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A Celtic Haloween Story

Discussion in 'UO White Stag Inn' started by Guest, Oct 30, 2003.

  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

    The Graveyard Ritual

    I was young then, barely a pup. But soon I was to be a man, and would soon take my station in life.

    My musical talent won me the apprentice-ship of an old woman named Boda Brennach and was to learn the bardic ways. I was apprenticed to her early in the summer of my 18th year.

    Tall and lank she was, gray hair falling to her shoulders. Her eyes commanded respect, for they were eyes which saw things none other could see.

    She always wore robes of gray, though they were clean and well kept. Her diet was as drab as the robes, but would be varied strictly according to the turnings of the moon.

    Wheat or millet when the moon was full, Mushrooms roots and spuds when the moon was dark, and a hundred other variations when any tree was felled, or comet streaked the sky.

    Within the first few weeks of my apprenticeship I knew this would be no easy tutoring. There were verse upon verse to memorize, as nothing was ever trusted to writing, and all lore passed by verse and song.

    Long Hours were spent learning the myriad verses and complicated melodies of the druidi.

    I did not think my mind could hold them all, but Boda was a stern mistress, intent on me being a successful bard.

    After the lessons she often sat by the fire speaking of other worldly things, words of power, and mastery over the elements, Gateway Rites and complicated rituals. Things I could never understand.

    She was always going on about the Wheel of Seasons, and how crucial they were to mankind’s survival, and about certain days that were not to be ignored if one were wise.

    But alas, my interest was only in singing the Battle song that gave renewed strength to the Warrior.

    This was a weapon no evil could stand against, and the “Dirge of the Bard” was a song no Evil wished to hear twice had it survived the first hearing.

    So I pondered her words, learning what I could and watching the odd goings on around this old woman.

    Well, life went on this way for several turnings of the moon, but soon I was released for a time to attend the harvest, and I didn’t see much of her as the evenings grew cooler as we prepared for the coming of winter.

    Boda spent most of her time grounding herbs for some ritual or another, and she told me the day of Samhain would soon be here and she was preparing for it, but would say no more.

    Then one day I saw her early in the day, and she was dressed in robes of black, which was such an odd departure that I could not turn my attention from her.
    I was not able to go to her hut until the late afternoon, and alas, she was not there for questions.

    Inside her hut were a number of gourds, each had been carved with a grotesque face into the flesh of it, hollowed with a candle set in it’s center. There were exactly nine of them.

    Also in a ritually prepared basket were the herbs crushed earlier during the week Wormwood Herb, GhostyFlower, Yew, Mistletoe, and a few sticks of incense.

    The cauldron was clean and dried, and removed from its customary place and set next to the basket.

    Certainly my curiosity was raised and I could think of nothing than to speak to Boda of this. But as fate would have it, I was not to see her again… not until later that night.

    I had bedded down not long after the sunset, weary from my toils, but I was made restless by Boda’s curious robes and preparations.

    Some time before the midnight hour, I was startled by a shadow passing in the night, and drawn up to my feet and to the window.

    Boda, in her black robes and toting her basket and cauldron walked swiftly up the creek road. Grabbing only my tartan, I chased after her, and caught up with her not a mile out of town.

    She stopped and turned, and said only, “Go to bed boy, this is something I must do alone, I cannot risk others to be hurt.”

    I was stopped dead in my tracks, as her words cut through me like a Claiddach blade.

    Boda turned and continued her brisk walk away from the village. I stood stunned and unsure weather to follow or turn back as advised.

    My curiosity overcame my fear and I followed, keeping a fair distance behind.
    Her black robes seemingly made her disappear at times in the shadows.

    Soon, her path took an abrupt and unexpected turn. I followed him into the deep woods where the hunters did not often go.

    In a while, She came to a low barren knoll and upon this knoll was an ancient graveyard!

    Shuddering, I nearly spun on my heels when I saw this old place, the kind of place where spirits still walked.

    It seemed the still night air suddenly became chill. The moon was bright and full this night, but it cast stark shadows in the trees surrounding the graveyard.

    Boda went to the center of the graveyard, and placed the nine gourds, face out in a circle around her, and from nowhere she produced a blue flame and lit the candles. It was an eerie sight to behold.

    She placed the cauldron on the kindling in the eastern quadrant of this circle, and lit the kindling and soon was ablaze.
    She chanted words in a verse I had never heard before this night, all the while stirring the herbs and incense into the dry cauldron. This was raising quite a cloud of smoke in the chill, windless vale, casting eerie shadows and causing my stomach to knot.

    The droning chant riveted my attention and rose and heaved in it’s singsong strength until suddenly, in a crescendo, it stopped… And it seemed the very forest itself held it’s breath…

    Through the smoke I saw it, a spirit! First there was one, then another, then another, the shades of the dead were rising in the graveyard!

    With morbid fascination I gazed at the sight even as it horrified me and I was riveted to the spot.

    They glided slowly towards Boda, timeless and surreal, with outstretched hands. She stood looking to the east, almost as if she did not see them. I tried to yell a warning, but I had lost my voice.

    Then, she reached into the smoldering cauldron and grabbed a handful of hot ash!

    Chanting again, Boda tossed the ash to the four directions North, West, South and lastly to the East. There was a moment of complete and utter silence.

    Then the spirits stopped… paused… and I could feel this was a pivotal moment.
    Then Boda with raised hands, turns to the four directions and begins singing verses I was quite familiar with, and to my amazement, I found myself quietly singing along.
    The song filled me with courage, and I witnessed with each verse, the spirits returned to their graves and by the end of the song, all was quiet and settled again.

    I was stunned for some time after, while Boda doused the fire, and one by one blew out the candles and collected her things.

    Then she came to me and said, “I knew you would come. Thank you, you sang well young bard”

    I stuttered, ‘By the gods! The ghosts, they came, they were here?!?!”

    With a reverent look Boda placed a hand on my shoulder and said, “No lad, they have always been here, and will always be here…”

    Then she walked away in grim silence as I pondered the implications.

    The End

    Written by; Rick Hebert Oct, 1999
  2. Guest

    Guest Guest