Publicada por Arith Härger / 4:24 PM /
Halloween is at hand; this most-awaited celebration (including by myself) where scary beings are the order of the day. Funny and pleasant moments spent with family and friends, enjoying the very natural atmosphere this season provides us, along with the creepy and spine-chilling tales we tell each other by the fire and with the lights turn off. Well, I must say, with the exception of Yuletide, this is certainly my favorite time of the year. But this isn't, definitely, Samhain (as it has been named): the far older traditional festivity of our ancestors.
I know I have written about Samhain a few times before. Well, in fact, every year I write about it, and I think I have given the reason why before - I do love this time of the year.But I think it is always important to remember the origins of festivities and the importance those had to our ancestors; it is a way to honor them by remembering the spirit of this season, and in fact, this season literally belongs to them. Samhain, and every other similar European-Pagan celebration, marks the ending of the harvest season and the beginning of winter; not winter as we know it today, but the beginning of darkness, as in the days are shorter and the nights are longer.
This celebration has pre-christian roots. Its celebrations began at sunset on the thirty first (31st) of October, to the sunset of the first (1st) of November. It is one of the four most important seasonal celebrations of the year. Literally, the essence of this celebration marks the beginning of winter.
This time of the year was when the cattle could no longer graze on the green pastures,summer was waning (note that Autumn wasn't known to be a season and there was only Spring, Summer and Winter) and farm animals were slaughtered and the surpluses of the harvest were stored for the coming of winter. Storing food for winter was the key for survival. Nowadays we do not give much importance to that and that is why part of the spirit of this season was forgotten. Samhain was also a liminal time when the spirits or fairies could easily cross into our world. Take note that when I speak of fairies I'm not referring to the little shiny creatures with wings, but to the term for all kinds of spirits, just like in the Scandinavian tradition, that Elves aren't only the good-looking handsome beings with pointy ears, it also includes all kinds of spiritual beings (mostly benevolent). Most of this spiritual beings may be the remnants of older pagan deities and spirits of nature, as such, people used to leave offerings of food and drink out in the fields for them. This, of course, was because people wanted to maintain the bonds of friendship with the spirits and the gods, and avoid all kinds of mischiefs from them. Also, it was a way to ensure that the spirits of nature were appeased and winter wouldn't be so harsh on mortals.
These practices during Samhain are very evident in our modern celebration of Halloween. However, most of these supernatural elements in this celebration now have a wicked or/and an evil aspect, due to their condemnation by the medieval church. To put on a costume was another part of the festival and involved people going door-to-door in disguise to recite verses in exchange for food - Halloween trick or treating recalls this tradition.
However, nowadays there isn't an important aspect of Samhain reflected on our Halloween. This aspect is obviously the honouring of out ancestors. As mentioned before, if the spirits of nature and deities can come through the tin veil, so the dead can as well, for they also belong to the otherworldly activities. People used to held feasts and invited their deceased ancestors to attend those same feasts. This was in fact the true reason this celebration was held, with roots in our prehistoric past. As you might know, Agriculture is as "recent" as 5000 years ago (in some "countries" - the farthest away from the middle-east the earlier to our era it gets). There are archaeological evidences that this celebration was held before the invention of agriculture. In ancient times, Samhain wasn't the celebration of a season and the ending of the harvest, because there wasn't any harvest to be celebrated.
The Coligny calendar (a Celtic time keeping plaque found in France and probably dating to the late 2nd century AD) with celtic words but written in Roman alphabet, is assumed to reflect a far older indigenous tradition of this celebration. The year (as with the Gaelic Celtic year) was divided into two with the division from summer to winter occurring at Samon[ios], which may have given rise to the word ‘Samhain’. It seems there was a three-night festival at this time (Iron Age people recorded times by nights not days), called the trinux[tion] samo[nii] - the three nights of Samhain. What people did at this time of year is hard to discern from the archaeological evidences.
Now, I think it might be relevant what I will transcribe from Mike Williams:
" (...) from the Bronze Age, and possibly long before, people observed the movement of the stars and an embossed disc from Nebra in Germany seems to reflect the celestial skies at the start of winter. The disc shows the moon (...) and a star constellation that looks very similar to the Pleiades. Given its prominence, the Pleiades certainly had considerable meaning to the people using the disc.(...)
