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The Spirits of Samhain

While Americans are busy filling up plastic orange pumpkins with candy and hanging spooky, sparkly spiders around the porch, the spirits of Samhain are roaming the foggy dells

Young lovers enjoy an evening out during Samhain.

Young lovers enjoy an evening out during Samhain.

of Ireland as they have for thousands of years.

The Celts have

always believed that the season marking the line between the sunny warmth of summer and the dark cold of winter is the time when the veil between life and death is the thinnest. This makes Samhain (SAH-win, meaning summer’s end) the best time of the year for spirits to pass through and mingle among the living.

Fire and food factor heavily into the celebration of Samhain. In ancient days bonfires were lit to both warm the living and keep the evil spirits at bay. Fire was also believed to aid the waning sun in its journey through winter and the underworld.

John Gilroy writes in Tlachtga: Celtic Fire Festival, “Now the sun has descended into the

 

realm of the underworld, the forces of the underworld were in the ascendency. The lord of the underworld…now walked the earth and with him travelled all those other creatures from the abode of the dead. Ghosts, fairies and a host of other non-descript creatures went with him.

"Jazz Hands"

“Jazz Hands”

Animals and crops were usually thrown into the burning fire as a sacrifice to the dead and

Who let the dogs out?

Who let the dogs out?

the powers from the underworld. Home hearths were snuffed out and relit from the year’s bonfires to symbolize a new beginning and to bring protection from the coming winter.

Bountiful food was cooked and offered to the dead both to appease the evil spirits and to

Can I bug you for a cup of candy?

Can I bug you for a cup of candy?

honor deceased ancestors. Foods that we still associate with autumn, like apples and pumpkin recipes, were common Samhain offerings.

Costumes also played a part in traditional Samhain celebrations. Thinking a disguise would trick evil spirits into passing by, people created masks and gowns to hide from the ghosts and spooks roaming the world looking for someone to destroy. People often celebrated their ancestors as well by adding adornments to the costumes that honored someone beloved who had crossed to the other world.

This Halloween – whether you dress up in costume, bob for apples, or enjoy a pumpkin-spiced drink by the bonfire – you should raise a toast to those Celtic spirits wandering the landscape of Ireland and the traditions they bring with them every year.

Halloween night in Weston the local Main Street Merchants have trick or treat, come downtown and get some treats and meet your neighbors!

 


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Irish Music

homepage_musicMention Irish music and your audience may think of ancient harps, tin whistles, and Irish jigs. Or they may think of a bald Sinead O’Connor, a politically-charged U2 concert, and the Cranberries belting out “Linger” to a wild crowd. There’s room for all of that variety in the history of one of the world’s most musical cultures.

Ireland’s largest musical festival, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, is also the world’s largest traditional music festival. Up to 400,000 people annually enjoy a week’s worth of music performed mostly by amateurs, all celebrating the wide variety of infectious and moving music that has made its own genre in Ireland and beyond.

Yet, distinctive as the lilt of traditional Irish music sounds, historians tell us its origins are actually the Far East. The Celts brought that eastern influence to the British Isles more than 2,000 years ago. In fact, the iconic Irish harp is believed to have originated in Egypt. But it was the Celtic people who combined the sound of the harp with tin whistles, the Irish flute, the fiddle, the uilleann pipes, and the bodhrán.

Irishman Paul Murphy developed an infographic detailing the evolution of Irish music. It details the first written collection of Irish music appearing in 1762. By the mid-1800s the Irish were emigrating in great numbers and taking their Irish music with them all over the world, but particularly to America. Musical recordings are found as early as the 1920s. However, it was music lecturer Sean O’Riada who brought Irish music into the professional spotlight in the 1960s. The 1970s are considered “The Golden Age” and led directly to the wildly popular “Celtic Fusion” of the 1980s, the popularity of which continues today.

“I started with rock n’ roll and…then you start to take it apart like a child with a toy and you see there’s blues and there’s country…Then you go back from country into American music…and you end up in Scotland and Ireland eventually.” – Elvis Costello

Celtic Fusion is considered modern music infused with an influence of traditional Celtic sound or traditional Celtic music which incorporates modern sounds and instruments. However it is defined, people love it. And while everyone in the audience may not fully understand what it is they are enjoying, the joy they feel can be traced back through thousands of years of Irish music history.

Check out Weston’s own Irish festival at O’Malley’s Irish Pub October 9-11. 


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