October has come and gone, as has Bonfire Night, Michaelmas, Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. We are now well and truly at that cusp of autumn and winter. The clocks have changed, it is getting dark earlier now and it is getting colder. There is much that happens at this time of year here in England, each of the dates above are marked in some manner, some only in a small way and others with national observances.
As expected with the majority of groups of a Pagan, Craft or Occult persuasion, we of the Hearth of the Turning Wheel have experienced a busy and often demanding Hallowtide. Our semi-private moot for members and supporters of the HTW, took place on Tuesday the 24th of October, a full week before All Hallows Eve.
Here in the warm, convivial setting of the Exeter Arms, a small group of us met for an evening meal, a drink and as ever, stimulating conversation. Because of the time of year our conversation naturally covered the festivals of the season, ancestors and heritage. What is the meaning outside of politics of blood and soil or perhaps more appropriately, blood and bone? That is perhaps something for us all to ponder, to turn our minds at this time of year to our own self-identity and ask where we stand within our greater society. These are not questions I can answer for anyone other than myself, we each have our own answer and we each have our own place.
On the 31st of October I set up my home to welcome my guests, those who would be attending our ritual observance that evening. First however, there was the setting up of my hallway, this in preparation of the local ‘Trick or Treat’ families. Here upon a stang topped with a horseshoe and lit candle, I hung a ram skull. At the base I placed an iron cauldron literally overflowing with goodies and a hunting horn. A sword and shield were positioned nearby, representing my own interpretation of an ancestor shrine. A resin skull and a genuine roebuck skull, together with a few velvet drapes, added to the decoration. By five p.m. I was ready to welcome the local children.
The groups began slowly as one would expect but soon the numbers had picked up, people even being told to call at my home by those who already had. Such is the attraction of my decoration, my eye for detail and I suspect, the large number of edible treats. I can say honestly that I had not skimped and not long after six, I was running short of sweets.
Many visitors wanted a closer look at the sword or the horn, I was happy to oblige. Positive comments on my display were plentiful, one woman in fancy dress like her children making the comment; “Look at this, this one does it properly.” I wonder if she knew. I do have an advantage, the real deal perhaps?
Not everything ran smoothly however, the loud noise of my hunting horn frightened one young girl and one small boy, probably on his first time out with his parents and elder brother, was rather overwhelmed by the number of people milling about in fancy dress. It is a fun and enjoyable evening, pleasurable to see so many children with their parents in tow, dressed in a variety of costume choice. Not for the first time, I stood impressed by the quality of the dressing up and I was equally pleased by how polite the children were.
Apparently the children know me as ‘that cool Halloween Guy.’ Well I do this every year and I have been doing so for some twenty years now. I even have second generation ‘Trick or Treat’ parties, some of those children who called years ago, now bring their own children. Dear Gods, am I really that old?
On the 99th anniversary of Armistice Day I met up with eight other friends at the Original Re-enactors Market held on a show ground near Leamington Spa. I am a regular attendee at these events if I can beg a lift and I thoroughly enjoy my trips there. Here one can purchase replicas often of museum quality, ranging from leather goods, knives, and swords, jewellery, cooking pots, glassware and pottery. Many of the stalls sell basic craft working items, fur, yarn and fabric. Wares so specialist in nature, it is near impossible to source them elsewhere. Why waste your money on a plastic handled athame from a MBS fair, when here you can buy a 14th century dagger?
It is worth noting that such living history fairs will often feature a large number of military items. These will range from Iron Age to the 20th century. Many an attendee and stall holder are in uniform, a fact not without meaning or significance during this time of remembrance. To see a Roman Legionary and a British ‘Tommy’ stand together and observe the two minute silence on Armistice Day has a certain poignancy.
I use my trips as an excuse to stock up on mead, at this last event there were five different suppliers, including German and Italian meads. I also use my trips in the autumn to do a little shopping in preparation for the Yuletide. So while at this time we remember the past, we are also looking forward to a time of celebration with our families and our friends.
The nights are dark and the days are getting shorter, yet time will turn full circle. The children that at this time call upon us in fancy dress, will one day remember us as their ‘ancestors’ and come Yule light will return.
By flesh, blood and bone, the Chattering Magpie.
THE HEARTH OF THE TURNING WHEEL HALLOWTIDE RITUAL 2011 - 2016
The Fifth of November (English Folk Verse c.1870)
The Weeping Window