" In Western astrology, the Pleiades is associated with mourning the dead (...) as with all stars, the Pleiades has shifted its position over the years. During the Iron Age, the Pleiades rose to its apex in the winter skies during trinuxtion samonii, or the three nights of Samhain. (...) Iron Age people mourned and remembered their dead at this time, then it may have given rise to the association between the Pleiades and mourning the dead. The Nebra disc shows the importance of the constellation to prehistoric people and it may have even been the marker people sought to begin their festivities. There is even folk tradition that Druids celebrated Samhain when the Pleiades were at their apex at midnight. Mourning and remembering the dead may have been the focus of the Samahin festival during the Iron Age. "
Unfortunately, Halloween forgot all about honouring our ancestors, and we seem to enjoy more what it has become. However, during the IX (9th) century, the roman catholic church changed their "All Saints' Day" to the 1st of November. It became the day for remembering the dead, the ancestors. It might seem strange to you to notice that the church, who so fervently fought against pagans in order to make people forget and forsake their ancestral traditions and impose and implement their believes, kept this element of Samhain. In truth, it was a very cunning "marketing" weapon to "collect" more worshipers of the new faith into their flock. The church knew it was a very important celebration and people sticked to it, and it would be very hard to lead them astray from their important ancestral celebrations so rooted in their hearts, so the church just included it in the new faith and both parts were "happy" with it. Recognizing and adopting Samhain as a christian celebration was a way to appease the mood of the pagans and turn them into allies.
Never forget your roots, your origins. You will certainly have time to remember your ancestors this Halloween. Enjoy the feasts, the celebrations, trick or treat and all that stuff, but don't forget your ancestors and honour them as best you may.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 9:24 PM /
The 9th Room
It was, as far as I can ascertain, in the year of 2013 that a most distressing event happened in my life. I can only tell you the year in which this tale of mine befell my simple and rather calm life, for I do not know exactly the month or day due to this disquieting event.
I was taking my degree in History and Archaeology and I had an important research work to do. There were specific books and documentations on a library far from the city where I lived and study, therefore, I had to spend some time away to be able to do my work. I will not go into details about such studies, for I fear it is a rather dull subject to the reader and it has nothing to do with the strange events I'm about to describe.
I went by train. It took me a bit less than seven hours to arrive into this town where the library was. I had never set foot in this place, nor had I any connections to it. I had only the address of the inn where I was supposed to stay and the name of the street where the library was.
Night fell swiftly when I arrived. The last fiery colours, before the world is consumed by utter darkness, calmly faded in the edge of the world, slowly blending with the gloom. A keen wintry-wind blew and whispered moans in the hollow trunks of trees. Upon stepping in the train-platform, I took a deep breath and clung to my luggage, for I was completely alone and had a few more miles ahead of me till I reached the town.
Glowing in the distance I could see the ruined medieval walls which once protected the town. I hastened to reach safety and light; considering that the road between the train station and the town had no illumination and I felt a heavy presence looming in the darkness, pressing its icy talons on my shoulders and cold breath on the back of my neck.
The entrance to the town was by an archway recently built on the granite walls. The streets were empty, but the shadows of the townsfolk were reflected upon the yellow lights of each window. The names of the streets had long faded from the stone slabs on important buildings, but fortunately a police officer, making the night patrol, gave me indications to where I could find the inn.
I walked on up a gentle slope, passing a few old stone houses, and there it was! - The "Polycarp inn". It had to be, because it was the only building with its front door opened at this time of night. There was a sign with the name of the inn beneath a lamp, but the lamp was broken and I could barely see in the dim what was written in the sign. Had not been for the hazy light streaming out of a window, I would never had noticed the sign.
The innkeeper was a very gentle and friendly woman in her mid-seventies. Her left leg was lame, but even so she went up the stairs to take me to my room and explain me the plumbing problems and that I couldn't turn on every light at the same time I turned the central heating system. I prided myself on being a keen observant, so I had noticed in the reception board that there were no Odd Numbers; the rooms had only Even Numbers and so mine was the number ten. And there it was right where it was supposed to be; the last room at the end of the corridor – the number ten.
I could barely sleep the first night. The person on number eight was very restless, it seemed. The room was right next to mine and it seemed the walls were very thin, so I could hear the person sobbing and walking from one side of his chambers to the other, barefooted, making that irritating pum pum pum sound echoing in my ears. Just a bit before the break of dawn, the sound had come to an end at last. Finally all was at peace and I shut my eyes for a brief moment. But someone was battering at my chamber door, calling everyone aloud, shouting that breakfast would be served in the common hall.
