SAMHAIN

“You know, Halloween began as an ancient Irish festival, created for Samhain, when the veil between the living and the dead falls away.”

“Spare the history lesson, Ma…”

“That’s why people wore masks, so real ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits…and why we light candles, to help them find their way home.”

“I have to go. I’m late!” Jamie fingered the crumpled note in his pocket.

McGilloway’s tonight. To raise the dead. Bring matches.

Crysse straightened Jamie’s mask. “There. Ghee, I hope I don’t meet anything like you when I’m out walking,” she said, but Jamie was gone.

The boys were waiting for him. “You got the matches?”  Dayo hissed. Jamie nodded. He didn’t want to speak. His voice would give him away. “Let’s go then James…” Boxer said, “…after you.” Jamie looked down McGilloway’s path choked with weeds and branches. He never dared before. Ma had warned him, “Never, Never, Never.” ‘It’s only a stupid lane,’ he told himself and stepped forward. He wasn’t going to be the one that would be named and shamed on the school notice board on Monday morning.

Crysse prepared a ‘trick or treat’ bowl for the kids that would come calling later. She wished Jamie was still half his age. She didn’t like him wandering around with the Doherty twins and their crowd. They were too curious about McGilloway’s place. She went to light a candle but couldn’t find the matches. ‘Better wait ‘til I get back anyway,’ she thought. For a moment she wondered if it was too late. She didn’t like the thought of passing McGilloway’s lane. “Promise me, you’ll never go down there…” her father used to say, “…something bad happened there once.”  Her father never told her the bad thing but Annie Harkin did. “The man of the house buried his young wife in the bog.”  Crysse shivered. ‘For heaven’s sake, it’s only a silly story,’ she told herself. She grabbed her coat and dragged the front door after her.

Jamie could hardly see through his mask but he knew Dayo and Boxer were eyeing him, waiting for him to strike the match. The wood was damp but thick ringlets of smoke started to evaporate into the eternal mist of the Irish netherworld. Soon, flaming tongues of orange danced higher and higher and awakened Kathleen’s soul. Her feet found the damp, dank, sweet smelling bog. She passed the druids hiding among the trees under the full yellow harvest moon. As she crossed the beach, on the edge of the Swilly, the bonfire ripped out of control and McGilloway’s place bursts into flames.  Jamie turned in sheer panic towards Dayo and Boxer but they were nowhere to be seen. Instead, a young woman, half naked and dripping with black blood was standing beside him. Kathleen gazed into the burning hell that once was her home. She turned to the boy that had ridden her of her hell but he was gone. Kathleen wondered why the living would be afraid of the dead. Do they not know it is the living they need to fear?

When Jamie bounded up McGilloway’s lane he scared the living daylights out of his mother. Back home, Crysse told her son what she knew. Jamie got up and lit a candle to help any roaming spirits find their way back to the spirit world. A knock at the door frightened them both but it was only some children playing ‘trick or treat.’ Jamie went to get the ‘treat’ bowl. When he returned a black cat was sitting on the doorstep.  To this day, he swears it whispered Samhain.