line going back for several generations can help.

Being the start of the Celtic year means that this is also a good season for dreaming and intentions: not to act on them, but to let them germinate and gather ripeness through the dark months of winter.

In her book, Glennie associates Samhain with the Yew Tree, the oldest living trees, “representing death and rebirth, transformation, access to the ancestors and the Otherworld.”
New trunks from beneath the root bole is a useful reminder about renewing from our roots.