I dragged myself downstairs. I sat and ate and went back upstairs to have some sleep. As I thought of myself as being a keen observant, I had noticed that everyone at the table was as exhausted as I was. Most of them were completely aloof to the fact that there was food in front of them and that the sleeves of their robes were soaking inside their plates filled with milk. It seemed that I wasn't the only one that had a rough night. My brain was still sound asleep, so my observing skills were not yet acute enough at that time of the day and I wasn't able to tell which of those standing there was the person on number eight. All of them had their eyes touched in with a burning red. Weeping or lack of sleep seemed to stain the eyes in the same manner.
It was past midday when I left my room again and went to do some research at the library; for that was why I had come to this forsaken town in the first place. I brought some books with me back to the inn so I could do my work at my chambers, alone, in peace and quiet. I was arriving at the inn when I looked up and saw the window to my room. Next to it was the window of number eight; red shoes on the window ledge - a woman's shoes. So number eight was a woman; I could have sworn that by the barefooted-sound and the crying that it was a man. One can't definitely trust everything he hears.
I went upstairs to my room. I tried to put the key on the door lock of my chambers but it simply didn't fit. Inside my room, or what I thought it was my room, I heard the sound of footsteps and voices talking in whispers. Then all sound ceased and someone, barefooted again, came running towards the door and there it stopped. I noticed that it had grabbed the door handle and was trying to pull it, or push it, I'm not certain. I had the sensation that it was trying to get out. I was startled to hear that there was a low moan by the door, the person had its face leaning against the door and I could hear a rapid breathing as well. I looked up and noticed that the number of the door wasn't mine, nor was it the number eight. It was clear to my sight that there was a nine hanging above the door. For a man who thought of himself as being a keen observant, well, I felt ashamed of myself that moment. My room was clearly the last one and not the one I was trying to get into. I apologized to whoever was inside number nine, and went back to my room as fast as I could so no one would see the stupidity that I had made. One cannot trust half of everything he sees.
At my room, after pondering about my previous encounter with the wrong door, I remembered that there were no Odd Numbers in that inn, so number nine couldn't possibly be there. But what was I thinking? No, no. I obviously had seen it just then, and certainly the day I had arrived at the inn I hadn't see it right in the reception board. I had been tired from the train journey and was a bit afraid, I confess, when I got to the town. Yes, that was it, I definitely didn't notice that there were rooms with Odd Numbers. So much for my observation skills . . .
That same night, and the three nights after, the same moaning and sobbing sounds from number eight - well, from number nine, that is - were still heard. The person inside that room seemed to be dancing in one of those nights. At my fifth night in that inn, I heard a horrible muffled voice, seemingly singing a most dreadful melody. It stopped when someone came banging on my door.
"Who is it?" Said I, afraid to get up and go to the door.
"Your neighbour next door!" A woman shouted.
I went to the door to see what the woman in the red shoes wanted with me. It was clearly her, for now I was convinced that the person on number nine was really a man by the terrible sounds he made. The woman sounded a bit upset. As I opened the door, she spoke to me in a manner that I thought she was going to strangle me. I was very angry by that peevish tongue of hers and the way she addressed me. I was also very tired and with little patience for foolish questions.
"What on earth are you doing in there?!?" She asked me. "Could you please . . .”
When she was about to tell me to stop doing whatever I was doing, I deem, the crying or singing voice was suddenly heard for brief moments, and then dead-silence fell. Only a few seconds later the voice was heard again, seemingly to laughter, laughing at himself in a rather crooning way.
The woman looked at me with bulging eyes. A white fear struck her. Her lips were white, her skin was pale and she started to shake. Had she been a mirror, I would have seen my own reflection similar to her current state of fear.
I told the woman, as she could perfectly hear, that the sounds came from the person whose room was between ours. Then I realised that she was even more frightened when she looked to where, supposedly, the door of number nine was. I peered to see if the person of number nine was on the corridor and what kind of hideous look he had to frighten the woman so. My heart sank into a profound void inside my bowels when I noticed, to my horror, that there was no door at all. There was only number eight and my own room - number ten. Yet, inside the wall between our rooms, the sounds continue.
I and the woman went to get the innkeeper. In the process the sounds inside the wall had died away. Even so, the three of us stood for a while facing that wall, waiting. At first we heard nothing at all, and the innkeeper was about to say we were both barking mad when we heard someone. We heard a faraway sound of someone screaming, and then another person, not too far off, gurgling and groaning. Then we heard someone else, nearer the wall, laughing out loud. Clearly it wasn't the same person - I don't think it was a person at all by such sounds. There was the sound of feet going down some stairs and coming back up, and then a heavy door shutting and all was quiet again. Morning was about to break.
