Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Traditions in Bantry


This is the original published sort version of Halloween agus Samhian



This post on our timeline by Maureen Hurley is so good we decided to share it with you all. Thanks Maureen.

Hallowe'en (aka All Hallows Eve—an Irish Catholic tradition supplanted older pagan Samhain traditions) was introduced to Scotland. And then it was introduced to America by the Irish, not the Scots.

As a child, my grandmother carved turnips (or swedes, or mangles—any big pithy round roots used for cow fodder) in Bantry during the 1890s. Turnips were used as lanterns, candles were placed in the window. It was also a tradition to let the hearth fire die, clean the hearth, and then the sacred tradition of relighting it—from the flame of those travelling turnips. Out with the old, in with the new. It was New Year's Eve, after all!

Wearing masks (as a disguise) and using bull roarers to scare off spirits—were all part and parcel of a long ongoing tradition of Hallowe'en. My grannie was thoroughly disgusted by the American tradition of Trick or Treat. She said in Ireland, one had to dance and sing, or recite a poem or story, and then, if one was good, they might be given a treat, or a ha-penny if they were very, very good. One was expected to trot out one's best pony show. Move over, Simon Cowell.

As to the Scottish Hallowe'en connection: much of Glasgow (and River Clyde) environs—especially the slums—was heavily settled and continuously resettled by waves of itinerant Catholic Irish workers—through the industrial revolution.



Someone wrote in another post: "a small fact that Halloween started in Scotland in 16th century and this was a A modern jack-o'-lantern is typically a carved pumpkin, although originally typically large turnips. It is associated chiefly with the holiday of Samhain and Halloween and was named after the phenomenon of strange light flickering over peat bogs, called ignis fatuus or jack-o'-lantern.lol"

That became the impetus to write this piece. 



Hallowe'en, An Irish Tradition

Hallowe'en (aka All Hallows Eve—an Irish Catholic tradition supplanted older pagan Samhain traditions) was introduced to Scotland. And then it was introduced to America by the Irish, not the Scots.

As a child, my grandmother carved turnips (or swedes, or mangles—any big pithy round roots used for cow fodder) in Bantry during the 1890s. Turnips were used as lanterns, candles were placed in the window. It was also a tradition to let the hearth fire die, clean the hearth, and then the sacred tradition of relighting it—from the flame of those traveling turnips. Out with the old, in with the new. It was New Year's Eve, after all!

Wearing masks (as a disguise) and using bull roarers to scare off spirits—were all part and parcel of a long ongoing tradition of Hallowe'en. My grannie was thoroughly disgusted by the American tradition of Trick or Treat. She said, in Ireland, one had to dance and sing, or recite a poem or story, and then, if one was good, they might be given a treat, or a ha-penny if they were very, very good. One was expected to trot out one's best pony show. Move over, Simon Cowell.

Hallowe'en agus Samhain


                                                                                    Newgrange, 1905 —Wiki


For the fairy mounds of Erinn are always opened about Hallowe'en. —Expedition of Nera. (Meyer trans.)
Oíche Shamhna! Hallowe'en, aka All Hallows Eve(n), has its roots in an Irish Catholic tradition that supplanted ancient pagan Celtic Samhain traditions, and was introduced to Scotland ca. the 16th century, and to America in the 19th century.

Someone had posted a thread on Facebook that Hallowe'en (or Samhain) was a Scottish tradition (versus Irish—or even a shared Celtic tradition) that got me all in a lather. 
He wrote: "a small fact that halloween started in scotland in 16th century and this was a A modern jack-o'-lantern is typically a carved pumpkin, although originally typically large turnips. It is associated chiefly with the holiday of Samhain and Halloween and was named after the phenomenon of strange light flickering over peat bogs, called ignis fatuus or jack-o'-lantern.lol") 
Note that I left the fellow's punctuation & spelling intact—stet. LOL, indeed.

Samhain/ Hallowe'en customs may have traveled to Scotland, but, for the record, the Scots didn't invent it. Not sure where that misconception arose. Maybe it's the word Hallowe'en itself, allegedly a Scots phrase, that leads to this red herring.

This is not to say that Hallowe'en/Samhain isn't celebrated in Scotland. As to a Scottish-Irish connection: it occurred to me (as I was gnashing my teeth) that during recent times, much of the east end of Glasgow was heavily settled by Irish immigrants (as well as the Barrowland), and along the River Clyde wherever there were shipyards. 


