The Celtic Diet – Part 5 – Burns Night

Burns night is celebrated with a supper and commerates the life and poetry of Scottish poet Robert Burns, known affectionately as Rabbie Burns, the National Bard, Bard of Ayrshire, the Ploughman Poet and many other various titles. He was born on 25 January 1759 in Alloway, Ayrshire in the Western lowlands of Scotland. He is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scottish Gaelic, though much of his writing is in a “light Scots dialect” of English, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these writings his political or civil commentary is often at its bluntest.

Robert Burns

After his death on 21 July 1796, he became a great source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism, and has remained a cultural icon in Scotland and among Scottish emigrants and their progeny throughout the world.

Many, though, throughout the English speaking world link arms and sing Auld Lang’s Syne, the best known of Rabbie’s compositions to mark the New Year in the modern calendar, after midnight.

The Battle of Sherramuir

The Corries – Sherrifmuir Fight

“The Battle of Sherramuir” is a song written by Rabbie about the Battle of Sheriffmuir which occurred in Scotland in 1715 at the height of the Jacobite rising in England and Scotland. It was written when Burns toured the Highlands in 1787 and first published in The Scots Musical Museum, 1790. It was written to be sung to the ‘Cameronian Rant’.

Burns Night

Burns night suppers are normally held on or near the poet’s birthday, 25 January. There’s traditional dancing and neeps, haggis and tatties are the food of the day. All washed down with a Scottish whisky.

So let’s have a look at some great recipes for a traditional Burns Night.


Traditional Haggis. Neeps and Tatties

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties

Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: Depends on cooking method (10 – 60 mins)
Serves: 41 haggis


400g neeps (swede [yellow turnip])
500g tatties (potatoes)
50ml milk (optional)
salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cook your haggis* according to the cooking method on pack.
  2. Meanwhile, peel your neeps and tatties.
  3. Cube them, then boil separately till tender.
  4. Drain, then mash separately with a good bit of butter.
  5. If you like, add a glug of milk to get a smoother consistency.
  6. Then add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Once your haggis is ready, serve alongside the neeps and tatties for a traditional Burns supper.


Making your own Haggis is not for the feint hearted and some of the ingredients are not that easy to purchase, especially the sheep’s stomach bag in which it is cooked. You can cook the rest of the ingredients separately, though, but ensure it stays moist and should never be served dry.


1 sheep’s stomach bag
1 sheep’s pluck – liver, lungs and heart
3 onions
250g beef Suet
150g oatmeal
salt and black pepper
a pinch of cayenne
150mls of stock/gravy


  1. Clean the stomach bag thoroughly and soak overnight. In the morning turn it inside out.
  2. Wash the pluck and boil for 1.5 hours, ensuring the windpipe hangs over the pot allowing drainage of the impurities.
  3. Mince the heart and lungs and grate half the liver.
  4. Chop up the onions and suet.
  5. Warm the oatmeal in the oven.
  6. Mix all the above together and season with the salt and pepper. Then add the cayenne.
  7. Pour over enough of the pluck boiled water to make the mixture watery.
  8. Fill the bag with the mixture until it’s half full.
  9. Press out the air and sew the bag up.
  10. Boil for 3 hours (you may need to prick the bag with a small needle if it fills up with air) without the lid on.
  11. Serve with neeps and tatties.
  12. Alternatively, buy a ready to cook haggis! It’s far easier and you are guaranteed to enjoy!

Best Place to Purchase

Although many supermarkets sell haggis, the best place to buy is from an award winning Scottish butcher. Some only do local delivery, though, but their are some award winning butchers that sell online. Also, if you have a delicate palate (like myself) you can try various alternative haggis, including vegan and vegetarian alternatives.


An Súil Éile ar an Blian Anuas agus an Súil Éile ar an Blian Amárach

Remembering the Past and Looking to the Future

Sacred Well at Cath Pass Cork/Kerry Border

From out of the earth, the well pours forth the waters of life which cut a path forward to the seas to return back by air and cloud so that the magickal journey will continue anew.

