In the country year, Samhain marked the first day of winter, when the herders led the cattle and sheep down from their summer hillside pastures to the shelter of stable and byre. The hay that would feed them during the winter must be stored in sturdy thatched ricks, tied down securely against storms. Those destined for the table were slaughtered, after being ritually devoted to the gods in pagan times. All the harvest must be gathered in — barley, oats, wheat, turnips, and apples — for come November, the faeries would blast every growing plant with their breath, blighting any nuts and berries remaining on the hedgerows. Peat and wood for winter fires were stacked high by the hearth. It was a joyous time of family reunion, when all members of the household worked together baking, salting meat, and making preserves for the winter feasts to come. The endless horizons of summer gave way to a warm, dim and often smoky room; the symphony of summer sounds was replaced by a counterpoint of voices, young and old, human and animal.
I think I was a Celt in a former life.
I have spent the whole day in my room, in the light of my lamp and my candles, reading and listening to Celtic music and poring over random information about Samhain. Then I made chili from scratch. The wind howls and beats the rain against our windows, and the clouds hide all evidence of sunlight that might peek through the dark gray haze. Now I understand why animals hibernate. With the chill in the air and the darkening of days, who wants to venture outside, even to the bakery? I would prefer to spend the next few months indoors, next to my large fireplace and big black cauldron, making up really good soups to warm us up. But alas, I have no fireplace, no cauldron, and I don’t think anyone would pay me to make soup all day. *sigh* I should have been born several hundred years ago.