Kalan Gwav, Allentide or Halloween.
Nos Kalan Gwav (eve of first day of winter)
Dy’ Halan Gwav (First Day of Winter)
Kalan Gwav is the Cornish festival of Halloween.
It is that time of year when thoughts turn to the dark of the year, the Winter and to Halloween.
It is a time to reflect upon the year, its successes and not-so-successful moments and to think about ‘the ancestors’.
In Cornwall the Samhain Festival was known as Kalan Gwav or Allentide.
The festival itself seems to have pre-Christian origins similar to most celebrations on this date, however in Cornwall it was popularly linked to St Allen or Arlan a little-known Cornish Saint .
One of the most important parts of this festival was the giving of Allan apples, large glossy red apples that were highly polished, to family and friends as tokens of good luck. Allan apple markets used to be held throughout West Cornwall in the run up to the feast.
Another tradition associated with Allantide was the lighting of “Tindle Fires”, which the Cornish shared in common with the majority of their other Celtic brethren.
In Cornwall, Allantide is also known as Allan Day. As in all Celtic cultures this time of year was seen as being a significant one and sometimes considered to be the Celtic New Year.
In the Celtic mind this was the point in the year when the veil between this world and the next was most thin. At one point Allantide was a popular time for parties across Cornwall and it was customary to give large polished Red Apples which in the past were bought at large “Allan Markets”.
Prior to the 20th Century the parish feast of St Just was known as Allantide.
Two 19th Century sources note:
The shops in Penzance would display Allan apples, which were highly polished large apples. On the day itself, these apples were given as gifts to each member of the family as a token of good luck. Older girls would place these apples under their pillows and hope to dream of the person whom they would one day marry.
THE ancient custom of providing children with a large apple on Allhallows-eve is still observed, to a great extent, at St Ives. “Allan-day,” as it is called, is the day of days to hundreds’ of children, who would deem it a great misfortune were they to go to bed on “Allan-night” without the time-honoured Allan apple to hide beneath their pillows. A quantity of large apples are thus disposed of the sale of which is dignified by the term Allan Market.
The following game is also described..
….. two pieces of wood were nailed together in the shape of a cross. It was then suspended with 4 candles on each outcrop of the cross shape. Allan apples would then be suspended under the cross. The goal of the game was to catch the apples in your mouth, with hot wax being the penalty for slowness or inaccuracy.
Divination games played at Allantide included the pouring molten lead into cold water, which, according to tradition, could predict the occupation of a future lover or spouse. The shape of the cooled lead indicating the future job, a broom being a janitor, a gun a soldier and so forth.
Folklorist Margaret Courtney records the following Allantide games:
Rolling three names, each written on a separate piece of paper, tightly in the centre of three balls of earth. These were afterwards put into a deep basin of water, and anxiously watched until one of them opened, as the name on the first slip which came to the surface would be that of the person you were to marry.
Tying the front door key tightly with your left leg garter between the leaves of a Bible at one particular chapter in the Song of Solomon. It was then held on the forefinger, and when the sweetheart’s name was mentioned it turned round.
Slipping a wedding-ring on to a piece of cotton, held between the forefinger and thumb, saying, “If my husband’s name is to be let this ring swing”.
It has been noted that the traditional pumpkin lantern was, in Cornwall, made from a turnip. Such a lantern tends to change the orange-rotundness of the Pumpkin in to something a little different – perhaps more bizarre.
It is a time of trickery and spells.
One traditional text records this love spell
Taking two long-stemmed roses, a girl goes to her room in silence. She twines the stems together, naming one for her sweetheart and the other for herself, and thinking this rhyme:
“Twine, twine, and intertwine. Let his love be wholly mine.If his heart be kind and true, Deeper grow his rose’s hue.”
She can see, by watching closely, her lover’s rose grow darker.
The sacred ash figures in one charm.
A party of young people seek an even-leaved sprig of ash. The first who finds one calls out “cyniver.”
If a boy calls out first, the first girl who finds another perfect shoot bears the name of the boy’s future wife.
An idea, more fully explored in the newsletter, is the link between Apples, Death and Avalon.
The Isle of Avalon, is also known as the Isle of Apples, and legend tells us that Arthur was taken to be healed Avalon to ‘be healed’ and so there’s a clear link between the Celtic notion of The Otherworld and the Between Worlds often spoken of at Halloween.
This is a time of the year where the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest. In Celtic terms Beltaine, the Spring/Summer equivalent of Samhain, is the other time of the year when this veil is less of a barrier, yet is Samhain which has the deeper tradition of connecting with the spirits, our ancestors.
In some Wiccan Samhain rituals an apple is sliced width-wise to reveal that the seeds make the shape of the pentagram. Hence the apple is the fruit of knowledge and wisdom since one of the meanings of the pentagram symbol is the integration of material and spiritual wisdom. Eating of this apple is symbolic of the acceptance of death and hence rebirth.
The eating of the apple is followed, after some personal reflection, by the eating of the pomegranate, an apple which is overflowing with the seeds of life.
There is of course a direct link to the story of Persephone and Hades for it was the pomegranate she ate prior to leaving Hades and which, in a sense, condemned her to return each year.
At Samhain there is a healthy reflection on death since without death there can be no re-birth (in whatever way such a re-birth is perceived).
It also a time to rid yourself of those habits, behaviours and attitudes which have not enriched or ennobled your life up until this point.
So this Allentide, Samhain or Kalan Gwav celebrate you, your uniqueness and the gifts you bring to the world; reflect upon those limiting behaviours and attitudes which block you. Take a bay leaf (or piece of paper) and commit create a word, symbol or sentence which defines these blocks and write them on the leaf or paper. Then, after some reflection on how being rid of these old patterns would change you, commit the paper or leaf to the Samhain fire and watch them burn, turn to ash and vanish from your life.
The dark of the year is a time for telling stories of past deeds, heroic quests and our ancestors. It is also a time when you can create new stories, new scripts for your own life and being.
May you Never Thirst