One could also include most of Renfrewshire in that Irish matrix—especially Johnstone, one epicenter of the Industrial Revolution: paper, flax, cotton mills, lathes—has distinct boundaries between the Protestant and Irish Catholic parts of town.

Glasgow slums were heavily settled by, and continuously resettled by waves of itinerant Irish Catholic workers—especially after the Irish Famine. Harvest/Fall traditions carried to Scotland from Ireland took root. 


If one goes back far enough, much of Scotland—especially the Highlands, was settled by the Dalriadan Irish—who spoke Gaelic, and brought their customs with them. 

October 31 has been a big mojo date in the Celtic Irish world for at least 2000 years—with and without church sanction. All ancient Irish epic tales (dating back 2000 years, but recorded in the 6-10th centuries) include many traditions we now associate with Hallowe'en—and most tales begin on the last day of the old harvest year, Samhain, when the gates to the Otherworld open. 

But Hallowe'en customs in Scotland seem to arise a bit later on the event horizon. Curious to know as to when they arise in Isle of Man? There seems to be a strong link in the Goidelic-speaking regions (vs. Brythonic).

Hallowe'en arose because the older Celtic pagan traditions worshipping ancestors and mythological deities needed to be Catholicised and brought into the churchfold: hence we have All Hallows Eve(n), All Saints Day and All Souls Day


Think of the feast days as a hierarchical list of who got to heaven, or not—and it gave the living souls a chance to boost the fannies of the tarnished souls of their ancestors and dearly departed ones a notch up the corporate ladder of purgatory. And so Hallowe'en was church sanctioned, as it were—just like México's El Día de los Muertos (originally celebrated in August.)
From Wiki: Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl
If you can pronounce the name of the Aztec queen of the underworld, that flaca star-swallower, Mictecacihuatl, then you get ten purgatorial points. 

BTW—there's a reason why there are shared customs in both the Old, and New World. In the 9th c., Pope Boniface IV decided to show those heathens a thing or two and Christinised the holidays (holy days). Not really, it was more complicated than that. Besides, the New World hadn't been "discovered" yet. Detail.

According to Halloween Facts and Misinformation: "Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to the Virgin Mary. The date was later changed to Nov 1 by Pope Gregory III who dedicated a chapel in honor of all saints in the Vatican Basilica."

Well, that certainly explains a lot. Like someone giving directions to their home and becoming increasingly incoherent as they get closer to home and you drive around the block trying to find home.
Wiki Answers posted: "Boniface IV introduced All Saints Day to replace the pagan feast of Lemures - in which malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated. It took place on/about the 13th of May and All Saints replaced it. All Saints Day was moved to November 1 by Pope Gregory III (731-741) and the previous May 13th day was then discontinued." 
I'm sorry, the festival you are seeking is no longer in service. Please check your calends and try again.

Take three:
All Saints Day on Nov. 1 in England, and such a celebration also existed in Salzburg, Austria. Ado of Vienne (d. 875) recounted how Pope Gregory IV asked King Louis the Pious (778-840) to proclaim Nov. 1 as All Saints Day throughout the Holy Roman Empire.
It took another hundred years for the entire Catholic Church to celebrate the saints on one single day. Pope Gregory IV (827-834) declared November 1 as the new date to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Martyrs and expanded it to include all saints, not just those who died for their faith. All Hallow's Eve, the vigil, was celebrated on October 31.
So, who dunnit? Bonyface or Gregory? I found this on a rather rabid Christian site. (I feel the need to post it in 6-point type and eliminate all adjectives, and past perfect tense references so I shortened it a bit. —Maureen : 1)
By the first century A.D., the Romans conquered Celtic territory and adopted (some) traditions as their own. Since the Catholic church... became the official religion of the Roman Empire, pagan rituals were incorporated by the church (to make) Catholicism more appealing to the heathen(s).
In the 6th century, "Gregory the Great (A.D. 540-604) advised the Archbishop of Canterbury to retain Druid sacrifices (REALLY???)and celebrate them in honor of the Christian saints" (Occult ABC, Kurt Koch, p. 87).
During the 7th century, in an attempt to replace the Celtic festival with a similiar, but "holier" holiday, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 as a time to honor "saints and martyrs" and called it "All Saints' Day". This celebration was also known as All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from the Middle English word "Alholowmesse", (or) All Saints' Day) and the night before, Samhain, (was) called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.
Then in the year 1000, the Catholic church set up November 2 to be All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated much like Samhain, with bonfires, parades, while the people dressed as saints, angels, and devils. 
However it all went down, the secular aspect of Hallowe'en certainly caught fire in America a few centuries later.

