And a happy Halloween to you all! I have been sitting back just waiting for the opportunity to share some of the highlights of my recent trip to Ireland, so I'm going to start with the last place we visited because it ties right in to Halloween. Not to mention, this bookworm was able to decide on one book in the gift shop of the Leprechaun Museum in Dublin.
If you want an immersive mystical history tour, this is definitely the place to take some to to visit. Our guide took us through a variety of Irish folklore starting with the origins of leprechauns, faeries and banshees. We learned about the early kingdoms of the Emerald Isle and got to pretend to be the little people in a room filled with over-sized furnishings. It was quite entertaining to see grown men trying to climb up on an 8 foot chair. We moved on to walk through a rainbow then finally, sat down for story time in a magickal wooded area. There, we heard the story of how the jack-o-lantern came to be. The lesson learned here was that you cannot cheat the devil or avoid a trip to hell once you make a pact with the fiery king of the depths.
The ancient Irish celebrated Samhain on the first of November, considering it as the first day of winter.However, their celebrations started on the eve of Samhain. Called Oiche Shamhna-the eve of the Feast of All Souls-it was considered a night when the spirit world was most active in the human world because the veil between the two worlds was at it's thinnest. What a lovely time to communicate with those loved ones who passed before us...which is what I will probably do this evening.
However, in early Ireland, the fear was that during this time the window to the otherworld was open, was that one had to be careful not to be kidnapped by the puca. A puca was told to be a hateful goblin who could take the form of a horse, goat, bull or dwarfish imp and had the intelligence of a man but was as cunning as a demon.Thus, the Irish folk disguised themselves as ghouls to avoid recognition by the puca. This is where donning costumes on Halloween got its origin.
Samhain also marked the end of harvest, and food was plentiful during this time prior to the onset of winter. There were two popular dishes served at this time-colcannon and barmbrack. As a matter of fact, I just made colcannon on Friday night for dinner as it is one of my favorite potato dishes. To make it, I chop cabbage and onion and saute it with chopped bacon in a skillet. I then add mashed potatoes and butter. Absolutely delicious in my opinion. Barmbrack is a new one to me, it is a sweet bread with fruit inside as well as tokens wrapped in fabric which are said to predict the future. I believe the next book I need to purchase is a traditional Irish cookbook and perhaps learn to make Barmbrack.
Legend has it that Halloween/Samhain Eve is a good time to cast spells for either good or bad. However, exercise caution here and remember that bad spells can come back and bite you in the arse. You don't want it to backfire, do you? Of course not. But in ancient Ireland, spells of the devil were cast with the sprinkling of blood because it is said that spirits are excited by the color of blood. Tonight, the moon is in the waxing crescent phase which is a good time to do spells for growth, new beginnings or projects. Remember, the waxing moon is the time between the new moon and the full moon and a great time to put your intentions out into the universe.
I could write pages about Samhain or Halloween which is one of the customs brought to the new world by the Irish people who emigrated to the United States, but alas, I do have to get ready to go to work. If you are interested in reading more about this holiday with regard to Irish customs, I highly recommend the book Irish Customs and Rituals by Marion McGarry. It was just one of the books I purchased on my trip. Stay tuned for more.