A Samhain Tale

Enjoy this final AAA offering for the 2017 Halloween season, a poem I composed last year in honor of the spookiest night of the year.  Samhain (pronounced “SOW-en”) is the ancient Celtic name for this holiday, which was their new year.  On this night the veil between the spirit world and visible world was at its thinnest, and the Celts believed that the future could be told, and the dead would walk again on their final journey from this plane.  The poem is also a tribute to those hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of innocent men, women and animals who were accused, tried and executed as practitioners of witchcraft during the “burning times” in Europe.

 

And what would Halloween be without witches?

 

A SAMHAIN TALE

By Alex Miller

 

‘Twas the Great Night of Samhain,

And from the witch cottage,

Came a trio of sisters,

Far into their dotage,

All hopped up on wolfsbane

And briny newt pottage.

ST witch cottage1

As the sun dipped its brim

‘Neath the mountains far west,

In the east it looked grim,

‘Til the moon reached the crest

Of a hillock whose rim

Saw the dead laid to rest.

 

“It’s Full Moon at Samhain!”

All the gleeful hags cried.

“No magic is stronger,

We can’t be denied!

All we need is some hair

Of one recently died.”

ST cemetery

So onto their brooms,

To the graveyard they flew,

Each witch bringing with her

Some herbs for their brew,

Like cohosh and snakeroot,

Their youth to renew.

 

 

“We need just a snippet,”

The foremost witch said,

“A hank or a forelock

Cut from the head

Of a youth or a maid

Who is recently dead.”

They searched thru the graveyard

For some freshly-turned earth;

To the old or infirm

They gave a wide berth,

But of suitable young ones

They found quite a dearth.

 

“I know just the maiden!”

The dark sister cried.

“Her lover had left her,

So she tried suicide.

She really was comely,

A sweet blushing bride.”

So they sought out her coffin,

And raised up its lid;

Beneath a white bonnet

Her tresses were hid.

“Take just one thin strand,”

The third sister bid.

 

“Find bat wings and rat tongue,

Plus venom of toad;

Some spittle and ear wax,

Then carry your load

To join with your sisters’

Beside the crossroad.”

Then the three took their leave,

Each bent on her chore.

To gather and garner

And, what is more,

Impart to her sisters

Her share of witch lore.

 

“I think we’ll add snakeskin,”

Said eldest of three,

“And a scraping of bark

From a swamp-foundered tree.

That will teach Elspeth

I’m smarter than she!”

“I think it needs mugwort,”

The middle witch muttered,

“Perhaps a red toadstool

That’s been lightly buttered

With dragonfly jelly …

…unless that’s too cluttered?”

 

“I think skunk’s what’s wanted,

Just a bit of the gland,”

Mused the youngest of three

As she picked up her wand.

“Now off to the crossroads

To meet with my band!”

ST witches dancing

There under the moonlight

They did a wild dance

Of frenzied enchantment,

Their power to enhance.

Then Hagar the eldest

Went into a trance.

 

“Ah, sisters,” she moaned,

“I see it all clear!

We’ll shortly be lovely,

Our lives no more drear!

And from those who spurned us

We’ll have naught to fear!”

Her sisters, they cheered her

And flung high their hands!

Said Myrtle the youngest,

“In all the wide lands

There’s no better witches

Than we who here stand!”

 

Their potion complete,

Back home they sojourned,

Mixed all in a cauldron

And made the fire burn,

Then chanted the charm

To make youth return.

They dipped and they tippled

This potion they’d made,

And daubed it on cheeks

Like the rarest pomade,

Then watched in the mirror

For their creases to fade.

 

 

But alas! To no purpose!

For try as they might,

They kept all their wrinkles,

Their warts and their blight.

As if they’d done nothing,

They still looked a fright!

ST witch cauldron

“It must be the mugwort

I said not to use!”

“It’s plain it’s your snakeskin,

I should have refused!”

“So silly, my sisters!

It’s the hair that we chose!”

 

“We should have gone younger;

That baby, perhaps.”

“It’s true that we never

Looked under those wraps

Of the corpses in shrouds …”

“Those were young-uns, mayhaps.”

ST macbeth witches3

They looked at each other

A good longish while.

Each continued in thought

The rest to revile.

Then to each haggard visage

There came a sly smile.

 

“There’s always next season,”

The three witches sighed.

“Perhaps we’ll do better,

At least we all tried.

In a year someone younger

May have recently died.”

ST witch flying2

So back to their love spells,

Their poisons and brews.

Not one of the three

Had the least little clue

That inside of a year

They’d be buried there, too!

 

For plague raged that winter,

And Elspeth succumbed.

In spring by witch hunters

Was Myrtle undone,

Which left only Hagar,

Confused and benumbed.

“Dear sisters, I’m eldest,

And should have gone first!

For things have now altered

From bad unto worst.

And so I’ll take hemlock,

For quenching my thirst!”

 

So passed the last sister

As bright autumn waned.

The moonrise of Samhain

Searched for them in vain,

For the three witchy sisters

In their graves had been lain.

 

Yet still they’re remembered

On Samhain nights black,

When rain comes in torrents

And lightning bolts crack.

Then the townsfolk tell tales

That they might just come back!

 

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Alex Miller

Alex Miller is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book, detailing deep space points in astrological interpretation, and the forthcoming Heaven on Earth, a comprehensive study of asteroids, both mythic and personal, due in 2018. Alex is a frequent contributor to “The Mountain Astrologer”, “Daykeeper Journal”, and NCGR’s Journals and “Enews Commentary”; his work has also appeared in “Aspects” magazine, “Dell Horoscope”, “Planetwaves”, “Neptune Café” and “Sasstrology.” He is a past president of Philadelphia Astrological Society, and currently a board member for the Philadelphia Chapter of NCGR.

2 comments, add yours.

Victoria

Love it!

Lesley

Shudders. Raising a goblet of mead to you, Alex.

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