The first historical reference of Hallowe'en in America dates back to 1919, The Book of Hallowe'en—written by a Massachusetts librarian, Ruth Edna Kelley. She credited the Famine Irish with bringing to the new world, Hallowe'en customs. 

The place of the old lord of the dead, the Tuatha god Saman, to whom vigil was kept and prayers said on November Eve for the good of departed souls, was taken in Christian times by St. Colomba or Columb Kill, the founder of a monastery in Iona in the fifth century. In the seventeenth century the Irish peasants went about begging money and goodies for a feast, and demanding in the name of Columb Kill that fatted calved and black sheep be prepared. In place of the Druid fires, candles were collected and lighted on Hallowe'en, and prayers for the souls of the givers said before them. The name of Saman is kept in the title "Oidhche Shamhna," "vigil of Saman," by which the night of October 31st was until recently called in Ireland. The Book of Hallowe'en
AS in Ireland the Scotch Baal festival of November was called Samhain. Western Scotland, lying nearest Tara, center alike of pagan and Christian religion in Ireland, was colonized by both the people and the customs of eastern Ireland.The November Eve fires which in Ireland were replaced by candles and were continued in Scotland. In Buchan, where was the altar-source of the Samhain fire, bonfires were lighted on hilltops in the eighteenth century; and in Moray the idea of fires of thanksgiving for harvest was kept to as late as 1866. The Book of Hallowe'en 
Speaking of fire, of course, there were no flashlights (or torches) and glass chimneys were not always an option, way back when, so carving a turnip root lantern makes sense if one wanted any form of light at night whether in Scotland or Ireland. Just try using a naked candle outside at night—even if there's no wind (or rain) you're blindsided by it. Turnip lanterns were a brilliant, if practical rural invention—like organic alabaster lamps.

As a child, my grandmother carved turnips (or swedes, or even mangles—any big pithy round roots used for cow fodder) in Bantry during the 1890s. Turnips were used as lanterns, candles were placed in the window. 

This is what I turniped on the Irish ancestors of Jack O'lanterns:
"The turnip or white turnip (Brassica rapa, subsp. rapa) is a root vegetable grown in temperate climates for its white, bulbous taproot. Small, tender varieties are grown for human consumption, larger varieties as feed for livestock. In northern England and Scotland, the turnip is called neep; the word turnip is an old compound of neep. Neep also refers to the larger, yellow rutabaga AKA the "swede" (from "Swedish turnip")." —Wiki
In Scots, it is known as "turnip," "tumshie" or "neep" (from Old English næp, Latin napus). In North-East England, turnips and swedes are colloquially called "snadgers" or "snaggers" (archaic). Wiki
Apparently a rutabaga (Brassica napus, subsp. rapifera), or yellow turnip, is a (natural?) cross between a cabbage and a turnip. First noted in 1620 by a Swiss biologist. this sordid little love affair was also noted by Carl Linnaeus in 1753 because the resulting crossbreeding doubled its chromosomes. This relationship is aka the Triangle of U. 
Rutabagas were carved out and used as candle lanterns in Halloween celebrations in Scotland and Ireland. —Wiki
Whether kålrot, or steckrübe, or or rotabagge—the old Swedish word rotabagge, meant "root ram"; or turnips were used as root lanterns, the root vegetables were considered famine foods, fit only for livestock. So the origin of Jack O'lanterns was really a poor man's torch. Somehow our family survived the Great Potato Faminean Gorta Mór (1845-52), in the hills of Coomanore, and I suspect it was because they ate lots of turnips.

It was also an Irish tradition to let the hearth fire die, clean the hearth, and then the sacred tradition of relighting it—from the flame of those traveling turnips. Out with the old, in with the new. It was New Year's Eve, after all! 

My great-grandfather also used to run his cattle between two bonfires, on his farm in the hills of Coomanore. My grandmother told me he also filled an oak (whiskey?) barrel with tar, set it alight and rolled it down the hill. An Irish Catherine wheel of sorts. (The Walsh farm, Coomanore.) 

