Beannacht a Samhain!

Between a friend’s fortuitous posting of a quotation from John O’Donohue, and my congregation’s observance of Samhain this past Sunday, I’m very much feeling that old Celtic soul today. The old Celts believed that on this cross-quarter day, the veil between the worlds is thin, and with the herds, the ancestors returned from the summer grounds (the “happy hunting grounds”). I couldn’t help but think of this blessing O’Donohue wrote for his mother to mark the passing of his father. The “old earth fragrance” of these pagan celebrations remains in the Catholic observances of All Saints and All Souls Days, and the relocation of El Dia de los Muertos to November.

Beannacht (Blessing)

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

—John O’Donahue (via Joanna Powell Colbert)

via In honor of Samhain… – Morning Gratitudes.

Shortly after Speaking of Faith (now On Being) recorded this, John O’Donohue died of a heart attack. It is sad that one who wrote such beautiful words and delivered them so beautifully should have gone so young beyond the veil. At least his words and what they stood for remain.

On this cross-quarter day may you find that “old earth fragrance,” of Samhain, remembering those who have gone before, and what of their hearts they leave with us.

In the third stanza, O’Donohue speaks of a currach. Perhaps you can tell from the context that it is a boat of some sort. It consists of a light wooden frame covered with canvas that is coated with pitch or pine tar. Originally they were made of cowhide. According to legend, (Saint) Brendan the Navigator used one to cross the North Atlantic to the New World, ahead of Leif Erikson, or so every Irish child is told. Frederich Buechner’s great novel Brendan (1998) freshly imagines his journeys. In this beautiful scene from John Sayles‘s “The Secret of Roan Inish,” (1994) Hugh, grandfather of the protagonist Fiona, explains about his fishing boat, and we actually see him coating it with tar.

About Richard Hudak

I am Senior Adjunct Faculty in Sociology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and I have been a practitioner of Anusara™ yoga. I have completed 200 hours of teacher training within its diaspora community, consistent with its philosophy and alignment principles.
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1 Response to Beannacht a Samhain!

  1. Pingback: Beannacht a Samhain! | The Considered Kula

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