Three celebrations are mentioned in the novels which were actual ancient holidays. Marshall Best gives plausible reasons for the institution of these celebrations.
SamfuinAlthough the more modern name for it is Samhain, this name was actually derived from the Old Irish word Samfuin, which Marshall uses in his books. Read below how Samfuin was celebrated in the story of Cumoro and why in the excerpt below from book two of The Chronicles of Guiamo Durmius Stolo.
“Our men have fought in battle against the Fomori many times and came away victorious. Torques and arm bands have been awarded to the brave who survived the battles. And yet, these men and women we have honored are not the only ones who gave us a land free of the vile orcs and Luprech hounds; a land where our sons and daughters can be raised in safety. Many of our sons and brothers have fallen in battle, and the memory of their brave deeds must also be preserved for all the ages.
“I declare that the day of the full moon of this month, the month of Samonios, shall be a day of remembrances, of telling our children of Nuada and the valor of our dead, of victory, and of a land strewn with orc corpses, for our dead must be remembered. It shall be a day of celebration, of song and feasting, and demonstrations of swordplay and horsemanship.”
Guiamo could see from the smiles forming on the faces of his men that his plan was met with tremendous approval. He continued, “Each tribe shall build a fire upon this field where you now sit to remind us of the deceiving fires I set upon the plain of Tuired where Nuada was slain to confuse the orc host with the direction of our attack.
“In the midst of these fires, we shall create a great bonfire which shall burn throughout the long hours of the night to symbolize the huge pyre needed to burn the corpses of the orcs.
“Before the sun sets on that day, all the fires in the homes around Temair shall be extinguished. Then the hearth fires shall be lit anew from the great bonfire, in remembrance that only through the deaths of the Fomori could our homes be made warm and secure.
“The rekindling of the fires is to be a constant reminder that we must slay and burn all our enemies who threaten our lands in years to come. The lighting of the fires in our homes must be done to remind us of the brutal battles we endured this summer.
“This day of celebration shall mark the end of this year of bloodshed and the beginning of a new year where the Pritana and Cruthin dwell in peace in the land.”
Lughnasadh and Belotenia
Lughnasadh and Belotenia are two other ancient holidays that were celebrated. You can see below how Best has woven these seamlessly into his story in this excerpt from book 3, Morlanos.
“Speaking of celebrations, I have been thinking of proclaiming two new festive days for us to celebrate.”
Abartach was intrigued, “What would you propose, Mórlános?”
Guiamo replied, “We remember the Pritana dead who fell to the Fomori and speak of their valor. Some have come to call that day Samfuin, referring to the celebration to be forever held at the end of each summer, but there is more that must be celebrated. What our brothers did must always be remembered, but I wish to specifically honor Nuada who fell in battle. That battle upon the field of Tuired occurred in the month of Giamonios and I should like to begin this celebration by lighting fires at night to remember the juniper fires I lit to face the Fomori slóg of the orcs Balor, Indech and Tethra in the wrong direction. On this day we shall honor the memory of Nuada.”
Abartach replied, “This is a worthy event, significant to both Pritana and Cruthin. I am in agreement that it is worthy of remembrance. What other celebration do you propose?”
Guiamo answered, “I wish to remember the final destruction of the Fomori, the day when the last orcs and Luprech hounds were slain in the month of Aedrinios. It should be not so much focused on them, but rather upon us, a time of new beginnings and peace, the day that peace came at last to our land. It was a day when we could build our homes and take the harvest from our fields without fear of fire and death. It should be a day of dancing and feasting, of joyous song and games of strength and skill, and of families reuniting in peace.”
Abartach asked, “These days must be given names for all to use. Have you given thought to this?”
Guiamo replied, “Belotenia is a word which means ‘lighting of the bright fires.’ This would be fitting as a name to honor Nuada. I have not decided on a name for the festive days of renewal from the destruction of the Fomori.”
Abartach answered, “We should celebrate this as a day to honor you, Mórlános. We shall name this day Mórlánosnasadh, the ‘assembly of Mórlános.’ ”
Guiamo demurred, saying, “But I am known by many names. To Etarlám’s people, I am Cúmóro. Some remember me as Lugh, and only recently have I become known as Mórlános. To Ursius, I am Guiamo, the name given to me by my mother and father.”
Sreng laughed and said, “I do not care what others may call me, just so they call me for supper.”
Abartach smiled at Sreng’s jest and nodded in agreement. He turned back to Guiamo and said, “The people will use whatever name for you with which they are familiar. Whether it be Mórlánosnasadh, Lughnasadh, or Cúmóronasadh, they will all love you for the deliverance you brought and give honor to your memory.”
Sreng nodded in enthusiastic agreement. “It shall be as you say among both our peoples. Over the next days we will send word across the land to announce this so that all may participate in their lands as we shall at Temair.”
Calendars and Language of the Guiamo Chronicles
In reading the excerpts above, I'm sure you came across some strange sounding months! Samonios and Aedrinios are not what we are used to hearing. In writing The Chronicles of Guiamo Durmius Stolo, Marshall Best has used two different calendars. In book one, Guiamo, you will find the Roman calendar being used as it takes place in Gaul under Roman rule. In subsequent novels, the author switches between Roman calendar months and Old Celtic calendar months depending on who is speaking. Guiamo and Ursius are Romans, so when they refer to the calendar, they use the Roman names. All others use the Old Celtic names of the months. It's interesting to note that all but three of the months in the Roman calendar are recognizable compared to the modern, whereas the Old Celtic are completely foreign. Below are lists of both calendars. You will notice in the middle column the approximate time of each month. They usually overlapped with our traditional months. Although scholars debate which of our modern months correlate to the ancient calendars, Best has just chosen the one that seemed best to him.
Old Celtic Months Modern Day Roman Months
Anagantios January/February Ianuarius
Ogronnos February/March Februarius
Cutios March/April Martius
Giamonios April/May Aprilis
Simivisonna May/June Maius
Equas June/July Iunius
Elembiu July/August Quintilis
Aedrinias August/September Sextilis
Cantlos September/October September
Samonios October/Novem October
Dummanios November/Decem November
Rivras December/Januar December
Throughout the books, there are an abundance of words referred to that are Latin and Old Irish. Best has said many times that he would love to have an expert in Latin and Old Irish read his books to critique the use of the words. He wishes it to be as authentic as possible. It is one of his greatest frustrations that he does not know how to pronounce many of the words. When asked how to pronounce certain words, his answer will be, "I have no idea!." Old Irish is the oldest recorded language in the region and can be tied back to around 500 A.D. which is much later than the period in which the stories take place. As with other things in the story, because there are so many holes in ancient history, an author must make a choice and Old Irish seemed best to use. Many of the Latin and Old Irish terms are listed below with their meanings. As with the months, when Guiamo or Ursius are speaking, Latin terms are used. Old Irish is used elsewhere. In the back of each book, Best has provided a glossary to help the reader in understanding the many new terms.
Commonly Used Latin Words Commonly Used Old Irish
oppidum - Fort Ard ri - high king, literally, "High horse rider"
Druidae - druid Drui - druid
Druides - druids Druide - druids
scorpio - giant crossbow bocoit - shield
gladius - Roman short sword Bandrui - female druid
clavicula - key bairgen - loaf of bread
clostellum - lock claideb - sword
legio - legion coimetaid - guardian
milites gregarius - veteran soldier coiced - division
pugio - dagger cruisech - spear
passum - paces longphort - encampment
volumen - scroll Ri Coiced - king of a division of the Cruthin
regnator - king Ri Tuaithe - tribal king
Mare Internum - Mediterranean Sea cairptui - chariots