Thursday, 30 October 2014


As the year deepens into winter I recalled a Samhain night seven years ago when I decided to
journey into the darkness of the countryside, where the sky was lit only by stars.
The scent of turf smoke and frost was in the air as I left the warmth of the hearth and travelled
down the small country roads hereabouts. All was silence with the headlights illuminating dark hedgerows and occasional wisps of grey mist in the hollows.

I passed through villages adorned with lit pumpkins, plastic skeletons and windows decorated
for Hallowe'en. Once or twice there was a glimpse of small witches, ghouls and vampires moving from house to house looking to trick or treat.
It was just as I had expected it to be until we finally came to a village with no decorations.
None at all.
Not a pumpkin, a ghost or a skull anywhere.
In fact there were only one or two lights on behind the curtained windows giving the impression
that almost everyone was asleep in their beds.

My first thought was how sad it appeared.
It seemed that in this place the children and adults did not take part in the celebration of Hallowe'en
and I felt sorry for them missing out on the fun and colour we'd seen elsewhere.

As I slowly approached the last houses however I could see an orange glow in the distance.
On the outskirts, at a deserted cross roads, I discovered this bonfire.

Samhain bonfire © Jane Brideson. 
Nothing remained to show that anyone had been there, though the fire was well banked up to
continue burning late into the night.
I stood as close as the heat would allow hearing the crackle of the fire whilst I watched pictures form in the smoke and the dancing flames.
I understood then that the people of the village had rejected the commercialism of their ancient festival
and marked Samhain as a community in the old way.

Returning home I realised that I had stumbled upon a continuation of an ancient Samhain tradition which has taken place on this island for thousands of years.

It was truly a magical experience.

As we approach the darkest time of the year I wish you food, rest, warmth and
the blessings of your ancestors.


  1. O yes I remember it well and of being fearful for the paintwork on the car lest it blister!

  2. Yes that part of it was a bit scary alright : )

  3. What a lovely post, Jane.

    I think I will light a little fire in our backyard tomorrow night - take some bricks and made a fire pit, and burn a few logs and think about things.

    Merry Samhain!

  4. How lovely. I really am not keen on the 'Americanisation' of Halloween. How do you pronounce Samhain? Do you say the 'h'? Xxxx

  5. Thanks Carol - do have a fire if you can it's lovely.
    Will think of you watching the flames : )

  6. Hi Fran - Thanks I'm glad you enjoyed it. Samhain is roughly pronounced Sow-en - with the emphasis on the ow bit. J x

  7. Hi Jane. I watched a programme on TV3 last night and it mentioned Samhain and the sacred hawthorn tree
    in County Clare. They built the motorway around it. Are there many sacred trees here in Ireland?

  8. That is a wonderful story and those flames warm the spirit!

  9. Thanks Gwen - when I look back on that night it really was magical.

  10. Hi Dave - I know the tree you refer to - think it was the storyteller Eddie Lenihan who spoke out about the thorn originally.
    There are many Fairy Thorns across Ireland often they have rags or offerings tied to the branches and are associated with the Good People who gather beneath them at Samhain / Bealtaine. Other can be found near holy wells which have a cure in the well water.
    Woe betide anyone who cuts down a Fairy Thorn!
    Thanks for your interest.

  11. What a lovely reminder of the ceremonies which truly celebrate this time. Great photo. The banked fire must have been a delight.

  12. Hello Carol - Yes, the fire was wonderful and I was lucky to have my camera with me at the time.
    Thank you for commenting.

  13. I'll be lighting a fire next weekend! Thank you for the direction!

  14. Hope you have a great time Paul - will raise a glass to you!


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