Wearing masks (as a disguise) and using bull roarers to scare off spirits—were all part and parcel of a long ongoing tradition of Hallowe'en. There was a plenitude of food for the dead—soul cakes, and apples and nuts. In my grandmother's time, prized Valencia oranges—a luxury item wrapped in foil—was also given as gifts. There was scrying in water or mirrors—if you owned one. Then there was the barmbrack cake with its symbolic thimble, ring and penny baked inside. (See James Joyce's The Dead.)

My grannie was thoroughly disgusted by the American tradition of Trick or Treat. She said, in Ireland, one had to dance and sing, or recite a poem or story, and then, if one was good, they might be given a treat, or an orange or a ha-penny if they were very, very good. One was expected to trot out one's best pony show. Move over, Simon Cowell.


An Irish turnip lantern from the early 20th century at the Museum of Country Life 

Scotland's 'Neepi lantern' tradition under threat (BBC video) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-11649809

Here's a link to a long-winded Rabbie Burns Hallowe'en poem. Here's hoping he earned his tuppence! I won't mention how Rabbie "borrowed" Renfrewshire's Kilbarchan piper-poet-weaver Habbie Simson's (1550–1620) poetic form—lock, stock and barrel. The so-called "Burns stanza" is also known as "the standard Habbie." 

From Wiki: The origin of the word Hallowe'en is Christian, the holiday has pagan roots linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain", from the Old Irish for "summer's end". Samhain (sah-win or sow-in) was the first & most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Gaelic (Irish, Scottish and Manx) calendar. It was held on or about October 31 – November 1 and kindred festivals were held at the same time of year in other Celtic lands; for example the Brythonic Calan Gaeaf (in Wales), Kalan Gwav (in Cornwall) and Kalan Goañv (in Brittany). Samhain is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain. It marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the 'darker half' of the year. This was a time for stock-taking and preparing for the cold winter ahead; cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and livestock were slaughtered. In much of the Gaelic world, bonfires were lit and there were rituals involving them.[15] Some of these rituals hint that they may once have involved human sacrifice.Divination games or rituals were also done at Samhain.
...Before the 20th c, wearing costumes at Samhain was done in parts of Ireland, Mann, the Scottish Highlands and islands, and Wales. Wearing costumes may have originated as a means of disguising oneself from harmful spirits/fairies, although some suggest that the custom comes from a Christian or Christianized belief. In Ireland, people went about before nightfall collecting for Samhain feasts and sometimes wore costumes. In the 19th century on Ireland's southern coast, a man dressed as a white mare would lead youths door-to-door collecting food; by giving them food, the household could expect good fortune from the 'Muck Olla'. In Moray during the 18th century, boys called at each house in their village asking for fuel for the Samhain bonfire. The modern custom of trick-or-treating may have come from these practices. Alternatively, it may come from the Christian custom of souling.
Making jack-o'-lanterns at Halloween may also have sprung from Samhain and Celtic beliefs. Turnip lanterns, sometimes with faces carved into them, were made on Samhain in the 19th century in parts of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands. As well as being used to light one's way while outside on Samhain night, they may also have been used to represent the spirits/fairies and/or to protect oneself and one's home from them.
Also From Wiki: Samhain is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature. Many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain...It was linked with All Saints' Day (and later All Souls' Day) since the 9th century, when the date of that holiday was shifted to November 1. Both have strongly influenced the secular customs of Halloween. 
In Modern Irish the name is Samhain [ˈsˠaunʲ], in Scottish Gaelic Samhainn/Samhuinn [ˈsaũ.iɲ], and in Manx Gaelic Sauin. These are also the names of November in each language, shortened from Mí na Samhna (Irish), Mì na Samhna (Scottish Gaelic) and Mee Houney (Manx). The night of 31 October (Halloween) is Oíche Shamhna (Irish), Oidhche Shamhna (Scottish Gaelic) and Oie Houney (Manx), all meaning "Samhain night". 1 November, or the whole festival, may be called Lá Shamhna (Irish), Là Shamhna (Scottish Gaelic) and Laa Houney (Manx), all meaning "Samhain day".
These names all come from the Old Irish samain, samuin or samfuin [ˈsaṽɨnʲ] all referring to 1 November (latha na samna: 'samhain day'), and the festival and royal assembly held on that date in medieval Ireland (oenaig na samna: 'samhain assembly'). Its meaning is glossed as 'summer's end', and the frequent spelling with f suggests analysis by popular etymology as sam ('summer') and fuin ('end'). The Old Irish sam is from Proto-Indo-European (PIE) *semo-; cognates include Welsh haf, Breton hañv, English summer and Old Norse sumar, all meaning 'summer', and the Sanskrit sáma ('season').

