In this article I hope to trace the ancient Gaelic roots of Halloween, from its earliest mentions in the ancient Irish manuscripts to the holiday we know today and also focusing on the Irish traditions of the festival and the importance of feasting, guising, fires and divination. Halloween, the festival we all know and love, […]From Ancient Samhain to Modern Halloween
Once upon a time, older people were revered and loved by the tribe. They were the wise ones everyone looked up to and asked advice from. They stayed with the little ones and taught them tales while the youth and middle aged went to forage and hunt. They were looked after and they looked after in return. There was no reason for anyone to feel “useless” because everyone shared tasks and cared for each other and everyone just ‘was’. Then we separated into groups of different ages and stages and uses and were manipulated by those who wanted more and more and only saw the value in us when we worked to make their lives better, not our own. We began to see ourselves with a sell by date. This is so wrong. Let’s change that story, lets write a new one where we just ‘are’ and where we are loved for just ‘being’ us. ❤
Nearly three years ago we decided to let the garden do what it wanted for many reasons, a rubbish lawnmower and not having the funds to buy a new one was one of them so it wasn’t all ecowarrior motives though there were some thoughts on that too of course. We had been gradually leaving more and more of it alone with pollinators in mind, perhaps it was an inevitable eventuality that we would just stop mowing.
We received some negative comments and growls on the unrulyness of it all but also a few whispers that it was a good idea and helpful to the bees. My replies to the negative comments vary from “We’re doing it for the bees” to “Someone in this village has to be messy” to “Don’t you know we are the Dingles of Ardagh?” to “Why would I use up any of my valuable time pushing a noisy polluting machine around my garden?” to my favourite of all “Lawns are a symbol of colonialism invented by the rich to shove in the face of the poor that they took all the land and didn’t need to use it for food while our ancestors died on their tiny, rented, plot of rotting potatos so why would I want to celebrate that?”
Then Annette Corkery introduced us to the idea of Acts of Restorative Kindness and the We are the Ark Organisation. https://wearetheark.org/what-is-an-ark/. Finally we could stick a sign up and let people know we were leaving our garden alone on purpose! The sign has since been overgrown. That’s what happens when you let nature go wild.
I started to write down what was growing and researching what uses they have to wildlife and to us as well. The first I took real note of was the purple vetch outside our sitting room window, we now have yellow vetch too. It buzzes for many months with various insects but the bumblebee seems particularly attracted to it. Did you know it was the first plant humans were supposed to have cultivated? You can make a flour from its peas but they’re lovely just eaten from the plant. Apparently we stopped cultivating it when we started having cattle because they are particularly attracted to it and don’t know when to stop so when we grew large quantities they broke into the area, ate it all, got colic and died and hence our first ‘weed’ was born. We decided to no longer love it but hate it. It’s not harmful in small doses, in fact it is good for the cow but too much of anything…
Dandelions are everywhere of course. The feckers seem to prefer growing in the cracks of the patio which is infuriating and no wonder they get such bad press. Luckily we can eat them in salad and teas and they pull up easily from the root so that sorts the patio ones out. Hoeing also gets rid of anger much better than spraying poison which we have not let into our garden for years. Various pollinators hover over the dandelions and the hens are partial to them too. I always loved them, I even named a toy lion after them. This journey of rewilding is bringing back my childhood day by day. Did you know people used to clear the grass and plant dandelions because they have so many beneficial uses for us? One of the many plants nature gives us that we haven’t appreciated in so long.
Plantain grows in abundance in the garden. I was so surprised to see it grow so tall. It is always so tiny on pathways and lawns that are mowed frequently that I completely forgot it could be so majestically pretty. It brought a vague memory of meadows into my foggy mind so sometime ago I did see it in all its glory. The leaves are great for cuts and for ‘sucking out the badness’ of a sting or bite and apparently the flower heads taste like mushrooms but I haven’t tried them so I can’t verify.
Sticky Mickey, or the nicer name my mother uses, Robin run the hedge, keeps trying to cover my older apple trees and we have an annual fight but he doesn’t seem to mind and neither do I. Many happy memories of running after people sticking that on their back. It is also said to be useful for making a tea for the lymphatic system and was often added to those little black bottle tonics people used to get from the healing woman on the hill or wherever she hung out.
