Nov 2, 2007


It is true that for many years, the women of my family have been considered White Ladies...healers...mystical. In the last century, near the time of Culloden, one of the women of the clan was even thought to be a witch due to her ability to heal with herbs and surgical procedures (shocking for a woman to perform). There seems to have always been a connection between the ladies of my clan and the healing arts.

Oddly enough, despite our connection to the old ways - the connection to nature and all her elements - my family have practiced the Christian faith for many years. I, too, still appreciate and practice many of the old rites - painted a different shade, perhaps, with the faith I have in God. Surely nature was set in motion by a greater hand.

Like the Druids of old, who built the standing stones near my family's home in the Highlands, we have always revered the elements of nature, and have looked to them for signs and seasons. Fire has always represented cleansing. The renewal of the earth, and the harvest from it also very particular holidays for us.

I recall a discovered scrap of my mother's journal as I think of this reverence for the seasons:

....having taken refuge in the abbey, we discovered a grotto of a hot spring deep below. We struggled out of the steaming water, rubber-limbed with wine and heat. Jamie and I both fell down in an untidy heap of robes and legs. Finally we reached the second landing of the narrow stairwell and laid down at last in each other's arms. And ancient oriel window opened glassless to the sky, and the light of the hunter's moon washed us in silver. We lay clasped together, damp skins cooling in the winter air, waiting for our racing hearts to slow and breath to return to our heaving bodies. The moon above was so large as to almost fill the empty window. It seemed no wonder that the tides of sea and woman should be subject to the pull of that stately close and so commanding. My own tides moved no longer to that chaste and sterile summons and that knowledge raced through my blood. Telling Jamie that I had a gift for him, I slid his large sure hand over the plane of my still-flat stomach. He grinned as he realized my meaning, "Have ye now, ye wee lass?" The world was made new all around with possibility......

I share these thoughts with you as I begin to describe the recent Samhainn (Scottish Gælic spelling) ceremony, which I led in the garden at Coughton Court. The ceremony was private with only a few of Gabrielle's friends in attendance. The spirit, however, was strong and moving. For those who are not familiar with Samhainn, allow me to give you a brief introduction to it.

The old Gaulish calendar appears to have divided the year into two halves - dark and light: the 'dark' half, beginning with the month Samonios (the October/November lunation). The entire year may have been considered as beginning with the 'dark' half, so that the beginning of Samonios may be considered the Celtic New Year's day. The celebration of New Year itself may have taken place during the 'three nights of Samonios'; the beginning of the lunar cycle which fell nearest to the midpoint between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice.

The Samhainn celebrations have survived in several guises as a festival dedicated to the harvest and the dead. The Féile na Marbh, the festival of the dead took place on Samhainn. Traditionally, Samhainn is time to take stock of the herds and grain supplies, and decide which animals would need to be slaughtered in order for the people and livestock to survive the winter. It is still the custom in some areas to set a place for the dead at the Samhainn feast, and to tell tales of the ancestors on that night.

In this spirit the ceremony in Carntaigh took place. Enjoy these few images and words from our most recent Samhainn.

Here I cleanse the sacred space with burning sage. (My thanks to Frequency Picnic for providing the sacred sage and flowers for the event.)

Breathing and meditating before beginning the service.

Gabrielle comes forward to light her Samhainn lantern at the bale fire. (My thanks to Lady Kate and Sir Zen for their creation of the lanterns and fire.)

View of the assembled and the balefire as Hotspur moves forward to obtain his lamp and light it at the fire.

Let the gates through which all must pass open wide this night. Let our dear ones,
who have gone before, return this night to make merry
with us and then move back into shadow having comforted us and
been comforted. And when our time comes, as it must, we
will enter death gladly and unafraid; for we know
that when rested and refreshed among our dear ones, we
will be reborn again. Let it be in the same place and the same
time as our beloved ones, and may we meet, and know, and
remember, and love them again!

Gabrielle serves wine to her guests

As tradition has it, after the wine is served, a kiss is exchanged. In this particular ceremony, all exchanged kisses on either cheek with Gabrielle.
Lady Kate Nicholas

Diamanda exchanges her kiss as Kiralette Kelly and others assembled look on.


Mr. JJ Drinkwater provided a moving poem for the occasion. Here Hotspur, Otenth, and Amber listen as JJ recites the words.

(left to right) Moxie, Rane, Dia, Edwina, and Eladrienne perform the grounding exercise at the end of the ceremony and prepare to dance.

Eva and Gabrielle

Listen to the wisdom of the spirits among us. Drink, dance, and be merry in the presence of the old gods and the spirits of our departed kin.

Merry Met! Merry Part!

*The journal entry is adapted from the works of Diana Gabaldon in her Outlander series. Her writings have inspired much of my Second Life History.