Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Samain!

To the Celts, October 31st was Samain, a harvest festival that many believe became the inspiration for Halloween. I could write more about Samain, but today I’d like to simply quote the great opening passage of Bernard Cornwell’s Enemy of God. Cornwell, who reimagines the Arthurian myth, writes about a time when the old Celtic ways remained strong, despite the spread of Christianity in Ireland and Britain. So, in the words of Derfel Cardan ...

Today I have been thinking about the dead.
This is the last day of the old year. The bracken on the hill has turned brown, the elms at the valley’s end have lost their leaves and the winter slaughter of our cattle has begun. Tonight is Samain Eve.
Tonight the curtain that separates the dead from the living will quiver, fray, and finally vanish. Tonight the dead will cross the bridge of swords. Tonight the dead will come from the Otherworld to this world, but we shall not see them. They will be shadows in the darkness, mere whispers of wind in a windless night, but they will be here.
In this novel, Arthur discovers one of his worst nightmares.

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