Another year has passed and it hasn’t really been much kind to us but it has been a lot better than 2019 especially with the world wide vaccination programme that has prevented a lot more deaths than the previous year under the pandemic. I know there are still restrictions but are not as stringent as they were previously. Hopefully things will be a lot better for the new year as we open the front door to welcome its dawn and sweep the dirt and rubbish of the old year out the back door (an old Irish tradition of welcoming the new calendar year that I only heard of in the last few years. It seems to be a an image of the old rural whitewashed thatched houses for the tourist industry but a very pleasant one all the same).

I am a frontline healthcare worker and there has been a lot of pressure on the health services but again, it has relaxed a good bit since the introduction of the vaccine to the populace. Yes, you still can get sick from contracting the virus while being vaccinated but mortality rates and chances of hospitalisation have decreased dramatically.


Looking back on the year that was and how my personal path has evolved during this time, I have come to appreciate more that which influences indirectly or what I manipulate and fashion into tools to aid my path. Those of you who have read my written pieces throughout 2021 will have a good idea of what I mean by that. Basically it’s changing what inspires me to what I want to aspire to and finally, make it a reality that impacts on my path both physically and psychologically (some can say spiritually as well). I am a fairly active person and started cycling for pleasure as well as for personal challenges. This year I took on 3 challenges. I hadn’t planned to do them but attempted them on a whim (okay okay, my partner ‘volunteered’ me for the NCBI charity one). The first was cycling a total of 300km for National Council for the Blind Ireland and I completed it over a 5 day period with the last trip being the most memorable. This can be found in ‘An Scéal a Trí Sliabh’ which I wrote during the Summer. Another charity cycle I attempted and completed was the 120km Fort to Fort for the Mercy University Hospital Cork ( where I work) which was the beginning of another change of my life which I wrote about in ‘Draíocht na Sidhe’. I did another charity cycle a few weeks ago which was the Christmas Cracker Cycle for Marymount University Hospital Cork which is a palliative care centre. This one was very important to me personally as it was the care and dedication of the staff in this organisation that was with my maternal grandmother & grandfather, paternal grandmother and fathers of two very close friends all of whom had different forms of terminal cancers. It was only 85km but it was the toughest challenge I have done to date. A week ago, a surgeon friend of mine sent me a link for another challenge in September 22. The 160km Beara cycle tour. Funny how things come back to you. Ardgroom village is one of the checkpoints on the route. I have written about Ardgroom Stone Circle and taken some of you there in both written (‘Scéal a Trí Sliabh’) and videos and pictures I have shared in social media groups such as the OCW member page and my own Na Mhac Tíre na hEirú (affiliated with OCW). This area is populated with a lot of Neolithic sites which I will be looking out for along the tour (that’s if I survive Healy’s Pass).


Owing to the weather conditions and due to national restrictions, I wasn’t able to travel much for some key dates of the year for personal decompressions/rituals. However, I did manage to go to Knocknacoille, John’s Well/ Tobar Brighid Naofa and a long day trip to Ardgroom but also I had the opportunity to conduct live decompressions at Drombeg Stone Circle at Crom Domhnaigh/ Cheile Tailte/ Lugnasadh and at the Linear Orthostadt stones of Castlenalacht just before  Grianstad an Grimhridh/ Winter solstice on social media. I want to personally thank those who attended and endured everything that could go wrong and my Cork accent butchering the Irish language. A cairde, Andrew agus Johnny, go raibh maith agaibh.


I was disappointed on the morning up in Castlenalacht as I was hoping to catch some type of sunrise with the tallest standing stone but typical of Irish weather, I felt like a politician arriving at Newgrange. It was too overcast and started raining as soon as I left. But not all is lost. At the moment , there are weather alerts for the county and we have had nothing but bad weather but there was a small break. One morning I left the house to get to my car and a beautiful sun rise over the hills greeted me. It’s that one perfect moment that makes you pause, give you time to look what you have accomplished and what you can look forward to in the future.

