Samhain, (pronounced “Sow-when”) is perhaps the most auspicious time in the Ancient Irish (and Celtic) Calendar. As the day was perceived to begin at dusk with the coming of darkness, so the New Year was understood to begin with the period of gamos, the time of more darkness than light. The growing darkness of Winter was also understood to be the true start of the growing season, as seeds whose shoots would be visible in Spring germinated in the earth during gamos. This honouring of New Year that is deeply in tune with the natural cycle of Life is a powerful time when “the veils between the worlds” are at their thinnest, i.e there is a “glitch” in the spiralling of Time offering access to realms of new consciousness.
Fires countrywide were lit to illuminate these journeys into the Otherworld and to fortify our endurance in the coming darkness of Winter. The doors to the Otherworld are open, allowing us access to the place of our Ancestors and the Sídhe (i.e. “Shining Ones”, our Luminous Lineage, the Faerie Kind) and their thresholds crossed bringing us teachings and illumination. It has always been a natural time for reflection on Life-Death, personal renewal, celebration of the turning of the year and homage to those who have lived so that we may have life today.
Far from being morbid, this is a time for us to honour our loved ones who have left their physical form and passed over. As death is truly understood to be rebirth, so the Old Year is honoured and the New Year heralds the opportunity for new beginnings. Samhain is celebrated worldwide as Halloween and/or the Day of the Dead and through the Christian cultures as All Soul’s Day on October 31st/November 1st.
Since 2005 in Dunderry Park (Irish Centre for Shamanic Studies) Slí An Chroí has brought a unique Samhain Gathering. In the peaceful sanctuary of this dedicated retreat centre in a great natural setting, we offer a residential Gathering for those who are called for personal renewal, celebration and the upholding of this ancient fire festival. Attuned to the natural energies of this significant time, we focus on relevant themes while ensuring that the core honourings of the festival are met fully, making each Slí An Chroí Samhain a unique experience. The Gathering has many celebrants who return to this warm, magical and powerful community year after year. (No previous formal shamanic experience is required to attend a Samhain Celebration in Dunderry Park).
Samhain 2005: “An Allyu (Sacred Family) Reunion with Q’ero,
Samhain 2009: “Sacred Maps From The Horizon Of Samhain”
Samhain 2010: ''Celtic Sweat Lodge''
Samhain 2011: "Fire Walk"
Samhain 2012: "Celebrating Irish Celtic Samhain" - Pennsylvania, US Gathering
Samhain 2013: "Celebrating Samhain" - the Slí An Chroí ceremonies at the Mind-Body-Spirit Show, RDS Dublin.
*Please see below details of a previous Samhain Gathering to give you a flavour of this special time of community in our Slí An Chroí calendar.
Celebrating Samhain time
Friday 8pm – Sunday 4pm
Samhain is a time for adventure. It is a time for courageous stepping forth into new territories to seek new creativity, new awareness and new visions for Life. In contrast, it is also a time for stillness and stepping into ourselves, to reflect on a year passed and to acknowledge without judgement, the welfare of our hearts/souls. As one of the great fire festivals, it is apt at Samhain that we step into the sweat lodge to make that twofold journey of outward expansion and inner healing retreat. Our Ancestral stones infused by our prayers are offered to a great fire. As dusk nears, our physical bodies are cleansed with warm, herbal waters before we enter the womb-like darkness of the lodge. The first glowing, red hot stones are welcomed into the pit at the centre of the lodge and sprinkled with aromatic herbs and resins.
We breathe in the new scent and wait for the heat that will fire our individual and collective journeys. Sacred water from the Well of the White Cow, (Well of the Milky Way) at the Hill of Tara is ladled onto the stones, releasing the warmth held within them. The odyssey we take from there is unique to everyone. The perspiration we release and the heat we absorb are physical necessities to take us to places of healing and vision. John and Karen are experienced facilitators of sweat lodges and before, during and after, we will bring ritual and supervision to frame safely, your personal physical and mystical experience. This Samhain sweat lodge will honour the triskel, the triple spiral of our tradition and the lodge will be divided into three rounds, the first to Mother Earth (Danú), the second to Father Sky (Daghda) and the third to Great Spirit (Dia). Words often fail to describe the primal experience while in a lodge and they equally fail to fully paint the sense of purification, lightness and joy afterwards. Only stepping into this rewarding and ancient communal ritual that powerfully harnesses the energy of the four elements can bring us knowledge of the transformative magic of the sweat lodge.
While our sweat lodge is the core ritual of this year's Gathering, we will organise occasion for honouring our Ancestors in a way that brings greater reverence and connection to us, in physical bodies and to them, in non-physical, subtle bodies. Samhain is often celebrated as Halloween and there is much joy at dressing up, which comes from an earlier tradition of disguising oneself to avoid recognition by "ghosts". However, our shamanic tradition holds that ironically, Samhain is the time not to avoid 'ghosts', but to cease being one. It is held that our Ancestors alive in the world of pure Spirit regard those who are alive in physical body, but who are in (often fearful or ignorant) disconnection from those alive in pure Spirit, as "ghosts". It is we who can appear as "ghosts" to those who have passed over when we neglect our ability and obligation to honour the dead and when we live from no awareness that we are in essence, the Ancestors of tomorrow. The occurence of a "tear in the fabric of Time" a term often used to describe Samhain, makes this the quintessential time of the year to engage in honouring our deceased loved ones. As we say "the veils between the worlds" are at their thinnest at Samhain and we choose to seize this prized moment "to walk between the worlds", safely and compassionately. The reward is not just our own, but also that of our Ancestors.
Of course, Samhain is a time of feasting, music and song and mischief-making and this year’s edition will naturally invite craic and divilment as we celebrate with a passion. There will be the annual emergence of warm, supportive community as always and a place by the Samhain fire in the great house will always be there for you to sit with your reflections or in banter with others from the Samhain tribe. The storytelling and “trick or treating” (with the usual surprises!) will be present as always in the party atmosphere of Saturday night. Samhain will bring a return of many friends who have attended previous Gatherings as well as our Medicine Spiral students and graduates. Some will come from their familiarity with the warmth and serenity of Dunderry Park and as always there will be those new and perhaps embarking on a shamanic experience for the first time. The Slí An Chroí Samhain is a festival and a renewal for everyone. It welcomes all answering to the timeless call of Spirit at this “turn” of the year. Our practices will include too: Journeying (Immrama), Time In Nature, Mála Naofa/Mesa/Sacred Object(s) work, Prayer Bundle Making, Astrological Awareness, Working With An Sídhe (Faerie Folk).
Copyright © Slí an Chroí 2009