One week, tonight, until it is that darkly wonderful holiday that is Halloween...
We, in Ireland, take Halloween, aka Samhain, very seriously indeed.
The Irish have adopted the American way of dressing up and trick-or-treating, but there is an air of cautiousness and nervousness that goes along with this tradition.
Frequent looking-over-ones-shoulder. Bats flitting around your crinkly tall witches hat. Unknown beings rustling in the hedges as you run down the road in the dark to the next house to 'trick or treat', dropping your candle in fear.
For in Ireland, there are many magical beings and fairies that are truly around and not just some silly superstition or tale.
First example, and a rather scary one at that, the Banshee.
One of the Most Terrifying Irish creatures a person could meet. Her wail, her scream is never to be forgotten and she loves nothing better than to be out and about on the night of October 31st scaring trick or treaters to death, Her sound I've heard myself (shiver). It forewarns of an imminent death...of someone. Her appearance changes but the constants are long ghostly hair, shredded wispy garments and fiery red eyes
Second example, the Wild Hunt.
These crazed lunatics ride the night sky and will scoop up unsuspecting folk, especially at Samhain. A ragged, motley assortment of Dark Witches, Fairies, the newly deceased and non-human spirits make up the Hunt along with red-eyed dogs and horses, often having missing or extra limbs and heads. An alarming sight.
And finally, the Phooka. Also known as the Puca, or Pooka, or plain mishievous little Pook.
Shape shifting comes easily to the Phooka and it is known for appearing as a large black goat with wicked horns and evil claws, bull, horse, donkey and eagle. Sneakily, it has the power of speech and can call out in a quite normal voice to unsuspecting people, luring them to a terrifying adventure they will never forget. Those who dare to travel the back roads at night risk being carried away on the back of this creature, galloping madly through the night. It is said the human is never the same afterwards….November 1st is quite sacred to this creature and a day when it will actually behave in a civilized manner.
So I for one will not be venturing out this most wonderful Halloween night. I will continue the tradition in our home of lighting candles in all the windows to scare away the Dark Things that lurk outside as well as placing a plate of cake, chocolate and wine outside in the garden (before sunset) to appease the Fairies, Goblins and Phookas that will surely be flying around.
Wishing you and yours a most fabulous Halloween next week!