I was very lucky to get this photo

Thank you all for listening to my journey over the past and previous year. So lets all raise a glass in toast.

Súil éile ar an bhliain anaus agus súil éile ar an bhliáin amárach.

Go n-ardóidh an bóthar chun beannú dui tar do chosán gach éirí gréine nua.

Go mbeadh an ghaoth i gcónaí ar do chúl agus go dtitfidh an bháisteach go réidh ar do shála.

Go mbeannaí tú do bheannacht ag teach Donn nuair a ghlacfaidh an fear dubh do lámh.

Athbliain faoi mhaise daoibh féin.


Seán Ó Tuama.

Ancient Celebrations – Part 7 – Wren’s Day

Saint Stephen’s Day, also called the Feast of Saint Stephen, is a Christian saint’s day to commemorate Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr celebrated on 26 December.

In Irish, it is called Lá Fhéile Stiofáin or Lá an Dreoilín, the latter meaning the Wren Day. When used in this context, “wren” it alludes to several legends, including those found in Irish mythology, linking episodes in the life of Jesus to the wren. People dress up in old clothes, wear straw hats and travel from door to door with fake wrens (previously real wrens were killed) and they dance, sing and play music.

A Mummer’s Festival is held at this time every year in the village of New Inn, County Galway, and Dingle in County Kerry. Mumming is also a big tradition in County Fermanagh in Ulster. Saint Stephen’s Day is also a popular day for visiting family members and going to the theatre to see a pantomime.

In the UK Boxing Day originated as a holiday to give gifts to the poor. The Carol “Good King Wenceslas” tells the story of a Bohemian king going on a journey and braving harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen. During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by following the king’s footprints, step for step, through the deep snow. The legend is based on the life of the historical Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia or Svatý Václav in Czech (907–935).

Whether you are a Christian or otherwise, St Stephen’s Day is a great day to show appreciation for what you have and give to the poor. Maybe go through your possessions that you no longer use and donate them to charity, or donate money. Let’s always care for those in society who have illness, disabilities, the widowed, the single parents and all who suffer from poverty.

However you spend the day, may you be blessed and wishing you all good health.

Watch a video of The West Clare Wrenboys

Druidry – Exposing the Frauds – Part 1 – Meddygon Myddvai

The Physicians of Myddfai (Meddygon Myddfai) were a succession of physicians who lived in the parish of Myddfai in Carmarthenshire, Wales.

Instructions for preparing herbal medicine attributed to the family have survived in the Red Book of Hergest, which dates from the late 14th century, and in other, “more recent”, Welsh manuscripts.

The “more recent” Welsh manuscripts have been used since as a definite guide to Druid herbal medicine.

With renewed 19th century “Christian” interest in Druidry, antiquarians visited Myddfai parish to collect further oral traditions regarding the family of physicians, including a legend of its origins. The first reference to this story occurs in a diary compiled by the topographer Richard Fenton, who visited the parish in 1808.

The story was subsequently expanded in an article in 1821 periodical The Cambro-Briton and in an introduction to the 1861 book Meddygon Myddvai. The latter version was based on the oral accounts given by three elderly residents of the parish in 1841 to William Rees.

The book Meddygon Myddvai, published in 1861 by John Pughe, collects together most of the materials attributed to the Physicians, which it groups under two manuscripts. What it terms the “first” manuscript is the material included in the Red Book of Hergest, corrected by comparison with other copies.

The “second” manuscript, however, consists of materials found in a manuscript formerly known as MS Llanover C.24 and now held by the National Library of Wales. It was brought to light by, and is partly in the hand of, the antiquarian and bard Iolo Morganwg (Edward Williams).

The text purports to be a collection of herbal medicinal prescriptions and herb names compiled by Hywel Feddyg ab Rhys ab Llywelyn ab Philip Feddyg, a descendant of the Physicians of Myddfai.

However, the Llanover “Meddygon Myddfai” manuscript is one of Williams’ forgeries, and was compiled by him based on the materials he found in a manuscript compiled by Harri Jones of Pontypool.

