Unfortunately, with how all-encompassing the Sacred Nights of Antinous ended up being for me this year, the marking of Samain didn’t get as much attention here as it should have, alas.
However, because I am in the habit of marking the “Thirds of Samain”–namely, the three days before Samain, the three days after, and Samain itself–and we’re still in the third of those thirds, a post here is in order, and in time.
While ancestor worship is important at this time of year and on this occasion (indeed, it seems to be almost the only thing people talk about in relation to it a lot of the time), it’s something that–if done at all–should be done at all times throughout the year.
When looking at the actual sources on Samain that survive from medieval Ireland–as one does when one practices gentlidecht–we actually don’t see a lot about ancestor worship taking place. As the Christian festival of All Souls on November 1st coincides with the first day of the third thirds of Samain, it’s very likely that this ancestor worship connection of the festival in modern pagan practice comes from that source, rather than from anything verifiably Irish. Oops…or, Yippee, depending on your viewpoint on such matters…
So, what sources do I draw from as a gentlidecht practitioner? There are a variety of tales, including the following ones, all of which took place at Samain:
–A few lines from Scéla Conchobuir meic Nessa note the importance of having a tribal assembly at Samain to keep the members of the tribe from either going insane or dying due to supernatural attacks.
–The tale Serglige Con Culainn tells of the custom of marking the “Thirds of Samain.”
–For those who enjoy a pub crawl on Samain, your tale of choice should be Mesca Ulad, which is a pub-crawl to end all pub-crawls that ranges across the entirety of Ireland.
–For a supernatural battle at Samain, see the end of the Macgnímartha Finn.
–For an all-night vigil and divination on Samain, see Airne Fingein.
–And, one of my favorites: Echtra Nerai, the full cosmological implications of which have barely been apprehended by academic Celticists, is a tale of the otherworld, of time distortion, of possibilities, of human-divine romances, and of everyday household ethics. What more could a person want?
It’s a blustery night out, and I may be having an all-night vigil of my own for very different reasons, but there we are, in any case…