The Truth About SamhainbyThistlethorn©
Edited by Wicked
Darkness crowded the room, barely kept at bay by the light of the candles. The outlines of the room were lost in the famished shadows, which were waiting only for the candles' surrender to engulf the whole of the room. The acrid smell of the incense choked the air, oppressing the atmosphere and curling in an almost predatory manner around the room's occupants. The figures were hunched and huddled within their hooded robes as if cowering from the encroaching darkness and needy smoke. They stood in a circle, chanting the same name over and over in sinister intonation. Samhain.
The assemblage was headed by a similarly robed figure, but his hood was thrown back in arrogance, daring the hunting shade to consume him. His short-cropped hair was as black as the darkness, and his skin glistened pale in the candlelight. He stood before an ornate and elaborate altar that had been carved from dark wood into a thick and menacing shape that could be barely made out as it faded into the surrounding black. Upon it were glowing jack-o-lanterns carved with fearsome and grimacing faces, an unsheathed dagger, an empty chalice, and a live black cat yowling pitifully. He pinned the squirming creature with one hand while the other was raised high, hand open and fingers splayed.
For a moment he appeared lost in the sonorous chanting, transported by it and the squalling of the cat whose life lay in his hands. His head was tipped back, rapturously riding the energy and power he was soon to command. Then, in a booming voice that completely contradicted his appearance, the lead figure called out, "Great Lord Samhain, God of the Dead, God of the Hallow-Tide, Keeper of the Darkness, hear us. Come forth on this, your night, to our summoning and accept this offering."
As the summoner took a breath in preparation to continue his invocation a new figure appeared in front of him. The newcomer was male, with auburn hair pulled back in a ponytail at the nape of his neck and a ruddy complexion that only looked redder by candlelight. He wore a loose-fitting tunic with wrapped leggings over soft leather shoes.
"What can I do for you?" he asked, stunning the leader into gap-jawed stupidity.
Even the chorus wavered a bit.
"Hello?" he said, trying again. "What'cha need? Trouble with vandals? House egged? Windows broken?" He looked around, as if just noticing that he was in a darkened room. "Power lines cut? Hurry up, this a busy time for me."
"We were summoning the Lord Samhain, God of the Dead," the leader explained, nonplussed. By this time the chanting had stopped entirely as uncertainty worked its way through the ranks.
The figure rolled his eyes. "Oh, for the love of ash and thorn," he sighed tiredly. "Not again. OK, who's in charge of this bake sale?"
"I am," said the lead figure.
"Of course you are." The strange man reached across the altar and rested his hand on the leader's shoulder. "Now, we're going to have story time with Uncle Samhain," he explained slowly, looking earnestly into the other man's eyes. "You know Lord Samhain, the Celtic God of the Dead?" When the confused leader nodded, the strange man grabbed him by both shoulders and shouted in his face. "HE DOESN'T EXIST, YOU NO TALENT HACK!!!!"
The leader released his hold on the cat, which quickly tried to bolt, but was deftly caught by the now very off-putting strange man. Without looking at the cat, he moved it close to his chest and began to smooth the fur and comfort the terrified animal. He continued talking, his voice lower if not calmer.
"Why don't you know-nothing practitioners ever thoroughly research anything? Literally thousands of legitimate evil entities out there, and you go for the one that doesn't exist. And what, exactly, were you going to do with this cat?"
"Sacrifice it to you?" the leader said, his uncertainty turning the statement into a question.
"I have half a mind to report you the to ASPCA. Fine, I'm taking the cat. Now, do us all a favor, and grow up. Mysticism is an admirable line of study, but this sophomoric display and poorly thought out ritual is the sign of a wanna-be. Next time, research what you're doing and have a firm idea in mind of who you're summoning. Because let me tell you, if an actual evil god of the dead with a reputation for demanding human sacrifice showed up and you gave him a cat, your ass would be in a sling." And with that, the man was gone.
I appeared outside the house, shaking my head. I released the cat with a small blessing to ensure it made it home. I hadn't been entirely honest with the young man. He wasn't a no-talent hack, he actually had a bit of talent. Summoned me, at any rate. However, he was being sophomoric and a serious wanna-be. Better that he left the path entirely than become some stereotypical "oooh, aren't I evil" poser. The other thing I left out was there is a Samhain. I'm Samhain. I'm just not the Celtic, or any other, God of the Dead. What I am is... complicated.
