Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Laa Souney

The Isle of Man is a small island that stands at the very centre of the British Isles. It has its own Celtic culture and language which is seeing something of a revival. With Samhain approaching I thought it would be interesting to look at the tradition of this small community. On the Isle of Man the Celtic New year is called Sauin, or Laa Souney, in Manx and Hollantide in English. Laa Souney literally means November Day.

The House of Manannan museum's presentation on Celtic life includes an interesting piece about the Goddess Breeshey (Bride) passing by all the houses of Man on Laa Souney to bless them for the coming winter. To catch a glimpse of Her passing was seen as a special blessing.

Sauin's association with the death of the old year, ancestors and hopes for the new year can be seen in two customs recorded on the island.

The ashes of the fire were carefully swept to the hearth and evenly spread by the women just before they retired to bed. In the morning they looked for marks in the ashes. If these marks pointed to the threshold there would be a death in the family but if they pointed away from the threshold there would be a marriage.

Young women would listen at a neighbour's door with salt in their hands and water in their mouth. It is said that the first name they heard would be that of their future husband.

In recent times Laa Souney has given way to Hop-tu-naa (Halloween) but a traditional rhyme still tells of the moon, visits to the well, feasting on a heifer and the possibility of meeting a witch.

This is old Hollantide night;
The moon shines bright;
Cock of the hens;
Supper of the heifer;
Which heifer shall we kill?
The little speckled heifer.
The fore-quarter,
We'll put in the pot for you.
The little hind quarter,
Give to us, give to us.
I tasted the broth,
I scalded my tongue,
I ran to the well,
And drank my fill;
On my way back,
I met a witch cat;
The cat began to grin,
And I ran away.
Where did you run to?
I ran to Scotland.
What were they doing there?
Baking bannocks and roasting collops.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoy this blog Paul.

Did you know that the beautiful, brave, feminist Emmeline Pankhurst( to whom we women owe our freedom to vote) came from the Isle of Man originally.
So many female freedom fighters seem to have Celtic roots.

Blogger Paul said...

Glad you enjoy the blog :)

No, I didn't know that but it does not surprise me.




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