Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Last Puppy goes to New Home, Samhain & Turnip Lanterns
It is of course Halloween tonight, or Samhain (meaning Summer's End) or as it is called here in Wales Nos Calan Gaeaf, the First Day of Winter. It is a very soggy Samhain though with the torrential rain we've had all day...but we can hardly complain when it is compared with what has occurred on the east coast of America! I guess there won't be much trick or treating in New York. The state of things there is hard to believe, despite the pictures. One cannot imagine how the clean-up can be done in as short a time as possible, it's horrendous.
Back to Halloween/Samhain; The custom of turnip lanterns which more recently has become one of pumpkin lanterns, originates in the Celtic lands where pumpkins did not grow. Like trick or treat (which I hate & fortunately as we live at the end of along drive we are not troubled by such activities as are people in town (I sound like a real grumpy old woman, which I'm not!!)) the pumpkin has been imported from the States & seems to have become firmly lodged here.
Turnips, or swedes are shaped somewhat like a skull and give off an eerie yellow light when lit from within by a candle & is thought to be connected with the ancient Celtic veneration of the head which was the seat of the soul. I can remember very clearly the curious & distinctive smell of the turnip lanterns we had as children & the thrill of turning out the lights and having just the glow of the faces cut into the lanterns with just a thin layer of the turnip flesh left to provide the glow...(the proper way to do these things (GOW moment again!)
Tonight is the night of the Wild Hunt led by Herne the Hunter in England, with his pack of spirit hounds with their white bodies & red ears, or in Wales by Gwynn ao Nudd, King of the Faeries. The gates of Winter open tonight for the Hunt to sweep through the skies gathering the souls of the lost & wandering dead to lead them home.
In some places the calling of wild geese was believed to be the song of the hounds following Herne across the skies riding westward on the wind to the Land of Youth, Tir na h-oige.