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Samhain is one of two annual events held by the Barony of the Eldern Hills. It is known for the bardic competitions held there, as well as the Samhain Bonfire, where tales are told of those lost and mourned. The first Samhain was held in 1981, and the autocrats were Gerard MacEanruig & Bronwyn de la Montaigne.

Bardic Works

Samhain Memories

by Kale Kourtikina. Written October 2020.
Darkness falls across the land. The plates have been set at the table for the Ancestors of the People. The time is drawing near.

In ones and twos, groups of three and more, the People gather, the soft murmur of conversation echoing back from the trees. It is subdued, as even those new are feeling the solemnity of the night, of the reason for assembly. Friends greet each other, moving through the crowd, exchanging hugs and often just standing, looking into the darkness. All settle in for the sight to come.

The light is gone, and a hush falls over the crowd, as She steps forward. Tall, regal, She has gathered the materials from the land, giving thanks for the offerings to build her crown. The High Priestess has come, and the gathering feels the first stirrings of awe. This is Ritual. Tradition. Home.

The Veil is thinning. It is almost time.

Her voice, soft yet authoritative, carries with no amplification across the clearing. Her words, heart-felt and compelling, sink into those who have gathered to celebrate. Entranced, even those who have never been to the Fire, sit quietly, for they understand that this, this Ritual, is Sacred. We are family, connected through nothing more than choice and will.

The home hearth fires have been banked. The brightest light is the silvery light of the full moon, rising overhead. Stars shine brightly in the background, and all can see the Priestess as she speaks. Her words are powerful…and their meaning is felt, rather than remembered. She reminds us of the turning of the seasons, to give thanks, to release sorrow. Sharing Joy doubles it; sharing Sorrow decreases it.

It is time.

Her voice rises, crying out. The world pauses, as She removes her crown, the cry of a bird in the distance mournful. With a flourish, She tosses the crown onto the gathered wood. Her Priests, standing to her sides, watch the Fire burst forth, silent sentinels. There is a release of collective breath, as each person unconsciously withdraws a step. Life and Death entwined in the reds, oranges, golds of the dancing Fire.

Silence reigns, only the cracking and popping of the Fire breaking the quiet of the night. Slowly, someone steps forward, a small log in hand. With a whispered breath, they hold it close to their chest, head down. A single tear, almost lost in the darkness, drops onto the wood. They finish their silent prayer, and gently toss the log into the Fire. They step to the side, into the embrace of friends. Of Family. “Blessed be” comes softly from across the Fire. In the distance, the sound of drums begin, the eerie sound perfect.

The next person strides forward, almost angrily. The small limb is held in a tight fist, as words are forced through clenched teeth, offering a physical representation of the anguish flowing from a bruised heart. As the limb is thrown into the Fire with a cry, the suppliant staggers back, lightened of their burden. Standing silently, almost defiantly, waiting for rejection. Finding none, not knowing how to react, they sag to the murmured sounds of the crowd. “Blessed be.”

Person after person, log after limb, burdens and joys are shared with the Fire. With Family. The Fire heals, offers warmth and comfort. The Fire also consumes the negativity, hungry to ease our pain.

After time, the tide of sharing slows. Those who are sensitive, feel the comfort of an Ancestor’s hand on their shoulder. Even those who are blind, feel the comfort of the Fire, of those who are able to visit from beyond the Veil. Somewhere a voice, quiet in the darkness, begins a song. Others take it up, a soft song of healing. Another picks up where that one ends. Songs of our history. Life. Death. Love.

Time passes, the moon slides across the sky. The crowd thins, leaving only the Priests to tend the Fire. Those who wander by, stop to share a story, and maybe a drink. Most who come feed the Fire. This Fire is tended throughout the night, with coals banked for the morning, so the People may come by, and take a burning coal home, to relight the home fires. This duty, too, is Sacred. The Priests are caretakers, nurturing the Fire, and the People.

Ancestors slowly fade, the Veil closes for another year.

Bleary-eyed, the Priests look up as the sky begins to lighten. A new dawn drifts across the land, the People slowly rising to embrace the new day, the new Year. Hope and light will guide us through the winter, and we will emerge in the Spring.