Samhain (pronounced “Sow-en”) or Halloween is the most magical night of the year! Celebrated on October 31st, beginning at sundown, it is the greatest of the four Pagan Sabbats that divide the ancient calendar into winter, spring, summer and fall. Samhain means “end of summer.” The summer reign of the Goddess is now over; the Winter King is on his way.
In ancient days, Samhain was the Celtic New Year, a time of gathering in for pastoral folk. Crops were harvested and stored. Animals were driven in from summer pasturage and slaughtered for food, or housed in barns and pens. People came home to ride out the harsh winter with families. Their very survival depended on the harvest and on a tightly knit community.
On this mysterious night when the old year turned to the new, the veils between the natural and supernatural world were thought to have thinned. The ghosts of ancestors, heroes, heroines, villains, and a host of fairy and otherworldly creatures, returned to Earth. Leprechauns might appear. Trees might talk.
The wise Celt honored returning spirits by setting out treats on the doorstep for them. Empty chairs were set at dining tables in case an unexpected ancestor popped in for a meal. Jack ‘o Lanterns were carved and carried to frighten off unfriendly ghosts. Costumes were worn as disguises to throw vengeful spooks off the track.
Samhain was also a night of serious reflection. Speculation about and resolutions for the future were made.
In this image, instead of the traditional black-costumed witch, I have painted Cerridwen, the wise Welsh triple goddess. (Maiden, Mother, Crone.) Cerridwen is celebrated as the “keeper of the cauldron.” Her story is powerful, and even a little frightening.
Cerridwen had two children: a beautiful daughter, and a very ugly son. To compensate for her son’s hideous appearance, the loving mother brewed a potent elixir of knowledge in her cauldron, intending to give it to Afagdu, so he might have wisdom since beauty had been denied him. However, as often happens, the magical gift went astray.
A young boy, Gwion, whose job was to constantly stir the magic brew for Cerridwen, accidentally splashed three burning drops of the mixture on his hand. He sucked on his burned fingers to relieve the pain. Instantly, he knew all the secrets of the past and of the future, as the gift intended for Afagdu became his instead.
The enraged goddess pursued Gwion to punish him. Using his newfound magical powers, the boy turned himself into many different creatures as he fled, trying to escape the Goddess. Finally, he cleverly turned himself into a single grain of corn. But Cerridwen turned herself into a hen, and ate the kernel!
From this seed, she became pregnant, and in due course, bore another son. This boy was so beautiful that she couldn’t bear to allow the jealous Afagdu to kill him, as she had promised. Instead, she sewed the infant into a bag, and cast him into the sea.
But even the wrath of Cerridwen and the malice of Afagdu could not deny the destiny of this magical child. A Welsh lord named Gwyddno Garanhir rescued him, named him Taliesin, and raised him to become the greatest bard and poet the Celtic world has ever known. He joined the court of King arthur at Camelot, where he became chief harpist and adviser to the legendary king.
Despite this fierce history, his mother, Cerridwen is revered as the goddess of inspiration, rebirth, regeneration, and divination.
On this night of introspection and new directions, she looks deep into her cauldron of water to see what the future may bring. She is focused, fearless, and filled with a discerning spirit. So may we all be.
Anne Baird, Designer/Owner of GODDESS CARDS, is a self-taught artist who has been painting and writing since childhood. Her chosen media for her unique line of greeting cards is watercolor, with touches of gouache, ink and colored pencil.
Her GODDESS CARD line grew from a birthday card she created for her daughter, Amanda, in 2001. Amanda was disheartened at being a curvaceous beauty in the Land of Thin. (Los Angeles.) That seminal card declaring, “You’re a GODDESS, not a nymph!” evolved into a long line of love notes and affirmations for ALL women. At over 125 cards, the line is steadily growing.
Anne is inspired by the archetypal Legendary Goddesses, who have so much to teach today’s women. Her greatest inspiration however, comes from the Goddesses of Today, who write her with wonderful suggestions and thoughts that expand her consciousness and card line.
She has launched an E-Goddess Card website, where the Goddess on the Go can send Goddess “e-cards”, enriched with music and stories, at the click of a mouse. (A virtual mouse.)