Mists gather in the valleys and pour down the ancient riverbeds to the darkening sea. Gone the fires of autumn's glory, lost to the legions of cloud-swept days and chilling rains. Gone to wild geese flying southward, gone the last of summer's bounty. Mornings rimed with silver frost, evenings gathering gloom for sitting round the hearthfires glow. Hearken now, the darkness comes!
In the vale under the moor, the village speeds it's frantic pace.Thatcher's finish repairs on thick round roofs to hold out the nows ofwinter. Children bring in the last of the nuts and withered fruits from the woods. The wheat is threshed and winnowed on the chilly breeze. Woodsmoke rises from the hearthfires and axes ring in the clear air. Down from the moors come the cattle and sheep to the winter fields, come too the pigs from the forest glades. The smell of blood is thick in upon the air as those animals chosen for the slaughter are slain and cured against the winter's needs. The planting begun at Beltane is now the harvest. Hearken now, the darkness comes!
In the great forests that lie across the land, the leaves form a thickcarpet upon the ground, upon which treads the King Stag, velvet gone from his crown of horn, challenging all with his trumpeting cries. The bear and the fat squirrels seek their dens. The wolves stir in the cold, and their voices rise in songs to the moon. Now is the time of the Hunter. His shadow flies across the midnight sky, His horn sounds in the wind like thunder, His red-eyed hounds fly on before. Hearken now, the darkness comes!
She who stands guardian now is no longer the soft Maiden of spring, nor yet the fecund Mother full of the heat of summer. It is Cerridwen now, the Crone, the Hag, who stands without. In dreams and trance you see her, holding the cauldron into which all that live must go. Holding the cauldron that is Death. Gone too the young Lord of Spring, the Summer King. Now is the time of Herne the Hunter, wild master of the Winter's night. Harsh he is and full of fire, Lord of Death made manifest. Hearken now, the darkness comes!
And in the turning of the year, the walls of time and space become as air, until life and death are as one and departed souls walk again among the living. Here on this most sacred night, as the old year died and the new was born, around the fires the people gathered in celebration. There was wine and cider from the vines and groves, bread from the fields of winnowed wheat, and meat steaming from the slaughter. A great feast and celebration of life to take into the darkness. Hearken now, the darkness comes!
And as the earth moved onward into the darkness, the veil between the worlds grew thin, and strange beings walked upon the land. See now the pooka shake his tangled mane, the sidhe come forth from out the hollow hills, listen as the bean sidhe sings forth her terrible cry. And against this army of eldritch power, men did wield a greater weapon as fires sprang forth upon the hilltops and lit the standing stones and village greens. Dancing, swirling, leaping past the fires, the people held back the powers of the night with light and music until the dawn came once more. Yet still the darkness comes!
Turn and turn again the Earth did in its endless dance among the stars. Gone now the villages that lay beneath the downs and among the wolds. Gone the straight track and winding sheep path. Gone the King Stag and the shaggy bear. Yet still we hear an echo of that time and place as we sit to honor our blessed dead, as our children dress and monsters and play in the shadows. We hear the whisper of the Goddess in our hearts, and sometimes, late at night we hearken to the cry of the Hunt high in our crowded skies. Hearken, for the darkness comes!
And we, the spirit children of that ancient age, we remember. Though we labor not in the fields of waving grain, yet do we too now bring in our harvest. We gather to ourselves the fruits of our projects begun in the spring of the year and ready ourselves for a time of rest and introspection. We unburden ourselves with that which is no longer needful for our survival through the winter of the year.
We the children of this ancient age remember too our honored dead who speak to us again as the walls of this world grow thin. We pass the Cup of Remembrance as we think upon one who has gone before. We remember the good times and the bright things we treasure from their memories, and we allow them to fly free. We make our peace with She who waits for all.
We remember the fears of the darkness, and in our masquerade and games, we come to terms with Death and with change. For such is the meaning at the heart of the feast.
So prepare you now as the darkness comes. Ready the harvest of your hopes and dreams. Light the fires against ignorance and fear. For remember also, that the darkness is but one turn upon the Wheel, it is the darkness of the womb. And the Death we all must face is merely the doorway to the Life to come.