from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Monday, 31 October 2011

samhain and the celtic new year

Samhain is one of the great fire festivals of the pagan/Celtic world. This time is a 'doorway' into other planes and subtler realms, where the veil between our world and the Otherworld is thin. This is a time when spirit and matter may approach each other more closely.

It's also the Celtic New Year, and the festivities in the ancient Celtic world would last for three days (the traditional length of time for initiation/transformation into higher levels of being, to our ancestors: viz Christ in the tomb, Odin on his tree, Osiris in his underworld journey) from the evening of October 30th until the evening of November 1st.

At this time one can remember ancestors: loved friends and relatives, or teachers, who have died, and invite something of their spirit into our lives as well as bless their passing. I make a practice of lighting candles in every window to shine out into the dark on the night of 31st (today). The west is the direction of the dead, the dying year, the setting sun, so in Celtic areas sometimes a shrine was made to the west of the house in honour of the ancestors. A fire or bonfire, indoors or outdoors, seems essential – a reminder of the light as we turn to the dark of the year, and 'summer's end', the meaning of 'samhain' or 'samhuinn'.

The other thing one can do is a ceremony or ritual fitting to the ending of an old and beginning of a new year: I try to make the time to reflect on and write about what has passed in the year just gone; what I need to mourn and let go of; what I need to welcome in. I write down and symbolically burn that which is dead, gone from, or needs to be gone from my life (often this is a psychological quality; eg anxiety); and I do the same thing with what I invite into my life in the coming year.

In the Druidic year a branch of yew would be brought into the house, and offerings (as thanksgivings for the harvest of summer) of bread, salt, wine and honey made to the fire and then tasted by those present.

Outside the Wild Hunt passes, mythically speaking, with the Gabriel Hounds or Herne the Hunter (the horned god, consort to the goddess, now in her third phase of 'hag', whose time is from Samhain till Imbolc, 1st February). In  parts of Eire this was the time of the White Mare, symbol of the Great Goddess.

This can be seen as a time of timelessness, briefly, when eternity is closer to us, when subtle doors and windows are open.

I wish you a good one; and blessings from the fires of immortality.


Samhain - late October dawn
Six o’clock and the black and silver valley dressed funereal
but ribbons of blue mist over the brook; a few larch tips like rusty arrowheads
We need the vertical dimension; have found no substitute for God
Husks, all of us, through which
the winds of heaven pour
To tread here in rimed grass - withered fields, ochre stems, tattered black thistleheads, umbels outlined in white, still some nettles, portly oaks squatting like sheep, quick stink of fox in your nostrils - still alive, then, the mangy old bird-food thief
To be here in and of this land, this morning, this moment
and call it home
knowing that home can never truly be known
but merely reached out to
The warmth of flesh and the warmth of flesh on flesh; still never naming anywhere home; this mist, this frost, these falling leaves; still a passing only
the common language of the flesh our common heresy: an overlay, a disguise sketched on the invisible, unknowable
            fleshless and indivisible
October morning
The redwings are back, crooning over berries or skirring in flocks over the water meadows.
By the wall, dead montbretia heads stream like prayer flags
We see ourselves more clearly
when we’re not looking
Calling somewhere home
October dusk
These nights of the quick and the dead. The earth turns away from the sun. Something of ancient fire flickers within us still; we flower like candles in grinning pumpkin faces in someone else’s window
Now, tonight, under this shifting coloured sky all this falls away. You are walking, walking, staff of quickbeam, oiled boots - the long view, the green note that calls you away over these hills, where you will be
another indigo handprint on the hem
of night.


This poem appears in Looking for Icarus, Roselle Angwin, bluechrome 2005


  1. Dear Ro,

    Have just had one of my infrequent catch ups- reading yor posts, beautiful poems and thought provoking words for the past hour and a half. Thank you... I'm aiming to start anew tomorrow after sleep and reflection.

    Sarah C xxxxx

  2. Sarah what a lovely comment - thank you so much. It means a lot that you find it worth checking out. Oh and Sarah I must stop falling over that book in its box on the floor and actually POST it! With love, Ro

  3. My Greyhound went through a similar thing and I used an old plastic honey dispenser to dribble water in the side of her lips. I have also been using curcumin from as an antibiotic for myself with an UTI, three days and free! Don't know how it would work on a dog. Blessed be.

  4. Hello greyhound person - thanks so much for that; glad I'm not alone! Ash's paralysis has cleared up, thank goodness; but the original eyelid inflammation is still there. I didn't know about the antibiotic properties of curcumin - thanks very much for that. I'll check it out with regard to te hound. (UTI: you clearly don't need it now, but Potters the herbalists do a brilliant herbal compound for that, too.) And yes - bright blessings in this dark time of year (here in the northern hemisphere anyway!).


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