Giamounox (Winter Night)

(Quick note: Thank you again to Segomâros Widugeni for being patient with my incessant questions and Erik Lacharity for helping translating the French texts and re-writing those parts in this post for better syntax and flow)

There are two cosmic principles built in Celtic and Germanic Religions: Winter and Summer[1][2][3]. For Senobessus Bolgon, we started with Giamouretimâ (Winter release). It follows that Senobessus Bolgon should have a time for the celebration and acknowledgement of winter. A time when the dead and the wild hunt or sacred company roam and expect to be propitiated. Henceforth the holiday will be known as Winter Night or Giamounoxtion – Winter Nights.

The winter nights would normally be celebrated when winter sets in or when summer ends. However, most contemporary celebrations of Samhain and other winter nights start from around the 31st of October to the 1st of November. This leaves plenty of range for the determining of when the holiday should be celebrated. For those who wish a fixed date, the typical 30th of October – 1st of November can work well. For those who wish a more traditional inclination, more calculation will have to be done on their part. For example in Minnesota for 2018, Summer ends September the 22nd but Winter begins December 21 for 2018. Obviously these dates are positioned to the more contemporary thought of Summer and Winter and consider Spring and Autumn to be seasons of their own. 

In Traditions et légendes de la Belgique, there are a few possible survivals of polytheistic practice carried to Christianity in All Hallows Eve. These elements were translated to me by Frankisk Allodium’s Erik Lacharity. These will form a huge backbone of the holiday since we are assuming a hypothetical continuum for Senobessus Bolgon. 

The elements found[4]:

1. Ancestor or Dead Propitiation: A popular tradition says that a man murdered in Saints can find no rest until he had avenged his murderer. This is somewhat referenced in La Tradition : revue générale des contes, légendes, chants, usages, traditions et arts populaires; “It is also stated that, in the evening, the dead take vengeance on those who caused them grief throughout that year, pressing heavily upon their chests (night mare) until the stroke of midnight, that hour by which they all return to their graves. In elder days, there were many other such beliefs than those we have mentioned here.” [5]

Though it doesn’t explicitly say this is caused by ancestors of the living, it can be rationalized that if the dead are visiting their family, then it may be one of their functions during this holiday. Of course this doesn’t leave out the option of a general propitiation to the retinue of spirits or dead in reaction to nightmares. 

46CF85BF-C8C1-42BA-AE9A-5E98349232A6
Ancestors. Artwork by Selgowiros Caranticnos.

2. Winter divination: According to another belief, we have to go on that day, to the forest and cut a piece of beech. If it is wet, the winter will be cold, if it is dry, the opposite will occur .

beech tree
Beech Tree in fall. Photo by Ruth Smith.

3. Cemetery Procession and ancestor worship: As in France and in several parts of Germany, from Halloween, all cemeteries receive many visitors who come to pray for the souls of their parents or their friends. They often place lit blessed candles upon those tombstones or sprinkle holy water upon the grave. In several places in the Ardennes, on the day of the dead, there are to be processions about the cemeteries. Each participant carries in hand a lighted candle which they place, after the ceremony, at the grave of the last death in their family. 

Hornitos_2013_crowd_in_procession_for_Day_of_the_Dead_in_Hornitos_-_photo_by_Virginia_Lazar
All Souls Day/Dia De Los Muertos In Hornitos, CA (Virginia Lazar Photography)

4. Candle vigil and the Wild Hunt: In Bruges, Dinant and many other cities, we light, on the eve of the festival, blessed candles in each home and allow them to burn overnight. It is prudent to protect one’s self through these blessed candles from the apparitions and haunts which by belief the Belgians as well as the French, Scottish and Irish tend to ascribe to that night. In Ireland and Scotland it is the Elves, “that All-hallowride” during the tide of All Saints, who participate in nocturnal spectral races. In Languedoc it is the dead who on the eve  of  the Jour des trépassés (day of the dead) go in procession about the graveyards; in Provence it is leis armetos, (the little souls) who come at this time to visit the corpse they abandoned and while on their night journey, they and go about the living terrifying them in their sleep.

1599px-The_Witches_Rout_(Lo_Stregozzo),_by_Marcantonio_Raimondi_and_Agostino_Veneziano,_engraving_-_National_Museum_of_Western_Art,_Tokyo_-_DSC08256
The Witches Rout (Lo Stregozzo), by Marcantonio Raimondi and Agostino Veneziano, engraving – National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

5 Horror stories and Soul Chariot/Procession: In Flanders it is the zielwagen or the “chariot of souls” that travels about the air and, as tradition tells through several stories, some always scarier than the others, these nocturnal processions are conducted by ghosts in cemeteries. (Alwin and Brinley Rees confirm this by stating tale telling is done in the winter months in Insular Celtic lands). 

fire
Get a fire going and tell stories to the family. (Image found here)

6. Soul Cakes: “A poignant custom, which is very widespread through Belgium, is to eat on that day – or eve – of All Souls Day, cakes which are called zieltjenskoeken, “soul cakes”, or zielen brood, “soul bread”. At Dixmude and surrounding are, they say that each cake eaten delivers a soul from purgatory. At Furnes the same belief is related to its buns which are called radetjes, and that these are made in every household. At Ypres children place, on the eve of the Day of the Dead, crosses or statues of the Virgin, light a small candle in the street near the door of their houses and ask passers-by for pennies om te bakken koeken zieltjes voor in ‘t vagevuer “to make cakes for little souls of purgatory” . In some places in Brabant we make zielen broodjens, very small white loaves marked with a cross, which are eaten hot. It is believed that first to eat one of these cupcakes must say a pater for the poor suffering souls. In Antwerp we make zielenbroodjens, also very white and of very fine flour, to which much saffron is added to give them a yellow tint, an image of purgatory. In the Limburg countryside they are zielenbrood or kruiskensbrood, crossed breads which are blessed early in the morning and everyone eats one at lunch, after a prayer for the souls. The panne koeken (pancake) is made in Bruges on the Day of the Dead in every household and probably has the same meaning as the former. The same can be said for the couquebaques (Flemish: koekebakken), which we eat in Tournai on the day of souls and Namur on the eve of this holiday.

