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Samhain is coming!

I typically start preparing my Samhain crafts a few weeks before the actual celebration, such as talismans and amulets, as some items require both materials and inspiration! I had planned to start with a Rowan red thread cross, which some make at Imbolg, but which I like to make when the Rowan berries are hanging from the tree. 

So, I looked into an old favourite source  — Kevin Danaher’s “The Year in Ireland” — for some Samhain feast and craft inspirations and noticed the Parshell cross, which I had somehow overlooked before. And it is very similar to a Rowan red thread cross in design. Maybe I’ll try both!

Rowan Cross, two wood sticks ina  cross formation, bound with red threads at the junction.
Rowan Cross, from The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic

In Irish traditions, a Parshell is made only on Samhain Eve (aka Halloween), and Danaher provided basic instructions in his book:

  • lay two seven inch (roughly 18 cms) sticks crossways
    • TIP: if you have access to Rowan / Mountain Ash, use that. If not, anything indigenous to your locale would be great, and preferably windfall rather than pulling from the shrub.
  • at the junction, make a loop with a piece of fresh straw and then weave it around th for arms, over one, under the next, etc.
    • TIP: use anything on hand such as raffia, wool, cotton, fresh plant materials
  • continue until the woven material is about an inch (2.5 – 3 cms) from the end of the stick, then secure.  You could add a loop to hang from a nail or picture holder.

Danaher tells us that when complete, the parshell was positioned above the main to the house (on the inside) to ward over back luck, illness, the fae, and witchcraft for the next twelve months. If there was already an existing parshell in place, it would be remove whilst saying “Fonstarensheehy!”. The previous year’s parshell was then placed in another part of the house, or in the barn. 

Another source suggested reciting the following when hanging a new parshell cross:


An donas amach,
Is an sonas isteach,
Ó anocht go dtí bliain ó anocht.


Misfortune / ill-luck out,
Happiness / good-luck in,
From this night until a year from tonight.


I was curious about this word, and was sure it was simply a corruption of an older Irish word or phrase. I found a discussion in that suggested the phrase may be a corruption of the Irish “Fan istigh ar an sídhe“, which they translated as “Stay inside to hinder the fairies” or “Stay inside on account of the fairies”. Seems reasonable!

What are you planning for Samhain?

Consider joining our Samhain Season course, which is now open.

Explore the season from Samhain, aka Samhuinn, traditionally celebrated at the mid-point between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice in both hemispheres, and ends with the beginning of a new season at Winter Solstice (aka Yule and as Alban Arthur in neo-Druid traditions and as Grianstad an Gheimhridh in Irish).  

Samhain marks a new year in the Celtic Wheel of the Year, born from the darkness of Winter, from the womb of Mama Earth. It is a time of visioning and dreaming and co-creating our world as it spirals toward a new year,  when you may turn your thoughts to healing, renewing and co-creating in perhaps a different way.

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