Archive for May, 2008

Samh and Geimh

There is a synchroblog on duality, though I found out about it rather late, I thought I would add some ideas from a Gaelic polytheist perspective.

The most important number in Celtic traditions is three and multiples thereof (9, 27 etc) But three emerges from two, and two emerge from one. Sure, a kindergartener can tell you that. But no, I mean this in an esoteric sense. Ultimately, all is One- everything came from one source- be it the Big Bang as in modern science or the Well of Segais or Ginunnagap in Norse myth. The One is separated into Two- or separates the Two into Light and Darkness, Order and Chaos or Female and Male. Or the Earth from the Heavens.

In Irish tradition we see these two cosmic principles as Samh and Geimh. They are Irish versions of the Gaulish concepts of Samos and Giamos. They are not words in modern Irish, but are coinages.

Samh- (sow) represents summer (Beltaine to Samhain) day, light, life, order, the waxing moon, the mundane.

Geimh- (geev) represents winter (Samhain to Beltaine) night, darkness, death, chaos (in a creative rather than destructive sense) the waning moon and magic or the uncanny.

Geimh and Samh are not inherently good nor evil, both are simply part of the natural balance and cycle of things. These two give rise to three- that which lies between them, which belongs to neither one or the other. The liminal, the edges of space and time.

Liminal times- sunrise and sunset, the turning of the seasons, times between the phases of life such as adolescence are when rituals and ceremonies are often held. The powers of the Sidhe (fairies) are stronger, bringing the potential for good luck or for great disaster.

While civilized, known lands could be said to belong to Samh, the wilderness and the unknown places belong to Geimh. Borders between the known and the unknown are the places where Fianna- the outcast warriors and other outsiders dwell.

These ambiguous places and times, which belong to neither one category or the other, are at once dangerous and holy. They inspired both fascination and fear in Celtic peoples.

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May 23, 2008 at 5:30 am 7 comments


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