Celebration of the Celtic Festival of Samhain

Cabragh Wetlands’ new Centre will host a celebration of the Celtic Festival of Samhain Thursday 30th October at 8pm.

Cabragh Wetlands’ new Centre will host a celebration of the Celtic Festival of Samhain Thursday 30th October at 8pm.

Samhain is the Celtic New Year, midway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. With the harvest ending and the dark of winter descending, for our Celtic forefathers it was the time to bring the cattle down from the summer pastures, and many beasts were slaughtered to fill the larder for the winter ahead.

Bonfires were lit to defend people against the dangers of the long dark evenings, with cleansing fire allowing fairy spirits to enter our human world. Perhaps you still leave out food and drink to placate the nature spirits, and what better to way to keep the souls of the dead friendly than to invite them to join your feast? Traditions of mumming, visiting neighbours (with sometimes malevolent intentions) and trick-or-treat are also linked to Samhain. It is not hard to see how Celtic rituals have survived through to our modern Halloween Festival, with the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls placed on the key dates of November 1st and 2nd, which themselves merged to become the modern Halloween. Consider Cabragh’s celebration of Samhain as a last minute addition to the programme for the Thurles Halloween Festival!

If Samhain is the Celtic New Year, then it is the time for resolutions, new beginnings, planting over-wintering seeds and establishing young trees with their promise of new life and new hope…new beginnings.

Yesterday a flock of twelve greylag geese took off from the wetlands as walkers approached, and reminded us again of the ancient links between the species. With the summer breeding grounds in Scandinavia, Iceland and Siberia now rapidly freezing over for the next five months, it’s time to welcome the winter migrants to Ireland. After such a fantastic summer and autumn, the overwintering birds are set for a feast as they arrive over the next few weeks. The wealth of hawthorns, rose-hips, sloes (blackthorn) and holly berries adorning the hedgerows is just wonderful, with vibrant colours brightening the hedges and offering the fieldfare and redwings a bumper harvest to feed on.

The air is still full of flies and insects to feed other species, and the greatly maligned ivy has flourished in 2014, providing an abundance of nectar for insects, thick shelter for birds and other small creatures and berries that normally stay around till as late as April to provide late winter food and enable more of our fellow-creatures to survive through the harshest weather. Red Admiral and Holly Blue butterflies will be sustained by ivy. Bees will forage through ivy for the last nectar of the season for honey, and the berries could be around until April to feed blackbirds and thrushes, blackcaps and pigeons. Everything has its place, and everything matters.