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- a collection of essays on Neodruidic Studies
- a journal of Post-Reconstructionist Neopaganism





Thursday, November 3, 2011

Grey November: Crossing the Wasteland

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THERE IS THAT WHICH HAS ENDED
AND
THERE IS THAT WHICH IS YET TO BEGIN

AND THERE IS THAT WHICH STRETCHES 
WIDE AND GREY AND DESOLATE
BETWEEN THEM
.
IT IS


THE WASTELAND...

THE  GAP  IN  THE  TORC  OF  THE  YEAR.


If you simply give up trying to make Samhain represent a "beginning" * and let the agrarian year end there, the grey twilight of November stands before us as the desolate Wasteland, the Wandering Place located between the cycles of life where eventually we will find our way from the exit of one year to the entrance of the next. We journey from November's dimming into the blackness of December and eventually, at the very pit of the year, we arrive at Yuletide, the great feasting-hall of our year's underworld, eventually then to emerge on its far side, blessed with the spark of hope for the Sun's triumphant return.

You see, for all of our good intentions as serious Celtophiles, I still believe it's just too difficult for most of us to recalibrate our internal calendars to make the Samhain-as-Celtic-New-Years truism actually "work" emotionally. In seeking to reconcile the overwhelmingly "authentic" feel which Yule and New-Years creates at the year's end with the similarly familiar "fit" of Samhain as the feast of the death of the agrarian year, some time ago I began to articulate a pattern of myth and image which I believe we don't need to 'enforce' upon ourselves artificially. Rather, we can easily begin to discover that 


its componentry is already built-into us: as Westerners
we've actually been celebrating it all along...

- Earrach
================================== 

* Contrary to just about everything you’ve read just about everywhere, there actually is a significant dearth of evidence to support the notion that the Celtic feast of Samhain (traditionally Nov. 1), is the “beginning of the Celtic year”. Yes, it's long been the assertion of Celtic Studies publications both academic and popular, yet the actual antiquity of the concept cannot be adequately verified.

In 1992 I had written an article, Samhain- the Beginning or the End? for the very first edition of our grove’s newsletter suggesting this idea. The article was later published in ADF’s journal The Druids Progress (vol.11, pp12). More recently the British historian Ronald Hutton examined this “factoid” in his exhaustive study of the ritual calendar of the British isles, "Stations of the Sun" (Oxford, 1996). Hutton uses both the folk record and extensive researches into calendar references in the medieval literature to show that there is really no evidence that Samhain was considered the Celtic New Year any earlier than the late 1800's.

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Can folksong capture the essence of the Wasteland?

Well. this is a very personal choice of course but nothing quite takes me there than this old cautionary tale, "Long Lankin", sung by Steeleye Span. It has dire warnings gone unheeded. a grim and bloody murder and an uncaught and ever-lurking fiend, all framed in a vast landscape of November-grey moorland...