I wanted to forget all about it, because if I couldn't, I would never be able to sleep again. But, we had to get to the bottom of this. Was there something, or someone trapped inside the wall? Going mad by the lack of food and drink? Shut in the darkness of some old chimney? After hearing such sounds, it wasn't likely that these questions had some truth in them.
Everyone in the inn had been troubled by those sounds, but they were too afraid to speak of it or come out of their chambers to see what was going on. At lunch, we all agreed to check where did these sounds came from or if there was a way into the inside of that wall, for it clearly had stairs inside. In fact, there really had been a way as I had suggested. In the cellar, where the innkeeper had made the laundry room, there was a very large pillar, larger than any other supporting the building. In such pillar there was a granite stone with Latin inscriptions. This stone had been placed where a door had been. Well, I'm not an expert on Latin, but I always keep with me a Latin dictionary to aid me when I'm doing a research for archaeological works about Romans. Thus, this is what was written on the stone: Hinc natus est et hinc habitare. I had translated this to "born here and here to stay". But at the base of the pillar another thing was written: Pervetus Umbræ. For this I had no need for my dictionary; I knew exactly what it meant, though everyone was shouting and asking me to see in my dictionary what it meant - but I didn't want to tell them. Eventually I spoke. Pervetus means "old" or "ancient" and Umbræ is the term used for "shadows", but not just any shadows. Umbræ are the shadows of the dead.
We took our time trying to break the wall around the stone to be able to take it away and get in. We were so much concerned with our findings and all that process that we hadn't noticed that night was advancing with haste. We were talking with each other when there was the sound of metal hinges creaking. We were silent. Then there was the sound of a door slamming and hastily feet coming down the stairs to meet us. We all ran outside into the street more quickly than I can write these words or could have spoken them.
I spent the rest of my time in that town on another inn just outside the town walls. I heard that the police was able to enter that pillar, and found a large wooden coffer. Inside the coffer there were animal bones and fur, a rusty dagger and a book, a very old book with a black leather cover with words cut on it. They came to me to see if I could tell them what was written inside the book, but not even I nor the oldest of my archaeology professors could tell what kind of language was that. However, I could see that the dagger was made of copper and dated back to the middle Bronze Ages. Even before the romans had come to that place, but they clearly had an encounter with whatever had been born there and was there to stay.
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Publicada por Arith Härger / 8:49 PM /
- A slave to my own mind
The story I'm about to tell you still gives me pause. There are many questions I ask myself, which, I fancy, may never be solved. I cannot altogether sweep away the fact that it might be the mere invention of a tired mind; still, the truth of the waking world speaks differently. The reader must judge it for himself what to make of this.
Before me lay a road paved with white stones; slithering its way amidst green fields studded with elms and fringed with firs. Where did it led? I could not say. I wasn't worried about getting to, well . . . whatever place this road would lead me to - if it led to anywhere at all - nor had I in mind from where had I came.
It was a cloudless bright day. The sky was painted in light-blue, and in the featureless and shadowy distance it faded into a soft glowing white. All was silent. Neither birds nor the wind upon the leaves were heard. I had the sense to be utterly alone, somehow forlorn and forgotten in the vastness of the world. The terrible and disquieting silence slowed my pace, for I feared silence did not wish to be disturbed. The road ahead, or the road left behind, was all the same to me. Was there an end beyond the houseless hills? Had ever been a beginning at all? When or why such dead-silence fell upon the road?
Suddenly a sound was heard. The sound of rustling-wind on fallen leaves; but there were no leaves on the ground, and the trees did not move. Then, the sound of my steps crushing both leaf and twig; but the road was clearly paved with stone and nothing lay on it, save my own feet. The eerie cries of night creatures echoed in a deep valley, and the air was left with a restless impression. Moreover, I started to feel something which was also out of place. It seemed to be a very hot day, but I felt the cold fingers of night creeping on my skin. It was all coming to me, as if my senses had awaken.
I looked on every direction. All I could see was the white road, the green fields and the bright blue sky. I heard and felt what could not be, or my eyes were cheated and what I saw was a delusion and reality was distorted.
I went on walking. The scenery hadn’t change, but the sounds of night, and what seemed to be a forest, continue disturbing my mind. Then I realised that what I was seeing was but a dream, and in reality I wasn't in my bed. I forced myself to wake up, but it was helpless. I continue on moving upon that white road, but in the real world I was walking away from my home, and I had no clue in which direction was I heading. I tried to catch every sound; trying to perceive if there was anything familiar, anything which might tell me where I was. But clearly it was night time, and all there was to hear was the sound of nature. With any luck, I wasn't very far from home and I was probably walking in circles on the park near my house. Was I to go forward on the white road? Or would it be better to turn back?