I was born many centuries ago, when the Celts still held sway in Europe and before the coming of the Romans (and a pox on the Caesars, but I digress). I was born at the end of summer, which every year was marked by this huge festival. Oh, you should have seen, it was great. Thus my name, Samhain or Summer's End, after the festival of the same name. You see, being born at the beginning of Winter to a people without central heat is a dicey proposition, so much so that my parents thought I should be named for it. But I survived, and had a nice life. I didn't mind the name so much at the time, but now I wish they'd gone with maybe Calhoun, or Finn, or Riley, or even Patrick. Just as a point of interest, by the way, it's not pronounced "Sam Hane." It's pronounced "Sow-an" or "Sa-veen," depending on where you're from. If you're going to drag my name through the mud, the least you can do is say it right. But again, I digress.
Everything was fine up until that run in with Balor, King of the Fomorians. The Fomorians were a race of thoroughly unpleasant beings, monstrous and ugly, with magical powers. He was referred to as "Balor of the Evil Eye" due to the fact that one of his eyes could kill with a glance. He normally kept this eye closed, largely to avoid constantly tripping over corpses. Now I, being a sensible Celt, usually avoided like the plague anybody with "King of the Fomorians" or "Evil Eye" or even "of the" in their name. But then the bastard stole my cow. Not just any cow, but my favorite cow.
And not my favorite cow in the way you're thinking, thank you very much.
Well, of course I had to get it back.
(Now I ask you, how's this for justice? To think, there's a guy with a name like "Balor of the Evil Eye" who can kill people by looking at them, and who becomes the Evil Celtic God of the Dead, to be written about disparagingly in religious tracks? ME! How in the world did this happen?)
Where was I? Oh yes, my favorite cow in a purely platonic way. It was a magical cow, you see, though I no longer remember what magical powers it had. Maybe it always gave milk, or maybe you could butcher it and it always reformed, that was very popular and practical back then. To be honest, for all I remember it did card tricks. That's not the point. The point is, the cow was stolen. By Balor. So,I went to get it back. And after many trials, tribulations, and an epic poem, I succeeded. Yay me.
I then went back to my nice, quiet life and eventually passed on.
Then how did end up I getting summoned to some wanker's ritual, you say? Well, I'm glad you asked. Seems somebody found Samhain the Celtic festival and decided there was a god attached. Of the dead, 'cause, you know, that just makes perfect sense. All right, it's a harvest festival true enough, but I don't see anybody linking Thanksgiving to the dead. (Zombie turkeys could be highly entertaining, however.) Now, me, I would've nominated Balor as he left his fair share of corpses in his wake. But all he gets for his infamy is a nod in the D & D Monster Manual. Life is so unfair, but what're you going to do?
Well, apparently nothing travels faster that completely fictitious information, and before long thousands of people are preaching about Samhain, the Evil Celtic God of the Dead. And, wow, was I an asshole. Human sacrifice, demonic entities running loose in the streets, chaos unleashed, and me presiding over all of it drinking the blood of the innocent. Clearly, a fun time to be had by all.
Consequently, the universe said, "Well, if all these people say there's a Samhain, let there be Samhain." Only problem was, apparently I'm the only person named Samhain. Therefore, I was elevated to, well, semi-Godhood. But because I was never associated with the dead, I couldn't be God of the Dead. Apparently, deity-dom should be somehow related to something you did or were involved with in life. And what was I known for? Getting my cow stolen.
Hence, it came to pass that I became the Celtic God of Victims Rights Advocacy. At this newest version of Samhain, Halloween, I am incredibly busy. I would like to know whom, exactly, decided this was prank time, in order to wring their neck. I'll show them something far more frightening than a God of the Dead. I'll show them a peevish God of Victims Rights who for the foreseeable future will be spending every Halloween scraping eggs off windows, pulling toilet paper out of trees, cleaning up smashed pumpkins, and putting in cameos at the occasional poser Halloween ritual.
So, this Halloween, if your pumpkins get smashed, your decorations get stolen, your inflatable gets slashed, your house egged or toilet papered, or any of the other innumerable annoyances of the season, just remember to call on me, Samhain, the Celtic God of Victims Rights. I feel your pain. My invocations are many, but the most common is, "Hey you kids, get off my lawn!!"