Samhuinn is the time of nature’s decay when the unseelie court roams and Nicevenn rides. The blue-faced Cailleach Bheur banishes Brighid, now her reign of cold and decay begins – she blasts the earth’s vegetation with her wand and brings the snow by shaking her grey cloak. The spirits of the dead return to commune with their loved ones, while the fearsome leave offerings to the unseelie so they’ll be left alone…
Heigh Ho for Hallowe’en,
When the fairies a’ are seen,
Some black and some green,
Heigh Ho for Hallowe’en!
For on Hallowmas Eve the Nighthag shall ride,
And all her nine-fold sweeping on by her side,
Whether the wind sing lowly or loud,
Sailing through moonshine or swathed in a cloud.
~ The Silver Bough
I went to Neverland this weekend. It’s not an easy trip as you have to fly there with fairy dust and happy thoughts. But I made it and I had a great time. Camping in cabins in the woods next to a lake on a spooky and foggy Samhuinn night with witches, pirates, the sídhe, and all manner of creatures about. Midnight rituals to summon our witch ancestors and to honour our dead, to dance and sing because death is not an end but part of the circle.
In the morning it was a walk hunting for mushrooms; bulbous purple, firey red, sulfuric orange, yellow fingers of flame, deformed grey clouds, and poisonous panther cap… I wildcrafted some amanita muscaria – or commonly Fly Agaric. Many locals don’t know, but Fly Agaric is native to British Columbia, it lives in the woodlands of spruce, firs, birches, pine and cedar and is usually found at the base of these trees or dead stumps – mainly in the early spring and late fall when it’s damp and cool. It is not poisonous as many believe, it would take up to 15 mushroom caps until it becomes toxic, but it is still safest to ingest when cooked or dried. Fly Agaric is hallucinogenic and its use as a psychoactive drug by the Vikings, peoples of Siberia, along with the cunning folk of Scotland and England have made this fairy-tale mushroom famous. Just beware its deceptive cousin the panther cap or amanita pantherina – this cousin looks similar but is yellow-orange rather than bright red and will poison you or a pet who munches.