New Orleans, Religion

Rogue Priest, Where Y’at?

Two nights ago I moved into my Creole cottage, hereby nicknamed Rogue Château. I started sleeping on the baroque sofa bequeathed to me by the previous inhabitant. The next day a mattress was delivered to my home; so was a Mexican.

Mauricio, the shaman, was on my doorstep at last. In Mexico City he was my host and guide; here in New Orleans, I’m his.

That makes Mau the latest addition to a growing band of spirituales. Also in the city right now are Urban the Vodouisant and Saumya the Vodou/Hindu hybrid. We wander the city with a variety of local misfits and miscreants, crashing our worldviews and laughing.

Happy Holidays from the Rogue Chateau

The week has been busy. Tonight is the most important holiday I celebrate, Samhain. It’s our new year and our Christmas rolled into one. Of course, tonight is also Hallowe’en, quite possibly the biggest street party New Orleans can summon up from its métis depths.

Then tomorrow is Day of the Dead, but it’s also Fête Gede, the Vodou celebration of the death lwa, Gede (one of my favorites). Last year Gede led me on serious misadventures. The celebration at the peristyle (Vodou temple) will likely be long, intense, and hilariously fun—and it will end up at the cemetery.

The day after that is a ceremony at le château. It’s a housewarming for the place, but with the number and variety of savants showing up I’ve deemed it housewarping instead. The blessings will be heaped higher than my neck.

It’s a painfully busy, delightfully crazy week and a very perfect start. There are unknowns. Can I earn enough money? Will I get published? Where are the gods, and if I feel them, why can’t I touch them?

Happy holidays all. Many of you celebrate these beautiful days like I do. Your family might not remember, they won’t send you cards, but that’s part of the tradition now. Build up your tribe, find your own miscreants and heap your own blessings. We are the average of the five wolves we run with.


The Irish New Year

Happy New Year, everyone!

What? Two months away? Haha, you must be mistaken. New Year’s Eve is one week from today!

Old fashioned turnips hanging out with a newfangled pumpkin.

The Best Day of the Year

Today I’m sharing a little information on Samhain, the Gaelic new year and the biggest holiday on my calendar. Many of you celebrate Hallowe’en, which has some similarities, so let’s start there.

Hallowe’en is descended from a very old Celtic holiday. In Ireland and Scotland this holiday is called Samhain (pronounced SOW-en), which originally meant something like “Summer’s End.” In modern Irish Samhain is still the word for the month of November.

Samhain is the end of the harvest season, the final deadline for bringing in apples and other crops. Anything left in the fields after Samhain must be surrendered. It becomes the property of the Good People (elves). In more prosaic terms, anything still outside in November is probably rotting and/or frostbitten, and not good for mortals to eat.

Traditional festivities include carving turnips (pumpkins are a New World food), holding all-night bonfires, and divining the events of the coming year. In the Old Belief, Samhain is the Gaelic New Year. It’s also the first day of winter. Since the night of Samhain Eve straddles two seasons, it is “between the worlds” and magic and spirits are particularly strong at this time.

Traveling is traditionally a bad idea from sundown on the 31st until sunup on the 1st; it’s much safer to hold vigil at the bonfire with family and friends. However, not all spirits are considered dangerous. Samhain is a day when one is particularly likely to run into the spirits of deceased relatives, who might be there to give advice or just catch up on news from the world of the living.

Crossing Seas and Oceans

When the Gaels became Christians during the Dark Ages, the Church did not like the polytheist associations of the holiday but was unable to stamp it out. Eventually they made it All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2 or 3) to celebrate all the departed souls and the saints who look after them. Thus the theme of ghosts was kept up in a new, more monotheistic form. In England it was often referred to as “All Hallows Evening” from which we get the name Hallowe’en.

Hallowe’en is thus an English-Irish, Christian-Polytheist hybrid brought over to America by Irish immigrants. Not all of the old customs survived the voyage, but trick-or-treating managed to hang on. In Ireland this is not a Hallowe’en-specific custom; it was once common for children to go door-to-door and demand money or treats on a number of holidays, especially Imbolc (Candlemas) on Feb. 1. On that day they dress as the goddess Brighid or carry an effigy of her; at Hallowe’en they dress as various bogies and monsters. Tricks are definitely traditional as well—it’s unlucky to refuse the childrens’ demands and they gladly enforce this bad luck with pranks and insults.

You may not think of Gaelic and Hispanic cultures as closely related, but Hallowe’en and el Día de Los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) are close cousins. At one time there were Celtic people in Spain as well as Ireland (and much of Western Europe). Día de Los Muertos was the Church’s way of absorbing Samonos, the Celt-Iberian version of Samhain. Both holidays celebrate the departed dead with skull motifs and feasting. Samhain is still celebrated today in North America, Australia, Ireland and Scotland, mostly by Gaelic polytheists but also by some Catholics and Protestants.

This will be the first time in years that I don’t have a temple community to celebrate with. In the past our temple carved turnips for the departed, held toasting ceremonies, and made offerings to the deities. It’s a major celebration for me, but I wonder what it will be like on my own.

Do you celebrate Samhain? Have you ever even heard of it before? Leave a comment and let me know. I hope you find this interesting and may you have a wonderful New Year! And of course… please tweet or share this post.

(By the way, Rogue Priest now has its own Facebook page. If you stop by you can be part of the adventure preparation I’m doing there!)