Hi, Pat McDermott here, preparing for all the cute little pixies who'll ring the doorbell on Halloween. Many trick-or-treaters are unaware that Halloween started in Ireland, as part of the Samhain (Sow-win) festival. Nearly 2,000 years ago, Samhain, the Celtic New Year, marked the end of summer and the start of winter. The Celts believed that the boundary between the living and the dead was at its thinnest on that night. The spirits of their ancestors passed back and forth through that boundary.
The arrival of Christianity incorporated Samhain into the Christian calendar by renaming November 1st All Saints’ Day and November 2nd All Souls’ Day. Nice try, but several customs have survived these name changes, including the wearing of costumes and masks. The Irish who emigrated during the 19th century famine brought their Halloween customs all over the world. In America, those customs melded with the harvest traditions of other cultures, such as carving pumpkins into Jack-o’-lanterns.
Autumn Glimmer, a fairy-fraught tale set in Ireland's County Wicklow on Halloween weekend. In this scene, an oatcake-loving water fairy named Lewy and his friends accept an invitation to attend a mortal Halloween celebration.
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Lewy planted himself well back from the fire, beside a long trestle table laden with oatcakes and buttermilk. The mortals had set the feast beneath the biggest hawthorn tree on this side of the lake. Someone among them had known the right way to do things.
In the woods behind him, an owl hooted. No threat, and anyway, nothing could see him. On the other side of the fire, tables set with glowing jack-o’-lanterns held food and drink for the mortals. Meat roasted on strange silver spits that turned by themselves over flames in metal boxes.
Blinn appeared beside him. The oatcake she plucked from the table turned transparent in her hand. “Mmm, good,” she said when she’d swallowed a bite. “We should take some home with us.”
"I doubt there’ll be any left,” said Turenn, who stood behind her holding one in each hand. He nodded toward the fire. “Whaddya suppose those morts are doing?”
Clusters of miniature mortals ran about shrieking and hitting each other. Their bizarre outfits reminded Lewy of Samhain festivals long ago, when the human tribes wore animal heads and skins to thwart the spirits who broke through the veil at midnight. The taller mortals in the background wore no costumes.
“They’re children,” said Blinn. “They’re playing.”
Turenn shook his head. “Mortals are so weird.” He and Blinn stepped aside to let others reach the oatcakes. “Get out of the way, Lewy.”
Lewy obeyed, though he didn’t go far. He’d been among the first to arrive, escorting Queen Sabia at her request. He snatched one more oatcake and went to see if she wanted it.
The hawthorn tree cast shadows so dark, he didn’t see her until the jewel pulsed on her tiara. The stone dangled above her eyes, coating her with a violet glow. She looked stunning in her best gold gown and cape.
He held out the oatcake to her. “Want one? They’re good."
"No thank you,” she said, the watery echo gone from her voice. She trained her shining vision on the partying mortals. “They can’t see us.”
Lewy shrugged and bit the oatcake. “You didn’t want them to see us, Good Lady, though I don’t know why. They invited us, after all.”
“It’s good I’m the queen and you’re not, brave Lewy. Have you forgotten the last Samhain festival we attended?”
His memory unleashed the clang of swords. Men shouted, women screamed, and more than one terrified voice belonged to the Daoine Linn. No, he hadn’t forgotten. He simply didn’t care to remember.
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Best wishes for a fun and safe Halloween!
*Top pictures courtesy of Photobucket