I went on walking, still deciding what to do. I had no control of my legs and my eyes deceived me. Then, a spine-chilling horror filled my mind. I heard the sound of rushing water - perhaps a river. Nowhere near the place where I live - within a radius of fifteen miles or so - was there any river, nor a brook, not even a fountain. Where was I? Worse, the white road led to the sound of the water. Now I had to get off the road and continue walking on the green fields which seemed quite pleasant to wander about. But in the waking world that would lead me even further away from my neighbourhood, perhaps. But then it struck me; before I realised that I was in a dream, I had probably been walking for miles without knowing, and to be near water, I was probably really far from anything that I knew.
My legs ached. I was afraid to go on walking. I decided to stay right where I was until I could wake up. But, after a moment, I heard the sound of footsteps. Someone had found me and was coming towards me. I could clearly hear and feel reality, I just couldn't see it. So if someone was there, why didn't I hear the person saying anything? And why was this person moving slowly, almost as if it didn't want to be heard? Now I wasn't certain if it was a person at all. There were footsteps, slow and cautious footsteps. Whoever, or whatever was there, clearly knew my current condition, and I felt an easy prey.
It was almost upon me. I looked in the direction of the sound, but all I could see was the white road, the clear blue sky and the pleasant green fields and trees. Yet, there it was, in front of me, I could feel its presence and unseen eyes staring at me. I heard the sound of heavy breathing. Nearer it sounded, and with each step the being took, its breath became louder and faster. I could distinctly hear a quick hissing breathing as of someone in strong excitement. Its breath was near my ears, I could even feel in my face the waft of air coming from inside its mouth. From within such mouth I heard a muffled continuous moan. Without touching me, I realised fingers were coming towards me, wanting to grab me. My skin was cold and the air from my arms stood up and sensed that presence, that ghostly-touch. The air behind my neck bristled and a black fear filled me. I was paralyzed.
In my dream, I could not follow the white road, for it led into the sound of water. So I fled to the green fields. In my dream I was running, but in reality it seemed I was merely walking. My feet were swelling, my knees were breaking, and though I saw a flat green land ahead, in the waking world I was climbing a hill. The ground was slippery. The leaves were covered with sticky water from the humidity of the night. I fell, and my hands on my dream were upon green freshly-shaven grass, but what I felt was wet dirt, roots and decaying leaves.
The creature did not stood behind watching, unmoving. It followed me, it came running, and it didn't seem to be the sound of feet but of hooves that chased me. I stumbled and fell many a time, and I rose as fast as I had fallen. The land before me seemed to stretch into the horizon. A land with nothing but grass and trees and a clear blue sky where the sun shone bright. But in reality the world was much darker and dangerous, and there were many traps for my wandering feet.
The creature was almost upon me when I woke up in my room. So, it had been all a dream . . . Alas! I was finally safe in my own room, lying on my bed. I wasn't sweating and my heart wasn't rushing. I was very calm, staring at the ceiling. A bluish light came out of the window, and my room was dyed with this pale gleam. Everything was right where it should be, but it didn't quite seem to be my room. At the end of my chambers, the wall was dark, the light couldn't reach it. In such blackness I saw a shape slowly standing up in the corner, as if it had been there (hidden) the entire night. This shadow was darker than the wall, like a stain in the gloom. There it stood, tall and thin, a motionless shadow of a man. There was no movement, nothing; it watched me and it made a single sound - that terrible quick hissing breathing followed by the continuous muffled moan. And without warning, it came to me in an inhuman-speed, not moving its legs and with an arm stretching forward to grab me. I woke up.
Now I was certain I was in the waking world, but I wasn't on my bed, nor was I inside my own room. I was standing in between the front door of my house. I wasn't certain if I had just arrived or if I was about to leave. Out there it was night. The moon was veiled and it was actually a particular dark night. Something was watching me in the dark; in that void there was a presence afraid to step out of the darkness and come into the light. I swiftly closed the door and turned every light on. I went to my room, closed the door and the window, and sat on a chair with my back against the wall, wide awake and afraid to go to sleep again. There was no knowing if the next time I fell asleep, I had the luck to wake up again at my front door where there was light. Maybe next time I would wake up just a bit away from my house, where the light can't reach and the darkness can catch me.
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