The Celtic calendar consists of thirteen months based on the lunar cycle. The holiday called Samhain marks the end of  the year. It is celebrated from sunset on October 31st until sunset on November first.

This time was chosen because it was the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, and so this Gaelic festival marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year.

An interesting feature of this lunar calendar is that after Samhain there is a period of five days that are not a part of the calendar year. This is a time considered to be between the states of chaos and change. It is a transition between the old and new year. It is a period of “no-time” and we enter that period tonight.

After we pass through these transitional five days of “no-time,” the new year begins.

Of course, a lunar calendar isn’t as accurate as our modern calendar, but in its time it served the needs of people. The no-time was  a way to adjust the lunar calendar to make a year that coincided with astronomical events.

Afte the period of no-time, a short first month of Maghieden launches the year. It is considered an auspicious time for births, beginnings and a good time to start a journey. Maghieden lasts until the next full moon making it the shortest month of the year.

In this kind of lunar calendar the “Full Moon” marks a period of time rather than an event on one night. It would be as if when the Full Moon came next for us we called it the November Moon and started the month on that day and it lasted until the December Full Moon.



Samhain (pronounced SAH-win, not Sam Hain) is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year.

It is celebrated from sunset on October 31st until sunset on November first and was chosen because it was the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. If you are wondering if this has some connection to our Halloween, then read on.

Along with Imbolc,  Beltane and Lughnasadh it makes up the four Gaelic seasonal festivals. I have written before about Beltane, the ancient Celtic festival meaning “May First.” It was traditionally celebrated with large bonfires to mark spring transitioning to summer.  Cattle were driven through the Beltane bonfires for purification and fertility.

The day was once seriously observed in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man and kindred festivals were held at the same time of year in other Celtic lands such as Wales, Cornwall) and Brittany.

In Modern Irish the name is Samhain, in Scottish Gaelic Samhainn and in Manx Gaelic Sauin. These are also the names for the month of November in each language, shortened from other forms.

These names all come from the Old Irish samain, samuin or samfuin all of which referred to November first and the festival and royal assembly that was held on that date in medieval Ireland. It seems to have been translated as “summer’s end.”

If you read Sir James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, he says  that May 1 and November 1 may not have been important to European farmers, but they were important to herdsmen. The May date would be the beginning of summer and the time when herds could be driven to the upland summer pastures. November 1 would mark the beginning of winter and the time to bring them back. Frazer suggests that this halving of the year comes from the time when the Celts were mainly a pastoral people dependent on their herds.

In medieval Ireland Samhain marked the end of the season for trading and a time for tribal gatherings.  It was a time for storytelling and Samhain appears in the pre-Christian Irish literature.  Many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain.

In the 9th century, the Roman Catholic Church shifted the date of All Saints’ Day to 1 November first, while  the next day later became All Souls’ Day.

Over time, the last night of October came to be called All Hallows’ Eve (or All Hallows’ Even). Samhain influenced All Hallows’ Eve and the Eve influenced the celebration of Samhain and the two eventually morphed into the secular holiday known as Halloween.

Since the late 20th century, Celtic neopagans and Wiccans have observed Samhain, or something based on it, as a religious holiday.

Just a lazy autumn Sunday afternoon.  I slept late. Woke up to the smell of the cinnamon scones my wife was baking (better than any alarm clock). Drank three cups of coffee. Read the news for a bit until it started depressing me.

Wrote my daily poem. This one, like this blog, a bit of escape.

It was chilly – still under 60 degrees – but good sweater weather. I went out to check on the tomato plants that I covered with plastic to eke out a few last cherry tomatoes. They were puffing in the wind like ghosts.

There were some interesting patterns of fallen leaves in different colors. and acorns arranged by serendipity, squirrels and chipmunks on the deck. Some sticks fell with the wind last night and they almost formed a wreath.

Then I went inside for some lunch and scrolling through my tumblr feed a post about “land art.” I wrote a bit about this in the past – art made from the natural materials nature offers and made in nature and allowed to dissolve, decompose or disintegrate naturally.

Some names associated with this form are Andy Goldsworthy, Ludovic Fesson, Jeremy Underwood, Lizzie Buckmaster Dove and Emily Blincoe.

The blog led me to another post today with these beautiful autumn land art photos by a young photographer, Ana Santl, from Berlin.