So, whilst the information found in the first part can be credited (with extensive revisions) to the Red Book of Hergest, the latter part of Meddygon Myddvai can be dismissed as another fraud, whose prolific material has been promulgated by modern Druid Orders.

Ancient Celebrations – Part 6 – Perihelion, Aphelion and the Solstices

The Earth is closest to the Sun – at its Perihelion – about 2 weeks after the December Solstice and farthest from the Sun – at its Aphelion – about 2 weeks after the June Solstice.

Earth orbits the Sun in an elliptical path, which means that there is 1 point of the path when the Sun is at its closest to the Earth and 1 point when it is furthest away.

The shape of this path varies due to gravitational influences of other planetary objects, particularly the Moon. Approximately every 100,000 years, Earth’s orbital path changes from being nearly circular to elliptical. The difference of the Earth’s orbital shape from a perfect circle is known as its eccentricity. An eccentricity value of 0 is a circular orbit, while values between 0 and 1 describe an elliptical orbit.

The dates when Earth reaches the extreme points on its orbit are not fixed because of the variations in its eccentricity. In 1246, the December Solstice was on the same day as the Earth reached its Perihelion. Since then, the Perihelion and Aphelion dates have drifted by a day every 58 years. In the short-term, the dates can vary up to 2 days from one year to another.

Mathematicians and astronomers estimate that in the year 6430, over 4000 years from now, the timing of the Perihelion and the March Equinox will coincide.

The Earth is closest to the Sun – at its Perihelion – about 2 weeks after the December Solstice and farthest from the Sun – at its Aphelion – about 2 weeks after the June Solstice.

Earth orbits the Sun in an elliptical path, which means that there is 1 point of the path when the Sun is at its closest to the Earth and 1 point when it is furthest away.

The shape of this path varies due to gravitational influences of other planetary objects, particularly the Moon. Approximately every 100,000 years, Earth’s orbital path changes from being nearly circular to elliptical. The difference of the Earth’s orbital shape from a perfect circle is known as its eccentricity. An eccentricity value of 0 is a circular orbit, while values between 0 and 1 describe an elliptical orbit.

The dates when Earth reaches the extreme points on its orbit are not fixed because of the variations in its eccentricity. In 1246, the December Solstice was on the same day as the Earth reached its Perihelion. Since then, the Perihelion and Aphelion dates have drifted by a day every 58 years. In the short-term, the dates can vary up to 2 days from one year to another.

Mathematicians and astronomers estimate that in the year 6430, over 4000 years from now, the timing of the Perihelion and the March Equinox will coincide.

Ancient Ancestors Placed Markers For Astrological Events

You might wonder why we are discussing such things in great detail and the connection with today’s revived interest in Solstice and Equinox Celebrations.

From at least 5000 years ago ancient monuments have marked out Solstice and Equinoxes with their alignment with the Sun. The ancients would have spent many years (even decades) putting up these monuments, with blood, sweat and tears for future generations to enjoy.

Our ancestors lived amidst nature more than most of us do today. They observed the universe, noting its rhythms. They used both solar and lunar calendars, tracking the Sun’s path across the sky. Here are some examples of the ancient sites and monuments that were built to align with the solstices or equinoxes.

1) Stonehenge

Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England

Each year, thousands visit Stonehenge on the Summer Solstice. The huge monolith stones (many of which were transported from miles away in South Wales) were arranged in a circle around 3000 BC. The huge monument marks the relation between the Sun and the seasons.

On the dawning of the summer solstice, the sun rises directly above the Heel Stone. Although the tallest trilithon at the monument is no longer standing, the sun would have set between the narrow gap of these uprights during the winter solstice.

2) Newgrange

Newgrange, Donore, County Meath, Ireland

Around 3200 B.C., ancient people in Ireland built a huge mound and surrounded it with stones. Today, the knoll is called Newgrange.

Illuminated passage during Winter Solstice

For five days around the winter solstice, a beam of sunlight illuminates a small room inside the mound for 17 minutes at dawn. The room holds only twenty people at a time.

