Sharing my thoughts about Calan Gaeaf, also known as Nos Calan Gaeaf the night of the spirits )O( I bet non of you are surprised from the fact that it is one of my favorites what it comes to Welsh pagan holidays.
I made a little video of some of my favorite witching hour/Halloween/Samhain/Kekri paintings.
Day of the Dead
In Estonia Mardipäev is celebrated on November 10th Day of St. Martins. In the northern hemisphere often festivals and celebrations that were related to the agricultural world take place around the same time. Mardipäev shares similarities with festivals like Kekri in Finland, Vélinés in Lithuania, Calan Gaeaf in Wales and Samhain in Ireland.
Mihklipäev the Day of St.Michael (Sept. 29th) began a time period called Hindedaeg. Hindedaeg, coming from the Estonian word "hing" meaning spirit and breath was believed to be time when souls and spirits walked among the living. There are different versions telling how long Hindedaeg lasted. According to some versions Hindedaeg ended on Kadripäev the Day of St. Catherine November 25th and according to other sources Hindedaeg ended on Christmas Eve. There are also some sources which tell us that Hindedaeg ended on Mardipäev. Hinedaeg was time period dedicated to remember the passed away people and relatives. Baltic countries were some of the last countries in Europe that were converted into Christianity. Still today such Christian holidays, like All Saint´s Day are not celebrated in Estonia and have no religious meaning for most people.
Traditions and Superstitions
Some of the traditions that belonged into Mardipäev was to prepare dinner for the family and passed away relatives. Food and drinks were served for the dead. Sauna was also prepared for the spirits. There was a custom that lady and the master of the house would invite the passed away relatives inside one by one. They asked the ancestors to protect the fields and the herd and thanked them for watching over the family. After the dinner and sauna lady and the master wished farewell for the ancestors and safe journey back...wherever they were returning. Food that were served in the Mardipäev dinner was; barley porridge, boiled meat, broth, beans and peas. Very common Mardipäev dish in Estonia is goose. It was forbidden to make any kind of noisy chores during Mardipäev. Women especially were not allowed to weave or do anything that had something to do with cotton. It was believed that that would jinx the growth of flax in the coming year.
Time of the Spirits
In Estonia mardis are essential part of Mardipäev. Mardis were children (and sometimes adults) who rubbed soot into their faces. They wore old sheets and furs to mimic the spirits. Mardis went from house to house in small groups performing songs and little plays and for that they were served with sweets , foods and drinks. There was belief that the more mardis people invited welcome into their homes their crop would be very plentiful. This custom originates from France where during Middle Ages there was a custom in Monasteries to give so called soul cakes for the poor. While receiving a soul cake person had to pray and think about a passed away person. Custom was brought to Estonia by German invaders in the late Middle Ages.
In Mardipäev parades large groups of mardis walked through the town. Mardipäev parade was lead by mardifather, followed by Mardimother, mardichildren and sometimes they even had a mardibaby. Paraders walked towards a large building where there was a big celebration that included singing, dancing, plays, lots of good food and drinking. People played harps, trumpets, violins and smallest children beat pans together just to create noise. Keeping lots of noise was believed to keep evil spirits away.
In modern Day Estonia Mardipäev is still celebrated, mostly in smaller towns and in the country side. In bigger cities people don´t like to invite strangers to their homes. In bigger cities like Tallinn Mardipäev festivities take place in Mardipäev market. In smaller towns and villages you can still find groups of children visiting from house to house performing songs and plays. Mardipäev is also celebrated still today in many Estonian schools.
Merry Meet! For all the American friends of Fairychamber and anyone else who celebrates Halloween I am happy to tell you that I´ve turned bunch of my illustrations to Halloween cards. Click images to get straight into the store and to the product page.
When Black Cats Are Seen...
It´s near Halloween!
One of my personal favorites. I had a black cat many moons ago and he was a cat with sweetest nature. I can never understand the fear for black cats. They are often more sensitive and attached to people (and other pets) than any other cats. Anyway I love witches, autumn and black cats. That is all :)
Keep It Freaky This Halloween
..and every Halloween to come!
