About two weeks ago we celebrated the Asatru festival called Winter Nights, at which we honored the female ancestors, or Disir.
Tonight, millions of Americans will celebrate Halloween by dressing up in costumes and acting bizarrely. Children will go from door to door, decked out as mummies or witches or princesses, and beg for candy. The older set will go to parties at the office or in homes, but the general spirit will be the same as that of their children - a night of fantasy, of the eerie, the strange.
Halloween takes its name from "Hallows Eve," which comes just before before All Souls Day in the Catholic calendar. It is hardly a coincidence that this is the date of the old Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced SOW-an). As always, the Church was adept at co-opting indigenous holy days and using them for its own ends.
If we compare Samhain and Winter Nights, we see strong similarities. The time of year is significant; harvest has ended and the rigors of winter are coming. The dark half of the year is beginning. The nights are longer. Life retreats from the cold. The wall between the worlds is thin, and the ancestors are near.
Samhain and Winter Nights remind us of the closeness of the European peoples. For all our squabbles, and all our distinct cultural differences, we are in many ways the same bunch of people. The Celts, Germans, and Slavs all descend from the folks of the Funnel Beaker Culture. Even today the European genome is eighty-five to ninety percent derived from the earliest hunter-gatherers to inhabit what are now our homelands. Unfortunately, this closeness has not kept us from fighting one fratricidal war after another with our kin. The bloodbaths of World War One and World War Two are the most obvious examples, but countless less spectacular slaughters have darkened our past. Yes, I know we have always fought among ourselves and I am sure we always will. But modern warfare is a dysgenic disaster of proportions which we can no longer accept.
As for me, I will have a Guinness and remember my ancestors - men like Fergus, son of Nellan, who gave my blood a name - but I will also toast those other men and women of Europa who have made me who I am.
Asatru Folk Assembly