Have you ever had that creeping feeling you’re not alone? Maybe you are walking through a wood as autumnal leaves dance by your face. It’s cold. You feel a shiver and glance ahead. There’s someone standing there, watching you beneath the trees. No…twas but a trick of the light! Or else maybe a deer, or some other wary beast observing your clumsy progress through the tangle of forest. You chuckle at your foolishness and walk on. And from the shadows they watch you pass…
Deja Vu? Doors within Doors, or else hauntings: the feeling of otherworldliness is most prevalent this time of year. Halloween being almost upon us! But what does it really mean, and why is it cool to be spooky in late October? The answer lies occluded in the past. All Hallows Eve was the name the early Christian saints gave to the Celtic festival, Samhain – by some called the Feast of the Dead. Traditions and beliefs around which had arrived with those early Celts from Europe, filtering into Britain and Ireland, long before the Romans settled the Home Counties of what would become England, and constructed their empire-hedging stone walls beyond. The druids (Celtic lore masters and seers) gave out that the Feast of the Dead was when the spirits of departed kinsfolk wandered freely at will, during the first three days of November – the harbinger of winter. Thus Samhain was the gateway between present and past, a door within a door.
Whatever your perspective or opinions on such things, this is a creepy time of year. The nights are drawing in, the leaves crisping and gliding to lie broken on frosted ground. Beasts taking to their hides, and shadows lengthening as evening falls early. There is much hidden here. If you scrape beneath the horrible glitter and plastic ghoul coatings parading outside every Wal-Mart and Sainsburys, and delve stoically passed the tacky, risible displays of rubber skeletons and glowing lewd gnomes that wink at you – ugh, such shallow marketing gives me the willies! Beneath that veneer of seasonal tack lies a feeling, just an echo – if you dare stop to listen. And you have to listen very hard these days. That something else is out there.
And something surely is. Intangible and strange, or weird and wrong? Enticing? Exciting? All at once? it depends on your perspective. Perhaps these whimsical mysterious moments are but a fleeting glimpse beyond the next door? Life is an iceberg, we only see the tip. But sometimes we feel the undercurrents of weirdness shifting and bubbling beneath our feet. After all, we are on a planet hurtling through space at a billion miles an hour (well rather fast – anyway). So how to define weird?
I remember walking through a graveyard in Bury St Edmunds in East Anglia, England. A creepy place, and very old. I was cutting a shorty back to my wagon, parked just outside town. I’d had a couple of decent pints and a brief natter in a pub and was feeling rather chipper. Then, as the full moon rolled pale from the scratchy fingers of an ancient yew shrouding the church, an icy shiver tingled up my spine. I had the distinct feeling I was being watched. Imagination…? Maybe. But then it was Halloween: dark and windy, chilly and damp. Witches on broomsticks rushing through the night skies – well okay, just racing clouds. Bury St Edmunds lies on the same Ley Line as St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall and Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire. There is earth magic there. Ley Lines are invisible roads, like the arteries flowing through our veins, they feed earth energy and act as highways for troubled souls to cruise along. (I heard someone say that in the pub – so don’t quote me on it).
At Halloween the doors within doors open, the invisible linings between worlds are at their thinnest, (very fragile), AND YES, the dark things leap out – WHOA!. Well…maybe they do and maybe they don’t. Samhain was associated with the dead because pre-Christian Celts believed it the time of year when departed souls journeyed into the next realm. Those transient spirits preparing for the next road when the doors were aligned at winters commencement. The first of four Celtic festivals and a very sacred time of year. But as the druids were chased out and Christianity took hold, those wandering spirits were branded goblins, phantoms, demons and faeries; or else mocked as leprechauns and imps and Jack ‘O ‘Lantern – all manifestations of early Christian propaganda against Pagan deities. But the eeriness lives on – if only in our fertile imaginations. Whatever you believe ~ more is hidden than seen. We walk a fragile path. Tread carefully, dear reader, lest the Seeny’s (faery folk) find you and strike you with their hollow gaze! Or else the Irish Pooka (death horse) rides wild and carries you off on a storm-tossed Connemara night. Or worse yet, the lone banshee cries forlorn outside your door, her bony fingers scraping on the knocker.
Apropos, the image at top of page is taken from The Haven. A ghostly yarn set in North Cornwall by the sea. If you like to be spooked crazy this halloween then please give it a try. You will find it at http://legendsofansu.com
Now may I suggest a nice hot cup of tea and a bit of a sing-song to cheer us all up 🙂 Next up: Shallan of Morwella. Her pensive, hurtful thoughts on acid Queen Ariane, morose Longswordsman Corin an Fol, and the real identity of The Horned man. Till then ~ sleep tight my lovers, but keep a light on ’tis almost All Hallows Eve! J.W.W.
Now for that nice cup of tea! Whoops there goes another broomstick… oh no, twas but a chicken…