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Title: Once Upon a Haunted Moor (Tyack and Frayne Book One)...
In her novel Possession, A.S. Byatt writes about the Celtic roots of Breton folklore, in a series of macabre tales that are only told in the few darkening weeks between All Hallow's Eve and Advent. These collected tales, Tales Told in November, are mysterious and disquieting tales, full of violence, monsters, and shadowy, threatening sexuality. The Dark Goddess is invoked as Melusine, the double-tailed mermaid. October is a time of harvest and revelry as the last of the harvest is brought in. It is a time of great bounty and joy. It's not until after the Wheel has shifted and the Descent has begun, that things become truly frightening. Halloween is the beginning, not the end, of the dark seasons of the shadow, the chthonian, and the Dark Gods below the Earth and Sea.
This transition, this Hinge that comes at Samhain and we in the Northern hemisphere begin our Descent, is marked by so many cultural celebrations. These are occasions of great joy as well as reverence and solemnity. Samhain, Dia de Muertos, Samhuinn, Winter Nights, All Hallows—of these have more than a little joy mixed in with the darker aspects of contact beyond the Veil, and engagement with grief and mourning. For years, the Samhain season was my happiest time of the Year, full of rituals, fun and festivity. It was during this time that I often fell in love, or began new friendships or projects that proved to be important and transformational. Samhain brought so much abundance and pleasure that it was easy to forget the whole death part....
This year we decided to take a small break and celebrate Samhain and honour our ancestors by visiting the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle, Cornwall, and join their revelries. It was a spectacular night. As we descended along the twisty lane to enter the small fishing village in the gathering dusk we were met by a host of witches, tourists and black clad Morris men- traditional British folk dancers with flaming torches and crow feathers in their tall top hats. The sound of drums and fiddles echoed off the cliffs above and mingled with the sounds of the sea and the reeling gulls.
Traditional Border Morris men (or sides) wear the colour black, to leave their identity behind and take on the role of spirits as they honour the underworld and the winter to come. They danced to ancient songs, their feet mirroring the turn of the year and the battles between winter and summer in the courtyard of the museum, where the many a witch of generations passed has donated their magical tools, and beneath the library that holds the history of our traditions going back centuries. The audience around them sat or stood enrapt, many of them being those who walk the old ways themselves, bedecked in their cloaks, with wide eyed children sitting at their feet dressed as sprites and spirits....
Well, I saw it last night, right on cue.
The season's first domestic Yule tree.
It was November 7.
Oh, I understand Christmas creep. I understand the thirst for magic. I understand the craving for celebration by those who really only have one holiday.
By my reckoning, we're a little past the midpoint of the Samhain thirtnight. We're still in the season of the ancestors. The big, public rituals and gatherings are over now. This is the quiet part of Samhain, the interiority, the tag-end, the tail: the time to reflect and look within.
And then comes Time Between: what my friend and colleague Magenta Griffith calls “The Fallows.”
This has been a strange year for me; a lot of things have shifted, and a lot of things have fallen into place. In May, I was finally able to leave my day job and become a full-time businesswoman. At the same time as this was going on, I had to cope with the sudden terminal illness of my ten-year-old cat, Grim Greyling. This event has colored much of the rest of my year, because when he passed into spirit he became such a palpable, immediate presence in our household that I had to recalibrate my ability to perceive and interact with my god-husband, Odin. Yes, having Grim around has made it harder for me to maintain awareness of having my husband around, and I've had to rebuild those muscles almost from the ground up. It hasn't been easy, though the process been helped by the firm knowledge that Odin hasn't gone anywhere, and that at the end of the this process He will be more solidly present than ever before. And I wouldn't trade having Grim around for making this easier on me—because no one ever said these relationships were supposed to be easy, anyhow.
Halloween. First part sounds like hallow, which preserves the original sense of the festival, derived from Old English hælig, “holy thing or person, saint.”
This is how I grew up pronouncing the word in Western Pennsylvania, and how I still pronounce it.
Which means, of course, that this is the correct pronunciation.
Helloween. Feast of the Goddess of Death and the Underworld (= Hell), observed only by the bluest of British blue-bloods. Raw-tha.
Hilloween. Southern hemisphere festival observed in New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. Named for the Hill o' Ween, where Australia's first Bealtaine bonfire was lighted in 1794.