Although the names of these cakes in most appear to be connected directly to the meaning of the Christian festival which is celebrated today, everything suggests that the origin of this practice dates back to more ancient times than the institution of the feast of the Church. Judging by the similarity of surviving ceremonies in Scotland, Ireland and Wales and in Britain, it can be assumed with good reason that the zieltjenskoeken of Belgium, the Seelen (souls) of Upper Germany and “soul-cakes,” from Wales are remainders of a pagan sacrifice which was celebrated at that same time. Not having succeeded in eradicating this festival’s last traces, the Church Christianized them, if I may use that term, – those main practices – by giving them a new poetic and very pious meaning which fit perfectly on the day of the Dead.”

To sum this up, the night before the day of the dead required the cutting of a Beech branch to determine if Winter was to be harsh or mild. If it was a wet cut it will be harsh, and if it’s dry it will be the opposite. The Wild Hunt or Sacred Company travels in procession with all manner of spiritual beings, the dead (ancestors as well) included. Since the retinue of spirits are abound in this manner, the cemetery is visited by family members where they will leave candles, preferably on the grave of the last of their dead family member. As the soul chariot (Wild Hunt) continues during these days, scary stories are told and more visitations to the cemetery are held. Soul cakes are then made to be eaten to placate the dead and send them from the procession akin to a dumb supper. 

soulcakes4small
Gorgeous Photo by The Wonder Smith. They have the recipe for nutmeg Soul Cakes there too! Visit the link!

The Wild Hunt is found in Lowland Folklore all over. Depending on the household practicing, many deities can fit the leader’s position. Ludwig Bechstein recounts Hulda or Bertha roving during certain holy nights with her daughters the moss maidens. In other areas, it is a Woden like figure leading the chase. As stated, households can make the choice of who it is leading the Hunt and possibly offer propitiation to the deity they believe is in the charge (Nehalennia, Visucius, Bugius etc). Since there is no surviving continental Celtic term for the Wild Hunt, Segomarôs Widugeni helped me create some: Allatoselgos (Wild Hunt) or Noiboslougos (Sacred Company). 

 

Mini constructed myths/folklore dedicated to the potential leaders of the Allatoselgos/Noiboslougos.

Bugius: Bugius during the Giamounoxtion cries loud to stir the Bugiûs into a frenzy. This causes the dead to follow along in procession of the ‘soul chariot’, all into the land. All who hear His cry should be warned to stay away from the sacred forests and grasslands for they will be chased or forced to partake in the hunt. During daylight hours, it would be wise to placate them at the edge of the forest or grassland. At night, one should be in their home.

Nehalennia: Those who live by bodies of water or the coast however may be wary of Nehalennia. For though she leads the dead to a blessed Isle, this time is for Her to hunt for free souls who trespass into the night. Her moss maiden daughters and Her dogs roam while she rides via boat or cart, looking to take others into and/or for the Hunt. If you hear Her dogs, she may be near. Soul Cakes placed by the water is an adequate placation for Her who disappears into the fog. 

Visucius: For those close to roads, Visucius and his goat driven chariot ride through the nights. If you see a raven or crow during this period, it could be Him in disguise or one of the spirits in retinue, stalking for prey. Should you see one during this time, be kind to it or at the very least try to go unnoticed. If you hear (or in the worst case, see) his goat driven chariot and the Allatoselgos/Noiboslougos, stay in the middle of the road to go unnoticed. 

Allatoselgos/Noiboslougos: The stragglers of the allatoselgos will cause mischief on this/these nights, so it is customary to offer soul cakes to those who come to your door to placate them as well as your ancestors who visit. 

 

Check list for Giamounox/Giamounoxtion:

1. Cut Beech Branch to divine quality of Winter on first day. 

2. Visit cemetery 2-3 days of Holiday. 

3. Candle vigils in home (especially if cemetery doesn’t allow for that)

4. Tell scary stories.

5. Make soul cakes for the dead and eat with them. 

6. Make necessary propitiation to dead/ancestors for offenses if there were nightmares. 

7. In between these actions, make necessary propitiation to god leading the Allatoselgos(Wild Hunt)/Noiboslougos(Sacred Company). 

 

 

Resources:

1. The Apple Branch: a Path to Celtic Ritual by Alexei Kondratiev P. 97-104

2. Celtic Heritiage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales by Alwin and Brinley Rees P. 83-89

3. A History of Pagan Europe by Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick P. 122

4. Traditions et légendes de la Belgique: Descriptions des fêtes religieuses et civiles, usages, croyances et pratiques populaires des Belges anciens et modernes Tome second by Le Baron de Reinsberg-Düringsfeld

5. La Tradition : revue générale des contes, légendes, chants, usages, traditions et arts populaires by Émile Blémont and Henry Carnoy P. 259