A little Vid: How did Halloween make its way to the United States? And how did our foremothers and their families practice it?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Jerry Brown Sighting

Today, I saw a familiar figure turn and approach my sample booth where I was serving Halloween cake samples—I recognized those ears. The way they stuck out. I was surprised no one in the store noticed who it was. 

So I started clapping, and soon others joined me. 

Jerry Brown approached my table, smiling. 

I said You should be out running around Lake Merritt. 

He said I just was! 

I laughed and fed him cake—we chit-chatted. I said to the gathering crowd Jerry Brown gave me my first California Arts Council Artist in Residency grant at Mark West School in Santa Rosa. 

He said You don't say. 

I said I voted. 

He said, Good. Where's the salmon.

I yelled to a co-worker, Can you please show the Governor where the salmon is? Fish of wisdom.

I thought my co-worker was going to die of shock as he led the governor over to the fresh produce section.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Old Oakland Poster




Oakland, California
Where Ship and Rail Meet
The terminus of three transcontinental railways

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Patriotic Citizen

Today Neil became a US citizen and someone at the ashram gave him a silk scarf as a gift—it had the American flag woven into it. I though, oh, that's nice. Then he said who it belonged to: Alan Beavan—the man who singlehandedly kept Flight 93 from crashing into the White House. And gave up his life. Now, that was an act of real patriotism. I burst into tears, surprised that the aftermath 9/11 still burns so bright the psyche after all these years.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

On the Scots Tongue

Most of the sentiment of an article posted on Facebook, The Scots Language and its European Roots, by Dr. Sheila Douglas, on the development of the Scots Tongue, is of great interest. But it reminds me of something my Celtic Studies professor, Dan Melia loved to quote: "A language is a dialect with an army and navy."

It seems that the author, Dr. Sheila Douglas plays a bit fast and loose with facts—perhaps trying to overprove a point for nationalism's sake. Though I agree with the author's basic premise, that Scots English evolved concurrent with what later became standard English, I find myself picking apart the argument. (Try reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight—one distinct strand of the English dialect—or the works of Blind Harry) they're almost as obtuse as Beowulf in a different dialect).

For example, much of the relationship between Danish and the broad Scots tongue can be linked via the Germanic branch of the Indo-European continuum—not necessarily a direct infusion from the Danish (or Dutch).

One statement concerning Gaelic is too generalized and therefore, is misleading: "Gaelic is also a language with European roots linked to other languages like Irish, Welsh and Breton."

For starters, Irish, was also called Gaelic until quite recently. It predates Scots Gaelic—which is, in itself, a dialect of Donegal Irish, having come from Ireland to begin with.

Ireland was called Scotia Major by the Romans, and Scotland—Scotia Minor. Scotland was predominantly settled by the Irish.

Orthography (spelling) has changed since the 18th c.—especially in Irish. But the "languages" are still mutually intelligible. Ergo, they are dialects—as is Manx—though the Manx orthography is phonetic English—you have to read it aloud to hear the words.

All three languages are from the Goidelic branch of Celtic languages—they are not similar to the Brythonic branch of Celtic languages: Cumbrian, Pictish, Cornish, Welsh and Breton, though they are all Celtic languages and share the same ancestry-predating the Germanic tree, BTW.

The only Celtic language that's "European"—I think what the author means, is, from the Continent, versus insular (from Britain), is Breton—which probably evolved from a Welsh settlement in Brittany. So it was a rather poor example—thus eroding the veracity of the argument.

Monday, October 8, 2012

John Tchikai 2936-2012

John Tchikai
April 28, 1936 — October 8, 2012

I don't rememeber when I did this drawing of John, I was with Ken Bullock. We had dinner at Ken's parents' place in Inverness, and also went to a couple of John's concerts, in Davis and SF.