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SEANCHAS-L  November 2010

SEANCHAS-L November 2010

Subject:

Re: Samhain - Cross Quarter Day - November 7th

From:

Charles DeVane <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

List for Scholars and Students of Gaelic Folk Traditions <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 9 Nov 2010 09:04:40 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (178 lines)

Bernard,

Here are some references clearly showing Samhain to be in the Fall
(based on the offerings being made) and also to be completely distinct
from Bealtain (and also being a half a year away from it). I hope that
you can see why people don't accept a springtime Samhain:


Pagan Ireland Vol. 1 Eleanor Hull

Again, a wise king named Ollamh Fodhla, or Fola the Learned, is
remembered because he established the Feis of Tara, which met, as you
will remember, once in every three years at Samhain (Sowan) in
November to examine the Records of the Kingdom, to establish and
promulgate the Laws, and for a week of public

festivities. It was he who arranged the order in which the guests were
to enter the Banqueting House, and caused them to sit according to
rank; he also made a wise law, that if any quarrel arose during the
seven days of the Convention of Tara and a man struck another with a
weapon intending to kill him, he should inevitably suffer death. Not
even the king himself had power to pardon a crime committed in the
king's own house during the continuance of the peaceful Feast against
one under his protection.

***

The second invader, Neimheadh (Neve), is said to have come from
Scythia. His people were terribly harassed by fleets of pirates,
called Fomorians, or searobbers, who descended upon the North coast,
and endeavoured to subdue the new settlers. These troublesome
marauders are said to have come from Africa, but it is more likely
that they came from the North of Europe. Ever afterwards in Irish
story, a cruel giant was called a Fomorian, so terrible were their
descents and so frightened were the settlers of them.

The Neimhedians or Nevedians conquered them in three battles, but in
spite of this they returned and avenged their defeats by enslaving the
race of Neimheadh. They imposed on them a heavy tribute. Every year at
Samhain (Sowan) or Hallowe'en, the unfortunate people had to give them
two-thirds of their children and of their corn, and of their
milch-kine, besides flour and cream and butter in abundance. This tax
was collected by a female steward, named Liagh; and at the last this
tax aroused so much indignation, that the oppressed people gathered
together and besieged the Fomorians in Tory Island off the coast of
Donegal, where they had built a fortress and where they kept their
fleet. They destroyed the tower, but as fresh companies of robbers
continued to arrive on the coasts, the children of Neimheadh finally
decided to leave the country, and after long preparations they all
scattered in different directions and settled in other lands, leaving
only a small remnant behind.

***

Public Assemblies.

Now all these days were, in Ireland, the occasion of ceremonials of a
semi-religious kind. They were specially marked as the times at which
the chief public assemblies were held in different parts of the
kingdom. The meetings were held once a year or once in three years,
partly as fairs and markets, partly for the transaction of the public
business of the tribe or kingdom, and partly as places of holiday,
where horse-racing, and feats of strength, and games of various kinds
were carried on. These frequent assemblies were not only very pleasant
outings, but they no doubt brought the members of the clan together
and -made them feel their unity. The most important of all these
meetings was the Feis of Tara, which took place at Samhain every third
year at the beginning, but more irregularly in later times. Often in
troubled years it did not meet for a long time together; and it was a
sign that the country was peaceful and prosperous if it met regularly.
At it all the married men of a certain rank assembled from over the
whole country, and the Feis lasted for seven or more days. It was
established by a king named Ollamh Fodla, who was both wise and great,
and whose desire it was to settle the laws of the kingdom on a firm
foundation. Tara, the palace of the High King where the Feis took
place is in Co. Meath, about an hour's journey from Dublin. The Feis
began with a splendid public banquet in the Mead-Hall or Banqueting
Hall, over which the king presided in person. Then the public
transactions of the kingdom were gone into and discussed, the laws
recited, the genealogies carefully examined and corrected, and other
official business disposed of; when all this was done, the people gave
themselves up to feasting and amusements, particularly to
horse-racing, of which the Irish have been fond from the earliest
times, and to buying and selling at the fair. The Feis was divided
into two chief parts: the Dal or airecht for political, legislative
and judicial affairs and for the making and proclamation of laws and
treaties; and the aenach, or fair, for commerce and pleasure. At these
great central markets foreigners and farmers from various parts
brought their wares and cattle to sell; here, too, the chief or king
filled up the ranks of his forces, and military expeditions were
planned and prepared for; here women-slaves were purchased or hired
for the year. Here anyone, even the chiefs or kings, who had a cause
of complaint brought it before the assembly, and it was discussed and
judgment given by the Brehons, with the assent of all present. Even
King Cormac mac Airt appealed at the Feis of Uisnech against the
warrior who had put out his eye, and thus rendered him unfit to reign
as Ard-Righ of Tarsi.

