Thursday, 31 October 2013

Samhain / November

Now as the hours of darkness increase and there is a chill in the air we have the stove lit with turf and prepare to celebrate Samhain, the beginning of winter. 

Traditionally this was a time of divination when the barm brack, bairín breac, 'speckled loaf, a sweet bread packed with dried fruit and candied peel, was served often toasted with butter. 
Today shop bought brack contains a 'silver' ring but originally the loaf incorporated several items whose significance varied depending on where you lived.
It was believed that your fortune for the following year - such as marriage, wealth, poverty, holy orders or death - could be determined by the item found in your slice of brack. 

Barm Brack. Photo © Jane Brideson 2013

Samhain was also a time when those members of the family who had passed on would return to the home place, so it was customary to set a place at the table and leave a portion of the evening meal for them. 
Families would retire to bed early leaving a fire in the hearth, enabling the dead ancestors to gather there as they had previously done in life.

Tonight we sit by the fireside and warmly remember those friends who have gone from our lives by raising a glass in their memory.
In our cosy, lamplit room we listen to the wind and know that, as darkness gathers over hills and valleys, the ancient mounds across the island are opening so that 
The Ever-Living Ones can roam the land again.