Based on my watercolor painting called "the Circus of Shadows".
Are you one of those blessed people (like myself) who likes to watch the Crow every single Halloween?
+ the lost boys, hocus pocus, the original Mummy, any movie with Sir Christopher Lee....
What is Halloween (or Easter) without witches! I would imagine that witches can fly with anything, like stars.
Day of Mikko
In the old Finnish pagan wheel of the year Mikonpäivä/Mikkelinpäivä the day of St.Michael was celebrated in 29th of September. In southern Savonia this day was known as pässinpäivä the day of the ram.
Mikonpäivä started the winter season and was known as the gate to winter and the opposite of it was Hela the May festival which was gate to the summer.
Finnish pagan wheel of the year was based on agriculture and farming. Mikonpäivä was the time when people moved from outdoor works into indoor works. Mikonpäivä started the last harvest period.
After Mikonpäivä there was runtuviikko which was free week for the servants. Runtuviikko included parties, dances, meetings and many couple got married during Runtuviiko.
Mikonpäivä was important day for the shephards because it was their last working day. To celebrate they lit bonfires to the hills. There was all kinds of superstitions connected to Mikonpäivä. Livestock had to be brought inside before sunset. People were dressed up to their best and when they took animals inside they sang protection spells for the cattle. An arch was made of tree branches and put upon the gate that lead into stables. Horses had to walk underneath the arch for protection.
Sacrifices were made for the elves and spirits. Ancestors were thanked for protecting the cattle and keeping the livestock healthy. Sacrifices were bit different in different parts of the country. In some areas drops of vodka and bread were left for the elves and in some areas silver was given. In the morning, porridge was left for the house elf into riihi (building where rye was dried, riihi´s were common in Russia and Scandinavian countries).
In Eastern Finland Mikonpäivä was the day of the ram and sheeps and rams were sacrificed. Inner organs of the animal was buried underneath the spirit tree and the head was hanged into the branches. Rest of the meat was served as dinner. Other foods of pässinpäivä were potatoes, beer, cheese, porridge and cabbage. Why rams were sacrificed is unclear. It is possible that they were sacrificied to please ancient fertility gods of the land or the ancestors.
In Karelia Mikonpäivä was known as Pokrova and it´s symbol was the veil of Virgin Mary (pokrov is Russian and translates as safety, protection). In the pagan areas of Karelia the last hay of the harvest were taken into the sacred groves. In the areas where religion was Russian Orthodoxism the hays were carried inside and layed next to the images of saints where they were blessed and after that they were given for the cows to eat.
There was all kinds of superstitions connected to Pokrova. In the night of Pokrova horses wore warp during the night. It was believed that when they did that they would not feel cold during winter months.
In Ingria when ladies took cattle inside the cattle shed they sang greeting songs for the earth spirit. It was believed that after pokrova it was forbidden to ”move the land” anymore because the land went to sleep. In Ingria Pokrova was common hunting and fishing day.
In Latvia festival Abjumidas - began the autumn season. Abjumidas was celebrated to honor the god Jumis. He was pagan god of harvest and fertility and he was celebrated during autumn equinox between 22-24th of September. If you wish to find out more about Latvian deities you can find the full list here.
andOctober first Mikeli or the day of St.Michael was named after both a Catholic saint and the archangel Michael. It is very likely that originally Mikeli was a nature spirit. In Latvian folk belief St.Michael was the receiver of souls. Before the arrival of Christianity in Latvia that was the job of the god Jumis.
In both Finland and in Latvia Mikeli was the "gate to winter" and all the farm work had to be finished by Mikeli.
In Latvia people believed into the dividing time, a period in autumn when all the spirits of the dead wandered on the earth. Velu Laiks means time of the dead and it was followed by Ledus likes the time of the ice. After Ledus likes it was safe to walk on ice.