3) Machu Picchu (Peru)

Maccha Picchu, Peru

Marking out Solstices and Equinoxes wasn’t just limited to Britain and Ireland. The awe inspiring Machu Picchu was the transcendent City of the Incas. This archaeological site is perched atop a mountain overlooking the Urubamba Valley in Peru.

Intihuatana Stone, Maccha Picchu, Peru

The giant Intihuatana (meaning “the place when the Sun gets tied”) stone at the top of this sacred mountain is perfectly positioned so that each corner sits at the four cardinal points (north, south, east, and west), and at an angle of about 13 degrees northward. The stone casts a shadow throughout the day. However, at exactly noon on the date of the spring or fall equinox, the Sun’s shadow disappears. The stone is a precise indicator of the date of the two equinoxes.

4) Other Examples

The importance of marking out ancient Celebrations is seen from many other ancient monuments throughout the world, including the Mayan Pyramid, Chichen Itza in Mexico, the Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, and the Great Sphinx and Pyramid of Khafre in Egypt.

Added to the list are thousands of smaller stone circles concentrated mainly around Britain, Ireland and Northern Europe, but found as far away as Northern India. These time keeping circles show that the ancients viewed these events as important.

Solstices – Longest and Shortest Day of the Year

The June solstice is the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

The date varies between June 20 and June 22, depending on the year, and the local time zone.

A solstice happens when the sun’s zenith is at its furthest point from the equator. On the June solstice, it reaches its northernmost point and the Earth’s North Pole tilts directly towards the sun, at about 23.4 degrees.

It’s also known as the northern solstice because it occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere.

In the tropical zodiac used in Western Astrology it is at this exact point that the Sun enters the Astrological sign of Cancer (however, the Sun is still physically positioned in Gemini due to the precession of the Equinoxes).

The Winter Solstice takes place each year between 20-22 December, depending on the year and your location. All Solstices and Equinoxes are events that happens around the world at the exact same point.

For the December Solstice, this is when the Sun is aligned to the most Southerly point, the tropic of Capricorn. Indeed in the tropical zodiac it is seen as the time when the Sun enters Capricorn. For those south of the equator it is the time of the summer solstice.

It is a time of celebration. A time of rebirth of the dying sun, or the Sun at it’s zenith in other parts of the world. Many festivities take place this time of year, but Christmas is the most well known. The controversial 19th century Welsh Druid Iolo Morganwg called it Alban Arthan, which translates to The Light of Arthur the legendary King. But whatever you call it, or however you celebrate it, solstice blessings to you and your kin.

Ancient Celebrations – Part 5 – Saturnalia

Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honour of the god Saturn. It was originally held on 17 December but was later extended with festivities to 23 December. Saturnalia was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, and a public banquet. This was followed by private gift giving and continual partying. Many believe Saturnalia was a major influence on customs associated with later celebrations in western Europe, especially Christmas. Let’s look at the origins of this pagan holiday and similarities with today’s festivities.

Ancient Roman historian Justinus states Saturn was an historical king of the pre-Roman Italy: “Saturnus, is said to have been a man of such extraordinary justice, that no one was a slave in his reign, or had any private property, but all things were common to all, and undivided, as one estate for the use of every one; in memory of which way of life, it has been ordered that at the Saturnalia slaves should everywhere sit down with their masters at the entertainments, the rank of all being made equal.” Saturn was viewed as an agricultural deity who reigned over the world in the Golden Age. The term Golden Age is adopted from Greek mythology and is the first of five Ages, Gold being the first and the one during which the Golden Race of lived. After the end of the first age was the Silver, then Bronze, followed by the Heroic age. The fifth contempary age of the time was Iron. The Golden Age of Saturn’s rule was a period when pre-Romans enjoyed the fruits of the earth without labour in an age of innocence. The revelries of Saturnalia reflected the conditions of this lost mythical age.

