Thursday 31 October 2019

Join #HistoricalFiction author, J.P. Reedman, as she takes a look at the Stories and Stones of Samhain #History #Halloween @StoneLord1

Stories and Stones of Samhain

By J.P. Reedman

The nights are drawing in, the leaves beginning to turn from green to red and gold. Halloween is upon us, a time of fun and frights, of revels and also reverence. Most people nowadays are aware that All Hallows Eve or All Saints is a Christian festival transplanted on top of an earlier Celtic one, Samhain (pronounced Sow-in or something, depending on the dialect but NOT ‘Sam Hayne’!)  The Christian feast was to pray for the souls of the departed, the second a fire festival that marked the beginning of the new year—but which also had otherworldly associations, being a time when the walls between the worlds of the living and dead grew thin and all manners of creatures could fare abroad beyond the light of the great bonfires.
It is my belief, however, that the feast of Samhain pre-dates the traditional ‘Celtic’ Iron Age c500 BC, and may in fact be the remnant of veneration of the ancestral dead in far antiquity, back in the Bronze Age and Neolithic eras.
To back this up, first, there are Irish legends themselves. Although written down in the early medieval times and heavily modified by their Christian authors, they have long been thought of as a reasonable view of Iron Age Celts.  However, it is now thought by some, that they are not so much a ‘window on the Iron Age’ as was once believed, but a window on the preceding Bronze Age. DNA has refuted the idea that there was ever anything like a gigantic ‘Celtic invasion’ in the Iron Age anyway; the Irish genome is very similar, often identical, to that of remains found there dating to around 2000 B.C.
There are three particularly ‘haunting’ Irish legends associated with Samhain, all connected with ancient monuments. One is the story of Crom Cruac. Crom, whose name means ‘Crooked’ or ‘Bent One’ was a sinister harvest god. He appeared as a single, golden standing stone encircled by a ring of smaller stones, and on every Samhain he demanded a tithe of corn, milk…and children. He was eventually vanquished by St Patrick.

St Patrick destroys Crom Cruac.

Then there was the tale of Nera, a warrior who fared out from the huge ceremonial complex of Rathcroghan on Samhain Eve to tie a withy round the ankle of a hanged man—who promptly came back to life and prophesied disaster for Nera’s tribe. Nera sees a vision of a hostile Sidhe (faerie) army exiting the Cave of the Cats, also known as the mouth of the Otherworld, where the goddess, the Morrighan, Great Queen of Phantoms, would also sally forth in her chariot. 
And lastly there is the legend of the young hero Fionn, who on Samhain slew the fire-breathing demon Aillen (the Burner) , who fared out of a hollow hill (a passage grave or barrow) seeking to burn down the High Kings’ stronghold at Tara with his fiery breath.

Fionn faces the monstrous Aillen.

As for actual archaeology, not only are the three places mentioned in the legends all connected with prehistoric monuments extant to this day, many other ancient sites exist across Ireland that have alignments to Samhain rather than the more usual Winter/Summer Solstice or the Equinoxes. The Mound of the Hostages, a passage tomb that is the oldest feature at Tara is aligned on Samhain sunrise, the blocked cruciform passage at Dowth, Hill of Darkness, part of the Boyne complex, may have also been similarly aligned—only its passage would have opened on the sunset instead of sunrise. Others are and Listoghil tomb at Carrowmore and the eerie and evocative Cairn L at Loughcrew, where the morning light on Samhain touches a tall pillar looming like a cowled figure in the inner chamber.

The Author in Cairn, Loughcrew.

As these places are not only associated with legendary mound-dwelling creatures, often beautiful yet deadly, but have at one time contained actual human remains, think about what a Halloween pumpkin probably denotes with its grinning teeth and triangle nose and eyes (and in Britain and Ireland people traditionally carved turnips, not pumpkins, which look a whole lot scarier!)

Carved Turnip.

Happy Samhain!

Battle for Halloween Hollow

(Myths of the Middle Lands Book 3)

Crematia Coffyn lives in Halloween Hollow, but she doesn't fit in with her rosy cheeks and curly brown hair, which means she is bullied by girls such as popular, purple-tressed Sepulchra. However, it is Crematia, along with another outcast, the deformed Pumpkin known as Lumpkin, and an arthritic skeleton called Skully McBanes, who help save Halloween Hollow from destruction by the marauding Scarecrows and the gang-leader Wolfgang Sneer.

A Young Adult fantasy that adults can enjoy as well. A seasonal tale for HALLOWEEN.

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The Barrow Woman's Bones:

A Ghost Story


One thundery day in 1909 a Bronze Age burial mound was opened near the sleepy little town of Marlborough. Soon Violet's nights would be disturbed by scratching and tapping. By a horrible, skeletal face pressed to the window.
What did the creature want from a staid old widow? Could Violet ever send this unwanted nightly visitor to eternal rest?

A gentle ghost story based on Wiltshire folkore.


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The Hosting of the Sidhe:

A Collection of Celtic Fantasy Short 


Original fantasy based on Celtic themes and ancient traditional legends retold anew. Romance, tragedy, mythology, joy.
Paying the Piper--The old gods are dying. Mabon sets out to find someone who can help a victim.

Halfbreed- Keiron laughs at funerals and weeps at weddings. In him runs the capricious blood of the Sidhe. Leaving his home, he seeks to be with his faerie mother's people...but will this proud and amoral people accept him?

Aine of Knockgreine-- Aine is bound to her fairy hill by an enchanted chain placed on her ankle by her father, because she refuses to wed the lord of his choice. Then one day she meets a wounded mortal, who in return for healing, agrees to free her from her bonds.
The Wistman's Price-Alban is a fugitive, and makes a deal with a dark rider on the moor. What will his freedom cost him?

Plus retellings of the classic Children of Lir, Tam Lin and Cornwall's Cherry of Zennor.

Pick up your copy of


 J.P. Reedman

J.P. Reedman was born in Canada but has lived in the U.K. for nearly 25 years.
Interests include folklore & anthropology, prehistoric archaeology (Neolithic/Bronze age Europe; ritual, burial & material culture), as well as The Wars of the Roses and other medieval periods. Novels include I, Richard Plantagenet and the Man Who Would be King (Wars of the Roses), The Hood Game (Robin Hood), THE STONEHENGE SAGA (bronze Age), and MEDIEVAL BABES, a series about little-known Medieval women.

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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx