Saturday, 31 October 2015


"Now is the winter of our discontent made even more crapulous by the Tory Government elected by an English minority and a main opposition party which is not in any shape or form an opposition."

Traditionally Samhain marked the equinox, the end of summer, the harvest home, wood stacked and the round house made safe to withstand what ever winter brought upon us while we awaited mid winter to pass and the sun's return.

It was and is a time to tell ourselves the stories about our ancestors, to listen to the bards recite the tales of who and what they were to us, to where we find ourselves now. To remind us what we are and should be. To give us the strength and encouragement to go on no matter what the year to come throws at us.

There was a strong Scottish tradition of Halloween which still in my childhood, in the 1960's, reflected this more ancient and reflective nature of Samhain. Parties were held for all the relatives, each parent brought a dish to share along with a song, a tune, a story or a poem. The kids would be organised to go round the doors with a song or a skit with no expectation of any reward, a remnant of the bardic sharing of who and what your family were. If you were good you might get a sixpence or an apple or two. Your songs were Scottish folk songs or poems your family knew. One year I remember my cousins and I each learned a verse of Tam O'Shanter to recite around the doors when we were guising, musical kids would play the fiddle or tin flute as we walked between houses, usually accompanied by the banging of my Gran's old pots and lids to keep the boggles and ghosties away. Not that far distant, I guess, from our ancient Celtic forebears going from round house to round house in their own villages.

The Anglicisation of Samhain to Halloween and the further American 'Tesco style' commercial version which has brought trick and treating; all act to make us forget why Samhain was important to our extended families, towns and villages. It could be seen as just another piece of cultural vandalism, reducing further modern Scots ties with their past and why it remains important as it shapes who we are. The process of cultural smothering of Scotland has been going on ever since the Union was forced into existence, we see it in the Unionist cringe of the Scots branches of Tory and Labour Parties, the shortbread tin approach of the BBC to Scottish culture, shaped as it is by the 'British' filter and what is suitable according to its London bosses at Westminster. The subliminal message of we Scots are too wee, too poor, too stupid to run our own country on a diet of haggis, champit neaps and bashed tatties.

This Samhain, whilst you and your families are having a grand time, maybe a wee pause to remind yourselves on whose shoulders you have always stood, why this is and has always been important to who we are and who we can be. The last few years have reminded many of us what is important to us as Scots and what it is which defines us as people and a nation, no matter the Scottish cringe of the media and those in Scotland and England who are threatened by a Scottish cultural and political resurgence, say.

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