Cuckoo Flower or Lady Smock appeared this year to my delight and to the delight of the many more butterflies who reside here now. This delicate beauty reminds me of gathering wild flowers for the May Altar which was, and still is, a tradition of my mother and now me.
Dock leaves are here too though I’ve yet to see their stinging partner the nettle. Luckily plenty of those in the field next door to make the three nettle portions before May Day. I often wondered why my mother so vehemently burned the dock leaf plants when she saw them but I’ve read that they are really bad to have near potatos so I’ll have to keep that in mind when planting next years. I’m not even sure if she knows that but she hates them anyway. My memory of docks is rubbing it on the nettle stings of which I got many over the years.
Buttercups are making their way across the garden and I’m keeping an eye on them as they spread ferociously and might just take over. Do you remember putting a buttercup under your chin to see if you liked butter? If they take over I might have to get pigs, they have a grá for them I’m told. They also have medicinal uses such as for sciatica and blisters but I have to research that a bit more.
Self Heal appeared lately. So pretty and interesting to look at. Much loved by insects and me alike. Again there are many references to medicinal uses for this too, as the name suggests. I’m wondering should I take a course and study them more, never too old to learn new things.
Some hogweed appeared and at first I was very nervous to see that but then I was noticing how it was standing near the house as if it was guarding us and my imagination took a wander. I saw it being planted intentionally around a crannóg as protection against intruders. Nonsense of course but it made me appreciate it more much to the delight of the creatures who love it.
There are many more ‘weeds’ in my diary and I’m enjoying the learning of their wonders and uses and the unlearning of destroying them with pointless mowing. I am going to mow a few little paths through the many wonderful grasses I have now, between the ‘weeds’, fruit bushes and trees and I will take it mindfully as since we stopped mowing vigorously and aggressively our garden has become home to many wonderful creatures.
Our garden is home to so many different butterflies and we have dragonflies! We have had visits from pheasants and foxes (though now I have hens again I’m not sure if I want those!). We have many frogs and pygmy shrews not to mention all the spiders, grasshoppers, crickets, woodlice, bees and many more I haven’t even met yet. We think we also had visits from a hare who I’m dying to catch – on camera only – these precious creatures are few and far between and I’m never quite sure if they might not be one of the othercrowd. I still cannot believe our government let’s harecoursing happen.
The greatest joy this summer was meeting a newt. I do hope we get more. Such a delicate little beauty. It was a pleasure to make his acquaintance.
Because we shed the need for lawn mowing our life has become fuller and nearer to nature. Maybe you should join us. After all, lawns are a symbol of colonialism invented by the rich to shove in the face of the poor that they took all the land and didn’t need to use it for food while our ancestors died on their tiny rented plot of rotting potatos so why would you want to celebrate that?
When did we decide as humans that being was not enough? When did we decide that to define who we are we had to decide what we wanted to be, to become? WE ARE! We are already, we do not have to become anything. Because we are, we already are what we wanted to be, will be. We exist, that is being.
BE! You are being since you arrived, perhaps before you arrived. You are a being. So why are you spending your whole life trying to BE something? BE who you want to be, be an engineer, be an accountant, be an artist, be a politician, be a leader, be a worker, be a billionaire. None of that is being. That is all DOING!
DO engineering, DO accounting, DO arting, DO politicing, DO leadering, DO working, DO making money to hoard for no reason other than having it beyond your grave ( that is what billionairing is is it not?) DO what you like. That is not being. You are already being. Often all that DOING stops you from BEING. DOING does not make you a better BEING! DOING often makes you a worse BEING, your worst BEING, the worst BEING you could BE.
All the DOING in the world will never make you who you are. Why do we ask people what are you? and expect a doing answer? What are you? I am a teacher. You DO teaching. You already are. You are not a teacher. That is just your DOING! I am a CEO. I am a housewife/husband. DOING and BEING are not and never have been the same so why do we ask what are you and expect a DOING answer and then judge their DOING answer and so judge their BEING?
Your DOING does not define your BEING. You ARE whether you DO nothing or DO loads. What is the DOING about anyway? Often the DOING is just stopping you from BEING.
