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> Anaons?, what does it mean?
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Posted: 15-Jun-2006, 07:02 PM
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Celtic Guardian

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So often we are browsing looking for something else. . . and we come upon mysterious threads of information that taper off without seeming to be completed.

Looking for the legend of Dahud, I went into a site that had some information about Breton funeral practices and beliefs about the dead or the afterlife. The date of November 2 ("all souls") is called Gouel an Anaons. But the word for "soul" is ene, or spered, which looks cognate to "spirit" and may be a loan word from Latin "spiritu". The best I can figure out, reading bits of stuff here and ther in French, is that anaons are restless souls of the departed that keep to the sea or the strand, the littoral area that is between the tide marks, who are somehow still tied to the world of the living. And the practice of All Souls Day is to light fires in the courtyards for the sake of these roving spirits, to warm them.

It is very poignant, and so much the product of the imagination by a cold, windy sea shore where the wind and the waves make moaning sounds . . . I would be very interested to hear of any more detailed legends about this. It is so very celtic, rather than being of a piece with the rest of France.

OK, I found something --

On Samhain, the moment of the year's death, this world and the Otherworld become equivalent to each other, classificatory boundaries are removed from all categories, no barriers exist between the dead and the living, so both can authentically come together in one place to share a ritual feast. Individual Celtic communities have preserved a wealth of different customs related to the way this feast was actually celebrated: one can still discern some distorted elements of them in modern urban practices, such as Hallowe'en parties and trick-or-treating. Most of the customs, however, fall into two broad patterns. According to the first, a certain amount of food was set aside for the exclusive consumption of the dead. The dead were believed to be present as invisible entities; doors and windows were left unlocked to facilitate their coming into the house. In some cases, a specific type of food (usually cakes of some kind) was made solely for the dead; in others, a portion of the same food that the living would eat was set aside for them. The most classic example of this pattern (which is also found in Ireland and Scotland) is the boued an Anaon ("food of the hosts of the dead") custom in Brittany. The Anaon (the word appears to be the same as Annwn, the Welsh Otherworld; it is certainly a pre-Christian term) are the massed hosts of ancestral spirits, usually portrayed as hungry for sustenance from the world of the living. A large amount of food was set aside for their sole use, and had to remain untouched by any living hand for the full duration of the ritual period. Eating the food of the dead (even if one was desperately hungry) was considered to be a dreadful sacrilege: it condemned one to becoming a hungry ghost after death, barred from sharing the Samhain feast along with the rest of the Anaon. It was, in effect, a particularly horrible form of excommunication.

This is from a lengthy and packed treatise on Samhain by Alexei Kondratiev:
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