Examples of Sigillaria gifts

During Saturnalia, Roman society was turned on its head. As well a sacrifice, feasting and partying, masters provided table service for their slaves and freedmen. Gambling was permitted for all and it was a time of liberty. A “Ruler of the Saturnalia” was elected by lots, who was a master of ceremonies and comparable to the “Lord of Misrule” at the Feast of Fools, which originated in Northern France. Gifts exchanged were usually ancient joke shop type items know as gag gifts or small clay or wax figurines known as sigillaria. Toys were given to children. Saturnalia was held sixteen days before the Kalends of January, which marked the birth of the unconquerable Sun.

Fifth century Roman writer, Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius is our major source of information about Saturnalia. He described Saturnalia as a festival of light leading to the winter solstice. Like the Christian Advent, candles were lit each day to symbolise the quest for knowledge and truth. The renewal of light and the coming new year was celebrated in the later Roman Empire as the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, the “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun” on 23
December. The Philocalian calendar of AD 354 actually dates the festival of “Natalis Invicti” on 25 December. There is limited evidence that Natalis Invicti was celebrated before the mid-4th century. Despite similarities between Christmas and Saturnalia it is only since the 12th century, that the near-solstice date of 25 December for Christmas was selected because it was the date of the festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti. However, Hippolytus of Rome, between 202 and 211, said in his commentary on the Book of Daniel that the birth of Jesus took place on December 25, which was prior to Natalis Invicti.

Ancient Celebrations – Part 4 – Yuletide

Yule or Yuletide (Yule season) is an ancient festival observed by the Germanic peoples. It has connections to Woden (Odin) and sacrificial feasts. Like many other pagan festivities, Yule was Christianised and transformed into Christmastide. Despite this, Yule is still commonly used in Carols and in connection with Christmas, such as the Yule log.

How was this ancient festival celebrated, what was its meaning and how does it influence Christmas celebrations today?

The Norse All Father, Odin, also bears the names jólfaðr (Old Norse for “Yule father”) and jólnir (“the Yule one”). A link was later made to the French word jolif, meaning jolly, which was itself derived from Old Norse. It can also mean feast, as in hugins jól (Old Norse “Huginn’s Yule”), which referred to “a raven’s feast”.

The earliest written mention of Yule is from fourth century Gothic, in connection in the month that fell from November to January on the old lunisolar calendar. Yule was originally a 3-day celebration.

During Yule, farmers gathered at the heathen temple and brought along food for the feast. All drank ale and livestock, including horses, were sacrificed. The sacrificial blood (hlaut) from them was collected in vessels (hlautbolli), which was then smeared around the inside and outside of the temple with sacrificial twigs (aspergills). The blood was also sprinkled around the pedestals of the statue representations of gods and on all men present. The meat, however, was boiled and served as food at the banquet.

Fires were lit in the middle of the temple floor, and kettles hung over them. The chieftain blessed both the sacrificial meat and the sacrificial beaker, as he held it over the fire. Toasts were drunk to Odin “for victory and power to the king”, a second to Njörðr and Freyr “for good harvests and for peace”, and thirdly a beaker was to be drunk to the king himself. Toasts were then drunk to the memory of the departed.

King Haakon I of Norway who ruled from 934–961 is credited with the Christianisation of Norway. He also rescheduled the date of Yule to coincide with Christian celebrations held at a similar time. When Haakon arrived in Norway, he was already a confirmed Christian, but the land was completely heathen. Haakon hid his Christianity to ensure the support of tribal chieftains. Eventually, Haakon introduced a law ensuring Yule celebrations took place at the same time as Christmas. When he solidly established himself and held power over the whole country, he then had the gospel preached. His popularity caused many to be baptised, and some stopped making sacrifices.

Yule eventually became synonymous with Christmas, with the Yule Father being replaced with the jolly image of Santa Claus. Many modern pagans have since reclaimed Yule as their own and celebrate it with a mixture of ancient and modern traditions.

