Marja-Leena Rathje
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November/Marraskuu


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Ah, the calendar page turns to November. This morning's too-brief sunshine drew me outdoors. I could not resist taking the camera to capture some of the last of fall's beauty in our garden.

Curious about the source of the name, I learned that in Latin, 'novem' means nine. November was the ninth month in the Roman calendar.

I also learned, to my great surprise, that 'marraskuu', the Finnish name for this month, means 'month of the dead'. But wait, it may not be like Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead as celebrated in Mexico. It's thought to come from the earth being 'martaana' or in a state of death. Yet, coming right after Halloween and on or near All Saints' Day, a Christian holiday in many countries in Europe, I can't help wondering if it might be referring to the ancient traditions of honouring one's ancestors at the same time. Curious, isn't it?

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Marja-Leena | 01/11/2007 | 9 comments
themes: Culture, Finland, Estonia & Finno-Ugric


9 comments

Samhein hortensia
dried brown flower to remind
us of All Souls Day

I think that people all over the northern hemisphere associate this time of the year with death, seeing the leaves fall and the sun disappear that's only natural.
I believe that the Christian church introduced All Saint's Day to combat the pagan autumn rituals but it never succeeded in destroying them, such is the strength of suspersition and ancient wisdom
I love it all!
Well, if I never see another pot of chrysanthemums again I will be a happy woman, but aside from that, autumn is my favourite season

All Souls Day:
the dead hortensia speaks
in a thin whisper.

Olivia and Dave, thank you both for the blessings of your haiku! What a wonderful way to comment.

Mouse, I suspected all that and I'm really in favour of celebrating some of these ancient traditions. I'm not fond of the North American Halloween though - too commercial. Fall used to be my favourite season when we lived in Winnipeg, whereas here it's usually too wet. Spring is now my favourite, but really, every season has it's splendours, hmm?

Like you, I do not like the commercial side of Halloween, Marja-Leena. But I love the spiritual side of Samhain.

I was going to say about placating the spirits of the dead here with huge quantities of chrysanthemums, but Mouse beat me to it!

Olivia, I don't understand how come so many of the old spiritual practises didn't come to the New World.

Lucy, now that you mention the 'huge quantities of chrysanthemums' after Mouse did, I'm really curious. This must be a very French custom? I'm not aware of any kind of public observations of All Saint's Day here in Canada, though I imagine Quebec has them.

We do put pots of chrysanthemums out in the fall here in New England, though personally I've always liked them! I've never been that fond of fall and fall colors, maybe because I had such miserable hay fever every year in the fall when I was growing up. My September birthday I'd be runny nosed and itchy. And the rare bouquet of fall flowers I've received made me long for spring colors! I've come to appreciate fall much more as I've grown older, maybe partly because the seasonal allergies aren't so bad.

But November... unsurprising the associations with death in the northern hemisphere with the lessening of sunlight and end of growing season for vegetables and hibernation of animals. Scorpio (Oct. 24 - Nov. 22) is ruled by Pluto which is associated with death and rebirth. Interesting that the following month, Sagittarius, when it's the darkest and deadest, is associated with philosophy and the search for meaning.

Hi Leslee, we put out pots of 'mums' too, because of their seasonal colour, but I'd never associated them with honouring the dead. Interesting what you write about Scorpio and Sagittarius, first the despair then the hope and desire for understanding. Really the cycle of life, isn't it? The old traditions seem to acknowledge and celebrate these points in the cycle.