It makes me feel like there is a very large circle of Sunday afternoon people looking at autumn all over this top half of our world.

attentionAs a teacher, I found it rather depressing to read that the typical student’s attention span is about 10 to 15 minutes long. You often hear that all of us are becoming less and less attentive.

Research is often done on students and you would have to assume that things like motivation, emotion, interest in a topic and the time of day would all influence attention, but the general belief persists that students especially have “short attention spans.”

Some research I was reading suggests other things. One finding was that lapses of attention were short – one minute or less – and that short breaks in attention are more common than longer breaks.

The researchers were studying students during a university lecture – not the most exciting of situations. They found that the first lapse occurred just 30 seconds into a lecture segment, next at 4.5 to 5.5 minutes into the lecture, then at 7 to 9 minutes and at 9 to 10 minutes.

They describe this as a “waxing-and-waning” pattern continued throughout the lecture, with attention lapses occurring more frequently as the lecture progressed.

We love to blame technology for attention “deficits” but there are also arguments on the other side that as change the ways we process information, we need to change the ways we present information.

Many teachers have discovered that it is more effective to “break-up” lectures with periods of active learning. It is a technique that probably works outside of classrooms and probably one that we self-employ in our own work habits.


Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions. – Pablo Picasso

Colors often have different meanings in various cultures. Several ancient cultures, including the Egyptians and Chinese, practiced chromotherapy, or using colors to heal. Chromotherapy is also known as light therapy and is still used today as a holistic or alternative treatment.

  • Red is used to stimulate the body and mind and to increase circulation.
  • Yellow is thought to stimulate the nerves and purify the body.
  • Orange is used to heal the lungs and to increase energy levels.
  • Indigo shades are thought to alleviate skin problems.

Most traditional doctors view color therapy with great skepticism. I view it with skepticism. But some research has shown that colors can alter feelings and most people will admit to some colors affecting them. A blue room can have a calming effect, but weightlifters perform better in a blue room.  Students exposed to the color red prior to testing has been shown to have a negative impact on test performance but athletes shown red before activities can causes people to react with greater speed and force.

Artists and interior designers have used color to affect moods and emotions. But some of these associations are personal and cultural. The color white in many Western countries to represent purity and innocence, but it is seen as a symbol of mourning in many Eastern countries.

Picasso went through his “blue period.”  That is the period of paintings in which the color blue dominates which occurred between 1901 and 1904. The blue period paintings are melancholy and coincide with the suicide of his close friend Carlos Casagemas, so the paintings do express his emotional state.

Black is the color of authority and power from priestly robes to villains, but it is  popular in fashion because it makes people appear thinner.

Brides wear white to symbolize innocence and purity and doctors and nurses commonly wear white to imply sterility.

Pantone Inc. is known for its Pantone Matching System which is used in printing, colored paint, fabric, and plastics. Every year they pick a Color of the Year, trying to anticipate what the color trend of the year will be.

Tangerine Tango was their 2012 Color of the Year which they described on their website as “sophisticated, dramatic and seductive, Tangerine Tango marries the vivaciousness and adrenalin rush of red with the friendliness and warmth of yellow, to form a high-visibility, magnetic hue that emanates heat and energy.”

“Radiant Orchid” was picked as the Color of the Year for 2014.

Are you seeing more of orchid this year? Are you having an orchid year?

My friend, Maria, told me recently that, “There was a bumper crop of acorns this year. My mother always said that means we will have a bad winter.”

That’s another old weather proverb. My mother would say that if leaves hang on in the autumn and are slow to fall, you should prepare for a cold winter. The little scientist in me wondered if it wasn’t just because the fall was gentle and we didn’t have the wind or rain that shakes the leaves loose from branches.

frosty pumpkins

Frost on your pumpkins might mean that
the October full Moon was also frosty.

Several bits of weather lore look to October weather to predict the winter to come.

Much rain in October, means much wind in December.

A warm October, means a cold February.

A Full Moon in October without any frost, means a warmer month ahead. There was no frost in Paradelle on the Full Moon this year and that means I should expect no frost until November’s Full Moon which comes on the sixth this year.

Do keep in mind with all weather lore, that your local observations are an indication of the local weather ahead and not about the country or the world.

More generally, weather lore tells us that thunder in the fall is supposed to foretell a cold winter ahead.

And looking to the upcoming weeks before the Winter Solstice, look for flowers blooming in late autumn. That pleasant surprise is supposed to be a sure sign of a rough winter to follow, as is any warm November.

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