Tuesday, October 15, 2013

31 Days of Inspired Holidays: day 15: Meaning of Samhain

So - what is it with Yule that makes it so special to us Europeans? (I'm talking about Europeans only, because I know nothing about the others on this planet and how they relate to Yule; and with Europeans I mean us white people, also those in Americas and Australia and South Africa. We are all Europeans, what ever those not born in Europe think. (And with "white" people I don't only mean the shade of your skin. All humans are more or less brown, from beige, nude and blush to darkest chocolate. Skin-colored. So being "white" according to me, is having the European mindset due to having been born and raised in an European culture.)

One explanation is that Winter Solstice is the time when "Sun is reborn". The days start getting longer and the weather warmer... but it takes a couple of weeks, even months, before anything of that is noticeable.

It is also in the middle of the winter... perhaps people get tired of snow, cold and darkness after having stood out the whole November and most of December. November in Finnish is "marraskuu", the month of death and dying. Marras comes from the same root as Latin Mors.

There wasn't much one could do during winter, sit inside and try to entertain oneself the best one could. Not much light to read or craft - so most women learned quickly to knit, spin and weave without seeing what they did. Most textiles prepared during the wintertime are quite simple and pale; ordinary, everyday household things, like sheets and stockings. The fine embroidery, stranded knitting and special weaving techniques were done during the summer when there was plenty of light. (If you don't believe me, ask any crafting woman. People don't do petit points without seeing what they are doing.)

So storytellers were very popular back in the "dark" ages. One didn't need to see to listen or tell stories. Storytellers were the books of that time, and most people knew how to tell a story.

Another explanation is that midwinter was the time of "meat harvest" - slaughtering the animals - because it was so cold. Perhaps Yule is the fourth harvest feast, to celebrate the bounty of meat and God's goodness and generosity, when She brings us animals to kill...  Yule, especially in Scandinavia, is a meat-eater's dream. There's all parts of the pig prepared in different manners, ham, sausages, head cheese and trotters, pies and dishes of every kind, served with different side dishes designed to accompany the meat in the best possible way; like cranberries/lingonberries, apple, cabbage and root vegetables.

So - why wouldn't we love the time when there was plenty of food to eat, and nothing to do except listen to stories. My idea of a heaven is a huge library with plenty of big, comfy chairs, tea that is always warm and fragrant, candy, cats and a soft blankie.

To me Yule is being together with your loved ones and doing lovely things. Like eating delicious food, getting presents, playing games, reading books, watching nice movies... together.

From the earlier Samhain celebrations in my life I remember best the masquerade parties with good friends, and how lovely our home looks decorated with black and orange, with candles everywhere, and my familiar, Midde (Medea), a black cat who was very, very good at her job. :-) I remember sitting on the couch enjoying my home and she was lying in my lap and purring...

And every time I think of Samhain, I remember the feeling of having my ancestors near. I feel belonging. I am the next link on the chain from the very first beings that could be called human to this day, the eternal silver chain of life... I carry in me their blessings and their wisdom... and I feel safe. I feel loved. I feel right.

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