Maritini also known as Martindiena was celebrated on November 10th. In Finland day is known as Martinpäivä and in Estonia as Mardipäev. Martini was named after the Catholic St.Martin of Tours or Martin Luther, the founder of Lutheranism. Day of St.Martin is celebrated all over Europe but the holiday itself is way older and the name of it is based on the French word morti and Latin mori meaning death. In pre-Christian times in Latvia Martini was celebrated to honor the horse god Martinš. He was a dual god. In the spring time he would turn into god Usinš.
During the night of Martini young ladies threw their skirts to the floor before going to bed and in the dream their future spouse would pick it up.
There must have been many kinds of rituals to celebrate this special day. One that I found was a protection ritual for the horses where a rooster was sacrificed. On the eve of Martini horse´s mouth was touched with the rooster and then it was lifted towards the sun. Blood of the rooster was dropped to the horse oats. Latvians worshiped the sun goddess saule so lifting the rooster towards the sun was a sacrificial gift for the goddess. On the next day the left back food of the horse was painted with blood. Dead rooster was smugded in the stable and was put inside a bread and carried around the building to drive away evil spirit. Rooster was a surrogate victim.
Fortunately this custom is not practiced in modern Latvia.
Festivities included masquarade parades, sleigh riding, dances and preparing lots of food. There was also martiparades going on around Martini. Big martis were grown ups and small martis were children. Marti´s were people who painted their faces and dressed up as spirits of the dead. These parades were common in othe countries as well like Austria, Germany, Finland, Holland, Sweden and in Estonia.
In ancient Finland there was all kinds of festivities connected to the autumn time. This is mainly because for thousands of years Finland was an agricultural society and many of the pagan customs and deities were connected to the land. This list includes some of these holy days. Many of these holidays have pagan origins but during the Middle Ages when Catholic church wanted to get rid of the pagan deities, holidays were re-named after Catholic saints. Church wasn´t very consistant in their efforts and many of the pagan customs continued all the way to the 19th century and finally ended in the beginning of 20th century and the industrial revolution. Some of the holidays like Kekri have made a comeback within recent years.
Syyskuu - September
Name of the month is derived from the Finnish word syksy meaning autumn.
Syys-Matti – Autumn Matti 21.9
Preparing for winter begins. Apples, potatoes and turnips are picked. Bears go into hibernation. Matti refers into nature spirit(s) who bring the cool weather.
Lokakuu - October
Derived from Finnish word loka meaning mudd.
Mikon päivä – day of Mikko 1.10
End of the harvest. Food sacrifices are left for the farming spirits.
Karelian version of Mikon päivä. Includes several elements from Christian Orthodoxism.
Talviyöt ja Talvipäivä - Winter nights and winter day 13-15.10
Winter side of the year begins. People move from outdoor works to indoors.
Simon päivä – day of Simo 28.10
Days are getting darker. Small waters start to freeze. Fishermen arrange parties.
Kekri (between the end of October and the beginnig of November)
Kekri was the biggest pagan festival in the ancient Finland. Word kekri is derived from proto-uralic word kekraj meaning the wheel and it was the wheel of the year turning. New year began from Kekri. According to some sources kekri was an old pagan fertility god of the land and farming (possibly with Slavic origins). Festivities included good food and inviting the ancestors to celebrate together with the family. There was no settled date for Kekri. It was a family-oriented festival and each household celebrated Kekri after they had finished all the harvest work. If you wish to find out more about Kekri you can read my article about it here or watch the video.
Marraskuu - November
Derived from old Finnish ”marras” meaning death (dying earth).
Jako-aika – Dividing-time 30.10 – 10.11
Sacred time between the old year and the new year. Time of the spirits.
10.11. Veripäivä - the blood day
Slaughtering was forbidden during the Kekri-time. Blood day was the end of it and slaughtering animals was allowed.
Martin päivä – day of Martti (day of St.Martin) 10.11
Last of the autumn festivals. Dinner was prepared from seasonal ingredients. There was an old custom of children dressing up as martti´s, little ghosts. This custom is still practiced in the countryside of Finland´s neigbour country Estonia.
If you have followed my series on pagan holidays, ancient Finnish blood day should not be surprising )O( Enjoy
Artist and Illustrator. Mythology and Folklore enthusiastic. Keen traveler. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea, and such.
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