Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Happy Halloween or Happy Samhain

In honor of All Hallows' Eve, Phil and I have brewed up a little something special.  Consider it a Halloween treat.  Inspired by the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, by Clement Clarke Moore and the illustrations of William Wallace Denslow (check out this fantastic resource for some of his work) we present a Samhain (pronounced sow-wain) story to get you in the appropriate mood for this wonderfully ghastly holiday.  We hope you enjoy!

(A full text version of the poem can be found after the illustrated pages)

The Night Before Samhain

'Twas the night before Samhain, and all through the stead
Many creatures were stirring, and all of them dead.
Mouse skulls were nailed to the roofbeam with care,
To ward 'gainst the Squash-Head, who soon would be there.

The Night Children cower'd and shiver'd with fear,
For they knew that Old Pumpkin-Face soon would creep near.
Each knew, as they harked to the thundering rain,
That he would be hunger'd, for bone and for brain.

Then out came the moon as the clouds shrank away.
It lit up the stead near as bright as the day.
A young girl, with skin all as pale as death,
Went to the doorway with nary a breath.

She looked out at the shadows, a-seek with her eyes,
Then she harken'd the tell-tale buzzing of flies
That foretell his coming, the Nightmare-Made-Flesh,
Seeking for meat, better rotten than fresh.

And then there he was, in all his fell glory,
Swinging his cleaver, all crusted and gory,
Singing, “Come out! Come out, for you are my feast.
I'll devour you all from the most to the least.

Hark to the song I sing, hark to my rhyme,
For I am Old Pumpkin-Face, this is my time.
I swear by the seeds all a-rot in my head,
That I am the Eater, and I eat the Dead.”

Then out from the gloom his ghouls came a-dancing,
Screaming and hooting and hopping and prancing.
They circled the stead, running faster and faster,
Eager to scare out the dead for their master.

And as blood-ghasts poured out from the Evernight Wood,
I think you'll agree things were not looking good.
The girl (named Fenella) then made a decision.
She would handle this fix with a measured precision.

She looked to the skulls nailed high 'pon the beam;
With luck they would hold whilst she worked 'pon her scheme.
She shut the stead door and she fasten'd it tightly,
Then lit up a candle that shone warm and brightly.

The Night Children gather'd to hear what she said,
The plan that was hatched in the Night by the Dead...
(Said she)
“There's much to do, so we'll work as a coven.
Fetch me the Wisht-Hat, and light up the oven.

Don't bring me the beret, the cap or the bonnet.
Fetch me the one with the stars and moons on it.
We'll work as a coven, so fetch thirteen chairs,
And the old blacken'd cauldron from under the stairs.”

They kindled the oven, they circled the chairs,
They dragged the old cauldron from under the stairs.
“And now,” said Fenella, from under the hat,
“We'll summon the help of a singular cat.”

But then from outside came a terrible sound,
That shudder'd the stead and the woods and the ground.
Old Pumpkin-Face, not used to being denied,
Was roaring his rage as it pricked at his pride.

The Squash-Head leapt up to land high 'pon the roof,
Where he stamped at the slates with a great slimy hoof.
“I swear by the seeds all a-rot in my head,
You shall let me in ! 'Tis time I was fed!”

“Ignore him!” Fenella cried. “Pay him no heed,
If we work together then we shall succeed.
Let him bluster up there, let him slobber and slaver;
Down here we'll get on with the Abra-Cadaver.”

She took up a wand made of alder and oak,
Bid them join hands, then the Night Child spoke:
“Kugarvad, Kugarvad, Monarch of Night,
We beg that you help us and answer our plight.

Kugarvad, Kugarvad, pause in your prowling,
And come to us spitting and hissing and yowling.
Come to us fierce. Approach us ferocious;
The foe you're to face is surpassing atrocious.

Grimalkin Rex, we crave your assistance,
And do please excuse our unseemly persistence.”
Out from the cauldron the cat came a-swerving.
He moved in a manner sublime yet unnerving.

“Great king,” said Fenella “We must beware,
For the Lord of the Damned is a-caper out there.”
“Fear not,” he replied as he reached the stead door,
“This battle is old girl, we've fought it before.

'Tis the eveing of Winter, The Holly King's rule,
And the ripe shall be spoiled, ere the coming of Yule.
The Lord of the Damned he's most certainly not.
Up there my girl, is old Jack O'Rot.

He never remembers. Each year 'tis the same,
For his old rotten head can't conceive of the game.
A wisp of the Autumn, The Holly King's fool,
Destined to die by the breaking of Yule.

Now think at it girl; the pumpkin, the hat,
The wand and the cauldron, the rather fine cat.
You are the Winter's Witch; he, a poor brute
Made of hairy string, sticks, and an old rotting fruit.

You are the Witch, and this is the Season,
And I am the King of the Cats for good reason.
And ask yourself this if you still don't believe;
What happens to pumpkins on All-Hallow's Eve?”