May 28, 2013

Nicevenn: Goddess of Samhain

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , , , , at 8:58 pm by Babs

NicevennThe Middle Ages of Western Europe are commonly dated from the end of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century until the rise of national monarchies, the start of European overseas exploration, the humanist revival, and the Protestant Reformation starting in 1517.  These various changes all mark the beginning of the Early Modern period that preceded the Industrial Revolution.

The Middle Ages are commonly referred to as the medieval period or simply medieval (sometimes spelled “mediaeval”).  Arguably the biggest milestone in history from which a true end to the Middle Ages can be dated is Humanism.  It is a broad category of active ethical philosophies that affirm the dignity and worth of all people, based on the ability to determine right and wrong by appeal to universal human qualities – particularly rationality, common history, experience, and belief.  Humanism is a component of a variety of more specific philosophical systems, and is also incorporated into some religious schools of thought.

Humanism entails a commitment to the search for truth and morality through human means in support of human interests.  In focusing on the capacity for self-determination, humanism rejects transcendental justifications, such as a dependence on faith, the supernatural, or divinely revealed texts.  Humanists endorse universal morality based on the commonality of human nature, suggesting that solutions to our social and cultural problems cannot be parochial.

Before the demise of much of faith related ideals in existence long before the rise of monotheism there was paganism and folklore.  Celtic folklore has a long and rich history and for this time of year the Celts celebrated Samhain.  The Samhain celebration survived in several guises as a festival dedicated to the dead. In Ireland and Scotland, the Feile na Marbh, the “festival of the dead” took place on Samhain.

Samhain Eve, in Irish and Scots Gaelic, Oidhche Shamhna, is one of the principal festivals of the Celtic calendar, and is thought to fall on or around the 31st of October.  It represents the final harvest.  In modern Ireland and Scotland, the name by which represents the final harvest.  In modern Ireland and Scotland, the name by which Halloween is known in the Gaelic language is still “Oiche/Oidhche Shamhna”.

Bonfires played a large part in the festivities.  Even into Christian times, villagers cast the bones of the slaughtered cattle upon the flames, cattle having a prominent place in the pre-Christian Gaelic world.  The English word ‘bonfire’ derives from these “bone fires,” but the Gaelic has no such parallel.  With the bonfire ablaze, the villagers extinguished all other fires.  Each family then solemnly lit its hearth from the common flame, thus bonding the families of the village together.

According to Irish mythology, during that night the great shield of Scathach was lowered, allowing the barriers between the worlds to fade and the forces of chaos to invade the realms of order, the material world joining with the world of the dead.  At this time the spirits of the dead and those yet to be born walked amongst the living.  The dead could return to the places where they had lived and food and entertainment were provided in their honor.  In the three days preceding Samhain, the Sun God Lugh, maimed at Lughnassadh (August 1st), dies by the hand of his Tanaiste (counterpart or heir), the Lord of Misrule.  Lugh traverses the boundaries of the worlds on the first day of Samhain.  His Tanist is a miser and, though shining brightly in the winter skies, he gives no warmth and does not temper the breath of the Crone, Cailleach Bheare, the north wind.

In parts of western Brittany, Samhain is still heralded by the baking of kornigou, cakes baked in the shape of antlers to commemorate the god of winter shedding his “cuckhold” horns as he returns to his kingdom in the Otherworld.

The Romans identified Samhain with their own feast of the dead, the Lemuria.  This however, was observed in the days leading up to May 13th.

With Christianization, the festival in November (not the Roman festival in May) became All Hallows’ Day on November 1st followed by All Souls’ Day, on November 2nd, after which the night of October 31st was called All Hallows Eve, and the remnants festival dedicated to the dead eventually morphed into the secular holiday known as Halloween.

Nicevenn, also known as Dame Habonde, Abundia, Satia, Bensozie, Zobiana, Nicheven or Herodiana is a Scottish Witch Goddess from the Middle Ages.

According to Scottish myth Nicevenn is a crone witch goddess who rides through the night with her followers on Samhain.  Her name can be translated as “Divine” or “Brilliant.”  She is equated with the Roman Goddess Diana.  Tradition places her night according to the old (Julian) calendar, on November 10th.  In modern times she is called an evil faery.

Nicevenn has been called the Scottish Mother.  Her direction is center.  One would call on her to manage Winter, Witchcraft, Divination, Ghosts, Magic, Peace and Protection.  She rules over all Samhain rituals and her symbols are Gourds and Pumpkins. Unfortunately she has no known totem animal.


  1. Amalie said,

    Where’s Brigid? She’s wonderful!

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