The Celts – Part 4 – British Migrants – Beaker Folk and the Celts

Prior to the Celts, the Beaker folk arrived in Britain around 2700-2500 BC, intermingling fairly peacefully with the existing Neolithic culture and adopting its henges. They brought new burial practices with them so that Neolithic long barrows or cairns were replaced by smaller barrows or tumuli. They also brought new metalworking techniques with them, in copper and gold. They came from a society that stretched across Europe (covering all of Iberia, most of Germany, and northern and southern France excluding the Central Massif).

The Beaker folk introduced a patriarchal society in which the individual warrior-chieftain became the most important and powerful figure, replacing the existing egalitarian society that built Stonehenge. They gained their name, which is sometimes given as Bell Beaker Folk, through their use of a large number of drinking cups called beakers. Burials with these pots alongside the dead have been used by archaeologists to chart the growth and expansion of the Beaker folk

Examples of Beaker Folk Pottery and Tools

Their arrival was not an invasion of new people, the Beaker folk were an influx of a new ruling elite in much the same way as later waves of Celtic arrivals. They were farmers and archers, wearing stone wrist guards to protect their arms from the sting of the bowstring. It was actually the Beakers who introduced the roundhouse, which echoed in shape both the henges and barrow mounds, made their own, distinctive, pottery, and produced the first woven garments in Britain. They also introduced the first known alcoholic drink, a form of honey based mead. They were emulated by the natives, so within a fairly short period everyone were Beaker folk, newcomers and natives alike.

The first wave of Celtic settlers in Britain arrived in the Late Bronze Age period, between 1500 BC at the earliest to around 1000 BC. Like the Beaker folk, they were peaceful settlers. These early Celtic arrivals were later the focus of what may have been a long-established tradition of  kingship that was claimed by the post-Roman Celtic peoples of Britain.

These early arrivals were rulers of the British Celtic tribes (starting initially in the south and east of Britain and working northwards). They were the strongest rulers of their own tribal groups and held at high-kingship over the rest. Their duty as high king was exercised to unite tribes in times of emergency, such as at the landings of Julius Caesar in 55 and 54 BC. History shows that both kings and queens ruled over various tribes.

They would train with the warriors of their tribes and lead them into battle, but only to protect their tribes. The Celts were fierce warriors, but only as protectors of their tribes and the kingdom.

Ancient Celebrations – Part 3 – Hallowe’en

Halloween has been observed by many Christians since c.610 CE, and is a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve (Hallow meaning holy ones, or saints). This was followed by All Saints Day on 1 November and All Souls’ Day on 2 November. The three days are collectively known as Allhallowtide. They are a time for honouring the saints and praying for recently departed souls who have yet to reach heaven. Despite this though, Halloween has much older origins and many of the customs today, go back much farther into history.

Originally, All Saints Day was celebrated on 1 May. However, both the Celts and Germanic people commemorated the dead at the beginning of winter. So to make the festival appeal to pagans the date was aligned to Samhain from 1 November 835 CE at the behest of Pope Gregory IV. Samhain was the first and most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Gaelic calendar and was celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. A kindred festival was celebrated by the Brittonic Celts, called Calan Gaeaf in Wales, Kalan Gwav in Cornwall and Kalan Goanv in Brittany, meaning “first day of winter”. Both Samhain and Calan Gaeaf are mentioned in the earliest Irish and Welsh literature.

Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the darker half of the year. It is seen as a liminal time, where the veil between the physical world and the Otherworld was lifted. This meant the Aes Sidhe, the Fae (spirits and fairies) could more easily visit this world and were active. The Aes Sidhe were ancient Celtic Gods, who were denigrated by the Christian church. Despite being replaced by other beliefs, the Aes Sidhe were both respected and feared. Known fairy dwellings (which still exist today) were approached with caution, with people praying for God’s protection. During Samhain, offerings of food and drink were left outside these dwellings, as an offering, to ensure that the Aes Sidhe protected both families and livestock during the bleak winter months.

