Thursday, October 31, 2013

Blessed Samhain, Happy Halloween!

It's Samhain time again. This is the old Celtic New Year, celebrating the last of the harvest and settling in for the "death" of the Earth in Winter, waiting for life to return in the Spring. It was a time when it was believed that the veil between this life and the afterlife was thin, and the dead could cross over and speak to the living. So it's a time for remembering those who have passed on, memorializing the ancestors and the recently departed. It's a somber time yet it's also a joyous time, celebrating the lives of our loved ones. It was appropriated and "Christianized" by the Church in the early days, turned into a holiday to celebrate the lives of the saints; it was called All Saints Day, or All Hallows Day, and the night before was called All Hallows Eve, which is now called Halloween. You can read my full essay on this here.

I woke up this morning to find fog and just had to get up to Spring Hill Cemetery to catch the appropriately Halloween-ish mood. I so wished a Crow would appear and perch on one of the graves, but no such luck. In any case, here are some shots of Spring Hill in an evocative seasonal mood.

That was for Halloween. Now for a mood more in line with the celebration of Samhain. The church's traditional Requiem mass is sung at funeral services and can often be a most moving and awesome experience (just listen to Mozart's and Verdi's requiems), but it's didactic, meant to teach a lesson about death. And that lesson is fairly dark, with threats of hell and eternal damnation, warning the attending congregation that they need to get their affairs in order and get right with God or else. 

Johannes Brahms changed all that with his Ein Deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem); this work abandons the traditional format of the mass and instead presents six movements dedicated to the comfort of the friends and family of the deceased with promises of life after death and reunion with loved ones and with Christ. This air of comfort is much more in line with the atmosphere of Samhain, so I'm posting the first movement of that symphony. Read the libretto to see what I mean about comfort.
Blessed are they that mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
They that sow in tears
shall reap in joy.
They that go forth and weep,
bearing precious seed,
shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
bringing their sheaves with them.
Here's Otto Klemperer conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra in 1961. Blessed Samhain!

Photos & text © 2013 by A. Roy Hilbinger


  1. Typically informative, and the cemetery shots were great, too. Thanks!

  2. I’m still learning from you, but I’m trying to achieve my goals. I certainly love reading everything that is posted on your website.Keep the stories coming. I liked it!
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