What about THINKING. Are you what you THINK? That is just your thinking. That is not you and is not your BEING. I think and so I am? Is that correct? You are anyway, with or without THINKING. Often the thinking is irritable noise that is stopping you from being. STOP THINKING. BE!
How? How do we BE? Is it so hard really? BEING can be the simplest thing in the world. watch how the children do it. They are BEING all the time. In the moment, in the NOW, enjoying the moment, feeling it all. That is what we are, BEINGS.
Fadó, Fadó, sular rugadh an abhainn is faide sa tir seo bhí tobar ann darbh ainm Tobar
Connla, áit ina raibh naoi crainn coill ina seasamh timpeall a mbéal. Lig siad titim bhur cnó
síos agus bhí na brádain sna tobar ag fanacht leo.
Go leor daoine a chuala faoin dtobar, ó chuala siad faoin mbrádan ón scéal eile ina bhfuair
Fionn MacCumhall óg ‘An t-Eolas’. Bhí cáilin óg ann, ó blianta fada ó shin, roimh an
laochrí MacCumhall, a chuala faoin Tobar Connla. Chuala sí má itheann aon duine na
brádain ón tobar faoi na naoi crainn coill faigheann sé eolas faoi gach rud mar is iad na
Sinann, ab ea an cáilin óg seo, iníon Lodan Luchair Glan ó na Tuatha de Danann.
Bronnadh ailieacht, grástulact agus gach rud deas uirthí ach bhí ‘Feasa an domhain’
uaithí. Cáilin fionn agus dathula í, bhí guth binn aici, beola ar dáth an rós aici agus bhí cail
aici mar an cáilin is deasa sa tir ach ní leor sin di.
Mar sin, chuaigh sí go Tobar Connla , áit ina raibh sé srutháin ag piobarnach agus
abhainn a deanamh dóibh, Béadh seacht ar fáil go luath, abhainn nios faide agus nios
laidre ná an chuid eile acú. Chuala sí go raibh an t-uisce lán súilíní laidre, na brádain sleamhain agus deacair a tharraingt. Chuala sí cé go bhféidir fear an brádán a tharraingt, an brádán a ithe, an feasa a fháil, cé go bhféidir fear dul isteach sa doire an tobar sin ní raibh cead ar bith, i mbaol a scriosta, ag bean.
Níor thug sí aon aird ar na rabhaidh mar bhí an ‘Feasa gach rud’ uaithí.
Chuaigh sí go dtí an dtobar. Bhí súilíní an t-uisce ag meascadh ard. Tharraing sí an
brádán as an dtobar. Bhí súilíní an t-uisce ag meascadh níos airde. Lás sí tíne chun an
brádán a chócaráil. Bhí súilíní an t-uisce ag meascadh níos airde. Bhlais sí an t-iasc. Bhí
súilíní an t-uisce ag meascadh níos airde. Bhí sceitimini áthais uirthi mar bhí ‘Feasa an
domhain’ aici ar feadh noméid. Bhí súilini an t-uisce ag meascadh níos airde. Rugadh an
seacht srutháin agus rith sí tuibe te tapa. Chruth an abhainn is faide sa tír seo agus thóg
sí an cáilin go dtí an bhfarraige.
D’ainmnigh an abhainn i ndiaidh an cáilin, an tSionainn, agus mar seo ní dhéanfaímid
dearmad ar Sinann. D`ainmnigh an áit ina rugadh an tSionainn, Pota an tSionainn, an áit a
lás sí tine chun an brádan a chócáráíl sular mhúch an tobar an tine agus an cáilin.
Deireann daoine gur ceacht a bhí ann do Sinann, bhí gach rud aici ach ní raibh buíochas
aici, bhí an mian leí ‘Feasa an domhain’ a fháil. Fuair sí é. Ansin bhí sé togtha uirthí.
Deireann daoine eile gurbh ‘Feasa an domhain’ ar Fionn MacCumhaill agus ní raibh sé ar
aon duine eile. Mar sin bhí ar an srútháin é a tarringt ó Sinann. Deireann daoine eile gurbh
í an t-Sionann, Sinann, agus gurbh beandia í, a thug na brádáin agus ‘An Feasa’ do gach
duine mar níl sé le fear amhain nó le cúpla fir.
