My Hallowe'en Pocket Dump

"And last of all, leave your phone at home!"
— Anonymous High Priestess

Well, All Hallow's Eve is done. I was out with some of the locals engaged in two practices, as is my tradition. I begin with a celebration of Hallowe'en as it used to be, and as I practiced in my youth before the American trick or treat culture hit Blighty. When I was a little wertperch it was known as "Mischief Night", and consisted of playing little tricks on neighbours.

Mischief Night was taking garden gates off hinges, moving all the milk bottles on the street to one doorstep. It was knocking on doors and scarpering (there are hrair expressions for this), and it was "spirit tapping", which involved a drawing pin (thumbtack to you, perhaps!), a piece of thread and a sewing needle. The pin went into the top of the window frame, the needle was tied to the end of the thread, which was looped around the pin. Pulling on the thread caused the needle to tap on the window, which caused the householder to peek out, by which time the thread was pulled away. There were other tricks, but we did nothing malicious; no eggs broken, no toilet paper strewn, no permanent damage. It was pranks, it was japes and it was fun. But there's a darker origin, which I've alluded to before.

Then there's a somewhat older tradition. It's sometimes called Samhain and is a pagan celebration. Most people know it as an Irish or Scots tradition marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. There are usually fires, there's mumming, and for some there was doubtless divination or prayers to the old gods or the faery. The mumming is the only bit really remaining today, and has to do with going round houses in the community, wearing masks or disguises and offering or asking favours. It was also considered to be a time when the veil between the world of the living and that of the dead was thinnest. A liminal time, a special time and a dangerous time.

Yet another tradition is older still. Much older than Samhain, and darker, is a legacy dating back millennia. This was a time when every stream and grove and rock outcrop had its gods and goddesses, when there were gods of abundance, of earth and sky, and life and death. And because for these original pagans, the year closed and began at this pivotal point, it was a time to appease the deities, beg for a good Winter and a good Spring. They would pray for a good hunting season, good foraging, and as cultures became more settled, good plantings. These pleas were not simply words, nor dances. There were sacrifices. Food was offered, valuable goods given up. This was the age of the burnt sacrifice and when necessary, that life would be human.

You may have heard of bog bodies, human remains mummified in peat bogs. Some were strangled before their burial, some were shot with arrows or had their throats cut. Sometimes it's suggested that prisoners from neighbouring tribes were used. But almost all had been well treated up to that point, even to the extend of a final meal shortly before death. Some of them were finely dressed, some buried with valuable grave goods. Many archæologists believe that a good number of them, from children to chieftains, were sacrificed to the gods. These were members of the community, possibly even volunteers. But not always.

Sometimes the stomach contents or pollen in the clothes give away the time that death occurred, and that season is what we now call autumn. These ancient people knew this was the time when the barriers between the spirit and physical realms were thinnest, and they took advantage of it. They knew how to communicate with the spirits who might fix their fate for good or for ill in the coming year. It's a tradition that is watered down in most cultures today, but I can tell you that the original tradition is still alive. Unlike the sacrifices.

So, what's in my pockets this November morning?

  • Opinel knife № 8
  • Moleskine notebook
  • Zebra F-701 pen
  • Wallet and money clip
  • Lip balm
  • A hip flask drained of single malt Scotch whisky
  • A two shilling coin dated 1956
  • About four feet of paracord
  • Zippo lighter
  • A leather bag of salt
  • An all-black bandana
  • Two glass vials (empty)
  • Some barley kernels and wheat berries (and pocket lint)
  • A leather scabbard holding an obsidian knife
  • A pill case containing various things
  • A small cross woven of rowan and holly twigs
  • A bloodied poppet made of wheat straw
  • A silver earring
  • A mummified finger (mine)
  • Part of a human ear (fresh, not mine)
  • A lock of hair in a glass vial (taken this year)
  • A fragment of charred bone (from last year)
  • A first aid kit (because accidents do happen!)

Happy Hallowe'en, indeed.

P.S. Jet-Poop says If it's mostly fact, with some HA HA MUMMY FINGERS, then it's fact. If it ain't, it's fiction. But you gotta tell me, man!

Libera te Tutemet ex Inferis: The 2023 Halloween Horrorquest
Iron Node 1

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