All Hallow's Eve
The ploughed fields mark the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, the 'darker half' of the year. This is the liminal time, when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld thins.
The umbrella of the night sky spans overhead, where millions of stars have been shining for billions of years, on this reoccurring Samhain, the "first day of winter", the half point between equinox and solstice.
This transition from one day to the other. And this night in between, where a curtain slides to the side and we get an insight into the pagan grounds of our souls, into a subconscious, dulled and immunized by the harsh light of modern paraphernalia and glitz, weaned from the mysterious and inexplicable.
A temptation felt to camouflage oneself to ward off evil and to pretend one is not there.
The darkness falls within minutes and the mind needs tranquilization, a sedation. To retire into the kitchen, where, witchlike, soup and sauces are stirred, frying pans filled and the oven preheated.
The smell of the season, the scent of fried onions permeates the house. They sizzle, the outer skin crackles, disintegrates into the next layers, they caramelize with sugar and are accompanied by boletus mushrooms, milk caps and morels.
The shoulder of mutton is larded with half cloves of garlic and the steamed pears in butter are bedded between boiled green beans, marjoram, mustard, caraway, parsley and chervil with added pumpkin seeds. Turnips cleaned, juniper berries crushed, tripe cut down into finger length strips.
The oven serves as source of hope and revelation.
It is good to step outside the door during such a mysterious night.
There is the call of a screech owl, and something rustles in the bushes. Should sacrifices be offered to unknown spirits, food and drink, samples of the crops, a glass of wine poured over the meadow or seeds sprinkled? Or báirín breac, potato cake, champ or colcannon kept ready? In an earthen bowl to please the unknown creatures and not to disappoint them by putting unearthly material in front of them?
The dog starts to growl. He knows more and hears more. He is related to spirits, wolves, fairies and elves. Or are there already the beings of the Otherworld who want to get in touch, make themselves noticed or make fun of us?
But it is only a late bird. It rises from the undergrowth with flapping wings and flies through the branches.
The bite into the apple that ripened on the tree behind the house, its bitter-sweet taste sharpens the senses.
Behind the roses walks a white figure and soon a cloud gives way to the moonlight, which the half-fat waning moon, pours like milk over the garden.
Are all the forgotten and rejected gods angry with us because we have cooked them together into one God, like a soup made of noble ingredients and spices and fine vegetables?
A shuffling of steps on the country road behind the wall awakens curiosity to check out who walks there. The road is empty.
Was it the neighbour who died last year? During this night the souls of the dead revisit their homes seeking hospitality. He liked his daily walk.
Only bushes, trees and a scarecrow form a changing background, a backdrop where shadows and branches move like excited actors, who have forgotten their script.
Conversations behind the blackberry hedges can be heard, laughter and crying… the otherworld gathers together, the aos sí, the supernatural…
The dog sniffs at something which is invisible and looks with assuring eyes and signals “No danger”.
The horizon shows a small golden strip, bonfires are lit. Their smell of smoke with purifying powers leviates over the surrounding land.
Not to forget to set places at the dinner table and by the fire to welcome the souls of the dead which return home on one night of the year and must be appeased.
The steam from the pots may make them visible to the human eye.
A few apples and a handful of nuts, signs of immortality and divine wisdom, frame the dinner plates. Cinnamon is powdered over them in the hope to sidetrack the ghosts.
reveal name of future spouse
in dark hallows’ eve
tomorrow we eat jugged hare,
and autumnal sweet chestnuts
Eduard Schmidt-Zorner is a translator and writer of poetry, haibun, haiku, and short stories.
He writes in four languages: English, French, Spanish, and German and holds workshops on Japanese and Chinese style poetry and prose and experimental poetry. He is a member of four writer groups in Ireland; living in County Kerry, Ireland, for more than 25 years and is a proud Irish citizen, born in Germany.
He is published in over 140 anthologies, literary journals and broadsheets in USA, UK, Ireland, Japan, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Bangladesh, India, France, Mauritius, Nepal, Pakistan, Nigeria and Canada.
Some of his poems and haibun have been published in French (own translation), Romanian, and Russian language.
He writes also under his penname Eadbhard McGowan.