Is séanscéal é seo agus tá a lán scéalta eile cosúil leis, scéalta ina bádh cáilíní san uisce
agus ansin rugadh abhainn, Boann, Eithne, agus Beandiathe eile. B’fheidir go raibh na fir
a scriobh na scealta sios ag athrú iad mar ag an am seo bhí an tir ag athrú ó Oileán na
Beandithi Draíochta go hOileán na Naomh agus na nÓllúna. B’fheidir go bhfuil an t-uisce
ag meascadh ard aris.
( First attempt at writing in Irish since school which was a long long time ago, ancient times some might say – This is the story of the Shannon – based on ancient texts, you can find the links here along with other links to other legends of interest: https://scealtabeo.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_21.html )
(Picture is a drawing by Mary Smyth, Original drawing can be purchased here: https://www.creativeardaghcraftshop.com/shop/gracefuldancer)
The first time I saw a Swan
I forgot to breathe
until my gasp reminded me.
Each time is still a reminder
of that day that
nature let me glimpse
Our legends pick them
as the majestic forms
for our gods and
children of our gods.
Swans, beautiful and pure
are indications of something
bigger than ourselves
yet finer than our
And yet, their clumsy gait
when walking on the land
ensures we never
take ourselves too seriously.
My fondest thought of swans
is the paddleboat
in Westport House
that pretends we all can be
Swans instead of ducks.
(Photo: I am not sure of the original of this but I found it on https://www.facebook.com/125989148197/posts/10157644436183198/ and it inspired this story.)
The Ladybird world was in shock and the largest Loveliness was called by the Grand Council to happen today in the safe realm of Down at the Bottom of the Garden. Ladybirds didn’t meet too often. They didn’t need to usually as the Clumsys that occupy the most space in the world and terrorize other creatures, in particular insects, quite like Ladybirds and leave them alone for the most part. All was not right in the world of Ladybirds today and they needed to do something.
The Loveliness was going to take a lot of organising as many of the Ladybirds couldn’t actually attend. A Buzz Meeting of Loveliness was suggested, which was a new idea and was becoming very popular. A Buzz Meeting involves asking the Honeybees to change their vibrations up a notch so all the Ladybirds could tune in at the same time. It seemed like a good plan as the distance was too far to fly, although Ladybirds have been known to fly 74 Clumsy miles (or just over 119 Clumsy kilometres). No wonder Clumsys are always fighting, they can’t even agree on measurement. All insects know far is as the crow flies and near is as near as makes no difference and that is all that is needed to know about measurements. It worked for insects longer than there ever was a Clumsy on the planet.
For a while now Ladybirds were finding their food was going scarce as the Clumsys used poison to rid their pretty roses of the aphids instead of waiting for Ladybirds to arrive, always impatient, never thinking of the consequences of their actions. Many Ladybirds died of the poison, more of hunger and then many birds also died. Then the Clumsys started spraying more and more poison in their houses, all around, wanting picture perfect homes that left no space for others.
Last week it got worse. Through the World Wide Web, the ingenious method of communication the insects had created by vibrating the very death traps of their arch nemesis, the spider, news spread quickly that a small gathering of Ladybirds, just looking for somewhere warm to hibernate for the winter, in a place their family had occupied since the beginning of time, were murdered and then another and another. The Clumsys were poisoning the world.
The Loveliness began with a lot of noise and mayhem, buzzing and beating of wings. A Loveliness of angry Ladybirds is nearly as scary as a swarm of bees, nearly but not.
“They are destroying the world. They need to be stopped.” shouted Richard.
“What good are they anyway? All they do is kill everyone and everything for stuff.” grumbled Paul.
Ann said ‘Order’ quietly and they all stopped. Even in anger, Ladybirds are mannerly.
Ann Ladybird, no, not that one, not the one who hid under the frying pan, was chairing this important meeting. It was Ann’s great, great, great, great, great, great, grandmother who was one of the reasons Ladybirds were loved by Clumsys and the last time they had to intervene. Generations of Clumsys sang the rhyme, drew pictures of Ladybirds and even called little troops of girl Clumsys after them. Ann opened the meeting and everyone engaged to find a solution to the stupidity of Clumsys.
