The ancient Celtic calendar follows the agricultural year more closely than our modern calendar. This is especially true for the beekeeper.
It “officially” becomes Winter on December 21st by the standard Western calendar, but in the ancient Celtic calendar, it begins a lot earlier. On November 1st, Celtic winter begins with the season of Samhain (pronounced SOW-in). The beginning of Samhain is traditionally celebrated on October 31st.
The Celtic seasons are:
1. Samhain (Winter) November 1st, the beginning of the new year, to January 31st.
2. Imbolc (Spring) February 1st to April 30th
3. Beltain (Summer) May 1st to July 31st
4. Lughnasadh (Fall) August 1st to Oct. 31st
Why does the Celtic Winter start so early?
For beekeepers, it means that the queen stops laying and the bees go into their winter cluster with the queen always at the center, huddling together for warmth until Imbolc arrives in February and the queen again becomes active.
For most “believers”, Samhain, means “End of Summer”, and is the third and final Harvest. The dark winter half of the year commences on this day.
October 31st is one of the two “spirit-nights” each year, the other being Beltain. It is a magical interval when the mundane laws of time and space are temporarily suspended, and the Thin Veil between the worlds is lifted. Communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is easy at this time, for they journey through this world on their way to the Summerlands.
This was the time that the cattle and other livestock were slaughtered for eating in the ensuing winter months. Any crops still in the field on Samhain were considered taboo, and left as offerings to the Nature spirits.
Bonfires were built, (originally called bone-fires, for after feasting, the bones were thrown in the fire as offerings for healthy and plentiful livestock in the New Year) and stones were marked with peoples names. Then they were thrown into the fire, to be retrieved in the morning.
The condition of the retrieved stone foretold of that person’s fortune in the coming year. Hearth fires were also lit from the village bonfire to ensure unity, and the ashes were spread over the harvested fields to protect and bless the land.
Celebrate the Lifting of the Veil with a Samhain Cocktail.
1 1/2 oz. Vodka
1/2 oz. raspberry liqueur
1/2 oz. honey
1 oz. cranberry juice
Mix together in a shaker with ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a cranberry.