The other fairs of Uisnech, of Taillte, of Emain Macha, of Cruachan,
and of Carmen, were all smaller gatherings, intended for their own
provinces, but they were in all respects, except in their importance
and solemnity, copied from the Feis of Tara. Some were annual, some
held only once in three years. Here the chief men of each tribe met
one another, and got to know each other as they could not otherwise
have done; and there is no doubt that these fairs must have been much
looked forward to. Women attended some of them. At the fair of Carmen,
held in Leinster once in three years at Lughnasadh, they pleaded their
causes before a separate court, into which the men might not enter;
nor might they go into the men's assembly. They sat apart on the
"slope of the embroidering women," doing the beautiful handiwork for
which the Irish girls were famed. The cooking was done on one side of
the hill, the horse-racing on another, while the marketplace was
divided into three portions, one for the live stock, one for the sale
of food, and the third for the display of foreign goods, ornaments,
and articles of dress.

***

Keating’s History of Ireland:

There was slavery and great oppression afterwards on the race of
Neimheadh by the Fomorians, revenging the battles which Neimheadh had
gained over them. Morc, indeed, son of Deileadh, and Conaing, son of
Faobhar, from whom is named Tor Conaing on the border of Ireland north
[who] had a fleet, and they residing in Tor Conaing which is called
Toirinis, enforcing a tribute on the children of Neimheadh: and the
extent of that tribute was two thirds of the children, and of the
corn, and of the milch-kine of the men of Ireland, to be offered to
them every year on the eve of Samhain at Magh gCéidne between the
Drobhaois and the Eirne. It is why it is called Magh gCéidne from the
frequency (with which) the tribute was brought to the same plain.

***

It was Aodh, son of Ainmire, who convened the great assembly of Drom
Ceat, where there was a convention of the nobles and of the clergy of
Ireland. And Aodh had three chief reasons for calling together that
assembly. The first reason was to banish the filés from Ireland,
because of their being so great a burden and because it was so
difficult to rule them. For the ollamh's retinue numbered thirty, and
there were fifteen in the retinue of the anroth, that is, the person
who was next to the ollamh in poetic rank; and about that time nearly
a third of the men of Ireland belonged to the poetic order, and they
quartered themselves from Samhain to Bealltaine on the men of Ireland.
Now Aodh, son of Ainmire, judging that they were a heavy burden to
Ireland, decided to banish them from the entire kingdom. Another
reason, too, that Aodh had for banishing the filés was that they went
to demand a gold bodkin that was in his mantle. Now this was a bodkin
that each king left as an heirloom to each succeeding king, and it was
their inordinate demand of this bodkin that incited Aodh to drive them
out, so that they were banished to Dal Riada of Ulster. The filés had
been dismissed before then in the time of Conchubhar, son of Neasa,
king of Ulster, on account of their unjust demands.

***

From R.A.S. Macalister’s Lebor Gabála:

Grains

Corn – 2/3 of the corn was paid in tribute to the Fomoraig at Mag
Cetne by the Nemedians each year at Samhain. During the reign of
Berngal only a sack and a half of corn was ransomed in Ireland. God
sent great vengeances upon the Aithech Túatha so that they had no corn
…” (source: Macalister, LGE, Vol. 3, p. 139, 173; Vol. 5, p. 455)

Wheat - “Nel provides wine and wheat to the peoples of God for
provision”. 2/3 of the wheat was paid in tribute to the Fomoraig at
Mag Cetne by the Nemedians each year at Samhain. Ith declares of
Ireland “good is the land wherein ye dwell; plenteous its fruit, its
honey, its wheat and its fish.” Saint Patrick promised Lugaid Lonn
“wheat without ploughing”. There was a shower of wheat at the birth of
Niall Frossach and during the reign of Máel-Sechlainn. (source:
Macalister, LGE, Vol. 2, p. 35, 59; Vol. 3, p. 123; Vol. 5, p. 17,
361, 393, 405)

Searles O'Dubhain

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