“Now that we’ve that off our chest” said Ann quietly, “let’s work on a solution. Clumsys are not all bad, not at all and we had a very good relationship with them once, we can again.”
“How?” Many Ladybirds asked together as one.
“That is what we are here for, to figure it out.” said Ann.
“Clumsys used to be delighted to see us in their gardens ridding their Roses, Busy Lizzies, Geraniums and many other plants of Green Fly.” said Bríd,
“We do more than that, we are more than the job we do!” grumbled Paul.
“Yes, but Clumsys think of one problem at a time and try to deal with it separately to everything. They notice what benefits them now and not then or soon.” said Bríd.
“They have forgotten that everything is connected and works well together as Nature intended. We need to somehow teach them that.” said Ann. “They keep messing with the delicate balance of life.”
“It is not good enough!” shouted Richard. “In the last hundred years of their occupation of the planet they have done a lot of damage with this attitude.”
The Ladybirds, had been ignoring it for the most part as they were being left alone to do their thing but that has changed and they needed to intervene. They discussed ideas back and forth and didn’t notice a Clumsy was watching and listening. She took a photograph of the Ladybirds, googled on her phone, found out about how much Clumsys used to love them and what a group of Ladybirds are called.
“A Loveliness of Ladybirds, what a wonderful name!” She posted this online with her photo and it flew around the world faster than any Loveliness could.
Another Clumsy replied to her “Did you know that Ladybirds were called ‘God’s Little Cows’ by the ancients? That is Bóín Dé in Irish and Bozhya korovka in Russian if you’d like to know or even if you wouldn’t. ”
Another posted “Our ancestors loved Cows for the abundance they brought them and loved Ladybirds because they kept the pest away from their crops so it isn’t surprising they connected them all in a name.”
“That was when we knew everything was connected, now we only think in separate and individual.” answered another.
The replies continued. “We renamed them Ladybirds after the Lady Mary! Ladybirds were always loved in all their Loveliness.”
While this was going on in the Clumsy world the Ladybirds gathered in Lovelinesses all over their world, which is the same one, to tune in on the Buzz meeting and the Clumsys noticed and watched with interest, wishing they could understand. More and more pictures were posted and more and more Clumsys stopped to look and listen. In Down at the Bottom of the Garden and through Buzz the Ladybirds talked.
“We need to make loads of noise and be heard” shouted Paul.
“That will only get them annoyed and kill us quicker if they hear us buzzing angrily” grumbled Richard.
“I’m not sure we need to do much more than what we are doing now! ” said Bríd as she stood up and waved at the Clumsy watching them from above. The Clumsy smiled and took another photo. She posted it.
“I do believe this Ladybird is waving at me!” she commented. Soon all the Clumsys were noticing the small creatures, the tiny things that make everything work. All it took was a photo and a Loveliness to happen.
There’s a spider in my bathroom
and his name is Tom.
He isnt very big,
He’s a tiny little one.
He doesn’t spin a web
he waits patiently instead,
underneath the skirting board
pretending to be dead.
He waits so patiently,
for food to scurry by.
I’m the only one who sees him
Does he think I am a fly?
When I go into the bathroom
and close the door behind,
I turn around and there he is.
Am I a juicy find?
I’m too big for him to eat.
He doesn’t scare me at all.
I ask “hi there Tom, how are you?
Do you like living in my wall?”
He seems to nod and smile,
perhaps he just comes out,
to thank me for his home
and for having him about.
We let each other be
and do our own thing.
We live peacefully together
in our home there is no King.
Anyone who has realised
that we have as a species,
all that is good in this world,
has cried a little.
Anyone who has struggled
with their perceived helplessness
and inability to change
the ways of the world,
has cried a little.
Anyone who has tried
to open others eyes to
our creation of
hell here on earth,
has cried a little.
Anyone who has figured out
ways to save the innocents
from dying, but isn’t
heard in the wilderness,
has cried a little.
The red eyes of the many
who have cried,
don’t move the souls
of those in power
even a little.
AGS 29th April 2019