Sunday, October 08, 2006

Samhain Nears

Many of you know that the Hibees are in preparation for the first of the four great fire festivals, Samhain, or the festival of Celtic New Year, so I thought it may be instructive to throw out periodically some of the lore behind the event. Samhain Lesson #1: We are entering the season of death, the end of yet another cycle and the beginning of another, the end of a time of light, warmth, and abundance and the beginning of a time of darkness, cold, and dearth. During the ritual fire of Samhain we will summon to our circle the god Cernunnos, or Herne, the Horned One, the Stag Lord, Lord of the Animals, shape-shifting Lord of the Hunt and Lord of the Forest. Cernunnos, the powerful spirit of the Sacred Grove, connector of the visible and invisible, guardian of the gateway between the worlds of the living and the dead, reveals himself at that time of the year when the veil between worlds is lifted and the dead once again walk with us.

All around Him subtle movements of the leaves in melodious, singing air. Everywhere the pulsing, gleaming Green awash in drifts of gold and shimmering mist. Beneath Him soft moss creeping over the dark, deep, moist of spawning earth. At His feet the great Cauldron from which the Five Rivers Flow. Through the forest stillness they come, whispering wings and secret glide, rustling leaves, and silent step, the first Ancestors, the Oldest Animals, to gather around Him: Blackbird, Keeper of the Gate; Stag of Seven Tines, Master of Time; Ancient Owl, Crone of the Night; Eagle, Lord of the Air, Eye of the Sun; and Salmon, Oldest of the Old, Wisest of the Wise leaping from the juncture of the Five Springs. He welcomes them and blesses them, and they honor Him, Cernnunos of the nut brown skin and lustrous curling hair. The god whose eyes flash star-fire, whose flesh is a reservoir of ancient waters, His cells alive with Mystery, original primeval essence. He wears a crown of antlers limned in green fire and twined with ivy. In his right hand the Torq of gold, testament of his nobility and his sacred pledge. In his left hand the horned serpent symbol of his power sacred to the Goddess. Cernnunos in His Ancient Forest, His Sacred Temple, His Holy Grove, Cernnunos and His children dream the Worlds. In his Underworld aspect Cernunnos is the Dark Man, he god who dwells in the House Beneath the Hill, the Underword. He is th eone who comforts and sings the souls of th dead to their rest in the Othrworld.

Though he is depicted as human or half-human with an antler crown, his concerns are mostly non-human. Protector of the animals, Cernunnos governs the hunt and the harvest and presides over our own deeply buried, dimly recalled, animal instincts. As master of the Sacrificial Hunt and Lord of Initiation, his is the life that is given in service to the new; his wisdom is understanding that the old must pass in order to make way or the new, and, therefore, it is to him that we call on to oversee our Samhain festival. Cernunnos has also been associated, most famously by Shakespeare, with demonic energy and protection in times of national emergency and crisis, the embodiment of uncorrupted masculine energy, fully developed and in balance with the natural world. Even earlier Irish stories describe Cernunnos, or Uindos, as the son of the high god Lugh, and he is called a great hunter, warrior, and poet. In all these regards he is the perfect accompaniment to the initiation rites of the Hibernians during Samhain, our celebration of death, new life, new membership, and the beginning of what promises to be a year of personal trials, discovery, significant transformation, and overall good fellowship amongst brothers.

The path to Cernnunos is both through the natural world: seeking out the wild places and a deep understanding of the processes of growth, bounty, decay, rest, and rebirth, and through Otherworld journeys to the Middleworld forest of which he is guardian. One may experience this both actually and symbolically by following the path that disappears over the horizon into the distance and moves away from the "civilized" world and into the heart of the Wild Wood. Often experienced as traveling away from the centre to the perimeter, this is in actuality a return to the Centre. When the seeker reaches the god's forest the track ends, and her/his pathways are found by other means. After entering the Wildwood the seeker cannot be followed, nor can s/he follow another. Whatever pathways are discovered disappear in passing, and the Wood is trackless once again, for each one's way is different. In the Forest of Cernnunos there is a stillness, an otherworldly feeling, as if one has passed out of time. Here the mind is not supreme. It is instinct, the innate wisdom of the body that guides us to Him.
[acknowledgements to]

The Old God sleeps
down in the dark, moist,
odorous underfoot,
Waiting for us
To put down our roots.

Now to all of you non-Hibees out there who are thoroughly convinced that I've gone off the deep-end, I reply in the word's of General McAuliffe at Bastogne: NUTS! oh, and 'a pox upon your house' just for good measure. We can't be scared of being different if we wish to make a difference!


A Wolfe In Sheep's Clothing said...
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A Wolfe In Sheep's Clothing said...

Those images are going to give me nightmares.