Souls of the dead are believed to visit their former homes and places were set at the table to welcome them. In more recent centuries, household rituals and games were played intended to foretell one’s future, especially in regards to death and marriage. These included apple bobbing, nut roasting, scrying using objects such as crystals and mirrors, dream interpretation and others. Bonfires were lit, traditionally on the sacred hill of Tara in Ireland and then once the flames were seen other fires were lit. Flames, smoke and ashes were all seen as having protective and cleansing powers. Dressing in costume from door to door begging for appeasement goes back to the 16th century, but may have more ancient Celtic origins. It is believed that disguises and playing tricks helped hide you from malevolent spirits. The carved Jack O’Lantern pumpkin only dates from the 20th century and originally turnips or mangel wurzels were used. Today, Halloween is more popular than ever, celebrated by both Christians and pagans.

Traditional turnip Jack O’Lantern from the Museum of Country Life, Turlough, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, Ireland

The Celtic Diet – Part 4 – Samhain Recipes

In recent times, common Celtic recipes are stews, potato dishes, cereal/oat meals and lots of varieties of bread. Some foods are eaten during celebratory or commemorative days. These are some recipes you might want to try for Samhain: –

Traditional Irish Colcannon


Colcannon was first referenced in Irish history in a 1735 diary entry of William Bulkely, a traveler from Wales who had the dish on Halloween night in Dublin: “Dined at Cos. Wm. Parry, and also supped there upon a shoulder of mutton roasted and what they call there Coel Callen, which is cabbage boiled, potatoes and parsnips, all this mixed together. They eat well enough, and is a Dish always had in this Kingdom on this night.”


  • 500g Starchy, floury potatoes (as opposed to new potato varieties)
  • 150g Parsnips (or spring onions, or leeks)
  • 100g White Cabbage (or Kale)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 10g butter


  1. Prepare your potatoes, by cutting them into small roast potato sizes. Traditionally they are unpeeled with any eyes, etc. removed and washed, but many do peel them (although this takes away a lot of the goodness).
  2. Chop your other vegetables coarsely (modern recipes tend to use spring onions or leeks, but the oldest recipes used parsnips).
  3. Boil a pan of water with a pinch of salt and add the vegetables together. Some boil the potatoes separately, but I feel the tastes blend better when cooked together.
  4. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes (test with a fork).
  5. Once cooked add butter and mash.
  6. Optionally some add little trinkets to the dish when served at Samhain.

Irish stew

Irish Stew

Ingredients (for 8 servings)

  • Tablespoon oil
  • 2 or 3 onions, chopped
  • 450g (1 lb) lamb stew meat (traditionally mutton)
  • 225g (1/2 lb) parsnips or carrots, sliced
  • 1.3kg (3 lb) potatoes, sliced
  • 500ml (17 fl oz) stock
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Prepare vegetables.
  2. Brown onions and meat in oil. Once browned, add parsnips or carrots (or a mix).
  3. Add remaining ingredients and bring to the boil, then cover, lower heat and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  4. For a modern twist and extra flavour add herbs such as basil and bay leaves

Barmbrack (an Irish fruit cake)



  • 3/4 cups (8.75oz/248g) raisins
  • 3/4 cups (8.75oz/248g) sultanas
  • Zest of lemon, large
  • Zest of orange, large
  • 1/3 cups (8oz/227g) dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups (16floz/500ml) black breakfast tea, hot and strong
  • 3 cups (15oz/426g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 2 eggs , beaten


  1. In a medium bowl, combine the raisins, sultanas, zests, and sugar.
  2. Pour the hot tea over and stir to combine. Cover with cling wrap and allow to stand overnight at room temperature.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 325°F (170°C). Lower the temperature in a fan oven. Grease a deep 9 Inch Cake Pan with butter/oil and line with greaseproof paper.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and spice.
  5. Stir in the fruit mixture followed by the eggs, alternating between the two. Mix until no dry streaks remain and the batter is well incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter into Cake pan.
  7. Bake for about 80-90 minutes, or until the cake is golden and springs back when pressed. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then turn it out onto the rack to cool completely.
  8. Slice and serve with butter.
  9. Store the Barmbrack at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 4 days.