Saturday, 1 November 2008

Archive: Samhainn 2008 (2)

Like last year I decided to carve the turnips in advance of the day itself, to spread things out a little, so I set to work on them the night before Samhainn after the kids had gone to bed - it's not a good idea to have two helpful children around knives so I thought it best to keep them out of the way. Next year I might spring for a pumpkin, because I'm sure they'd love scooping the innards out.

Before I started, as the sun began to set and the night closed in I was looking out the front window, I was thinking about what I was going to do for the evening. A huge flock of crows landed in the trees across from the house and began to caw raucously, playfully hopping about and chasing each other. I don't think I've ever seen so many crows all at once, and while there was a bit of an Alfred Hitchcock undertone to it all ("Fuck off you cellists!" to quote Eddie Izzard), I couldn't really ignore it as a definite sign. The night was closing in and it seemed as if they were saying that now was a good time to start celebrations. Something Otherworldly was definitely in the air.

I did three tumshies this year (and have the blisters to prove it) - carving them isn't as tough as you'd expect but after a while it can get hard on your hands. This time round I made sure to make the holes for the faces big enough to allow enough air in for the candles, but I wasn't careful enough as I carved them and accidentally cut between the eye and the mouth on a couple of them. No biggy, I don't think, but maybe using something more suitable to delicate work will help next year. They all looked suitably scary and threatening.

After I'd finished carving, I made some offerings to the Good Folk in the hope that they'd take a hint and stay away, and that was that for the night, really, it was quite late. I slept pretty well, but don't remember any dreams.

In the morning, I made the bannocks - Pitcaithly bannocks this time, and they were very nice, a lot like shortbread. Well, they basically are shortbread, but citrusy (three parts flour to two parts butter and one part sugar, but with a tablespoon of ground almond and a handful of candied peel). They came out well and didn't break, so I took that as a good sign. I broke one in half and duly left it as an offering, and Mr Seren took us into Glasgow where we spent the day doing fairly mundane stuff, getting some warm tops for winter.

Mr Seren didn't stop long in Glasgow, so I took the train back with the kids and managed to time it perfectly for the sunset, which was beautiful. First we went past Dumbarton Rock, or Alt Clut as it was known, home to kings of Strathclyde way back in the late Iron Age (or so it's thought), and situated on the other side of the Clyde from us. It's a volcanic plug of basalt, if I remember rightly. Then we went past Inverkip Powerstation a little later when the sun was much lower:

Mr Seren's fascinated by the powerstation, and calls it The Hive. It was built in the 70s but never used (as I may have posted before...), because the price of oil sky-rocketed during it's construction, and yet it's always a hive of activity. Obviously it's a front for nefarious government experiments, but Mulder and Scully don't seem too interested in it, sadly. Or, in reality, it's been kept as a back-up powerstation ever since but it's going to be knocked down soon, once they've decided how to go about it, and what to do with the land. I hope they make it into a nature reserve, but it's more likely it will be used for housing. But I digress.

Here's one of Argyll and Bute, just as the sun dipped down below the horizon as we were coming into the station (you can see the crap on the window of the train too, but nevermind):

I didn't have much time to cook a proper meal in the evening so I cheated and bought most of it ready made before I left the city centre. We had braised steak with shallots and a gravy with chianti, with roasted parsnips and potato and fresh veg, followed by apple pie and honey ice cream or custard, and it was yummy. In spite of the fact that the apple pie fell splat on the oven door as I was trying to take it out.

Tom was very interested in the tumshie lanterns, and Mr Seren did the honours with lighting them and putting them in the window. The guisers turned up in a slow but steady stream, and it was all very fun and exciting. People round here seem to make a big thing about celebrating Hallowe'en, much more so than last year when we were over in Bo'ness, and during the week, as I was walking the dogs in the evening I'd see groups of kids walking around with torches, visiting particular houses where they'd go in and come out screaming and laughing. I'm guessing it was some sort of house of horror trail around the village.

I made offerings of milk and honey, gingerbread, some of the nuts and sweets we'd been handing out to the guisers, and a splash of whisky to the ancestors, on my little shelf, and left out food, set aside from dinner earlier, for any visitors during the night (and hoping it was out of Mungo's reach, scavenging little sod that he is). Offerings for the gods and spirits were left as well, including some more of the bannock I'd made earlier.

I'd been meaning to do more but I was tired and decided I wasn't good for much except sleep. Tom needed a little attention, too, so it was still quite late before I got to bed but I was incredibly restless and didn't really sleep. By 4am I gave up and decided to get up, so I came downstairs and meditated a little on my family and ancestors and held an impromptu vigil. I've been lucky this year not to have lost anyone, but I realised that my sister had, recently even, and so I paid my respects to the little niece or nephew that could have been but never was.

I realised I hadn't done any divination that night, either, so I got out my ogam set and picked out three staves from the bag. They always seem to come out with the most appropriate feda for each festival, and this time was no exception - it all seemed to relate to family, hinting at a particular female member and I wonder if it's something to do with my nan. She's been very ill recently, with an infection in her colon - probably a seed that got stuck there. It's quite common, especially for her age, but it's hit her hard and she hasn't wanted any visitors. I'm not sure whether I'm reading into my worry for her, or if there's a genuine message there. Either way, I eventually managed to get some sleep, and luckily for me it was my weekend lie-in. I know I dreamed this time, but I can't remember what it was about at all.

The next day I felt quite drained so we didn't do much. During my impromptu vigil the night before I realised I'd been unconsciously concentrating my three nights of celebration into three different focuses - the first night on the spirits, the second night on the ancestors, the third night was going to be for the gods. I got some flowers - red, yellow and orange, and was going to decorate my little shelf where I have my little sacred space but I realised I didn't have anything to put them in that would fit, so they went on the mantelpiece above the fire instead. I also realised I'd forgotten to sain the house the night before, so I did that using some of the water I collected at Bealltainn like I usually do. The house feels much better for it.

I took the dogs for their evening walk and went down to the shore where I left some offerings and meditated for a while. The night was clear and still and the water hardly made any noise as it lapped away at the beach, and all was calm and peaceful. Down at the sea I usually dedicate my offerings to Manannan and the river, and Manannan in particular seemed to feel close.

There were no great revelations or signs, but I felt like I'd been heard, and after I got home I made more offerings - rum and coffee grounds to Badb this time (she seems to like them - I gave the spiced rum we got from St Lucia because I'd run out of whisky and couldn't find the mead I'd bought for the occasion, and for some reason I always give coffee grounds now, perhaps because I love the stuff so much and it's something genuinely important to me in an odd sort of way), gingerbread, nuts and milk to the gods in general, and bread and butter and more treats from the previous night for the spirits. I don't know why I separate it out like that, but it feels right and seems to work. As I came back inside and closed the door, the first thing I saw was a spider - one of those ones with a huge round arse - was weaving a web in the corner of the door, tucked in behind the curtain. I always take spiders as a sign of good luck in the home, and this year I must be very lucky indeed.

So that was my Samhainn. A little disorganised, some of it unexpected and unplanned, but all of it good. Tom's back, looking extremely happy with a giant lollipop, and Mr Seren is bearing a box of Belgian chocolates all for me. Yes, I'm very lucky indeed.

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