All Hallows' Eve–the modern day Halloween has been celebrated for hundreds of years. In ancient times in Ireland and Scotland bonfires would be lit to remind witches of the fires of hell they tempted by casting spells and also to hold at bay the spirits that walked the earth on the last day of fall. It was the beginning of the dark time of the year—winter.
It was the last day of the harvest and the time to prepare for the cold months ahead. The ancient God's had to be appeased with offerings so people and livestock would be assured to survive the difficult times. But it was also a time to honor ancestors who had passed on. The table would be set with food for each missing family member, who it was believed would return to their home that one day a year.
From the sixteenth century until today, the custom of trick or treat has been practiced. Wearing costumes or blacking their faces to fool the spirits and fairies roaming the earth, groups would move from house to house to either guise(make mischief) or receive treats. The offering of food to both the Gods and to those who visited was supposed to insure prosperity for the coming year.
Since neither Ireland, Scotland or Wales grow pumpkins like we have in the U.S. it was the custom to carve jack-o-lanterns out of turnips to light the way and represent the spirits of the dead.
All Hallow's Eve is one of my favorite times of the year besides Christmas. So in honor of the coming celebration I thought I would post excerpts once a week from my two paranormal stories. Timeless and An Automated Death.
The first one is from Timeless:
Archaeology student, Regan Stanhope, lands the chance of a lifetime when she’s chosen to work on a summer dig in Loch Maree, Scotland. The ancient monoliths hidden beneath the loch are the most important discovery since Stonehenge. And for seven hundred years, they have been waiting—for her.
Saturation diver Quinn Douglas is contracted to recover some of the megaliths from the loch’s bottom. The job will breathe life into the struggling salvage business he and his brothers are building. But from the moment he arrives, Quinn is plagued by dreams and feelings from a past he did not live. Or did he?
Regan and Quinn are drawn to each other as they research the monoliths and the reason behind their shared visions. But both sense something mystical at work, delving into their minds, manipulating their emotions. And when they finally discover the monoliths’ extraordinary secret, they know they must seal them away from those who are desperate to unlock their power. Even if it means remaining caught in a timeless struggle between the past and present forever.
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The trail sloped down, the heavy growth of trees shielding the henge from view for a time. The foliage grew sparser and opened into a clearing.
Loch Maree provided a purplish-blue backdrop to the circle of twenty stones topped by lintels that stretched nearly the width of the inlet. A knoll of ground provided a natural dam holding back the water.
Braden led her beneath the crossbar spanning a narrow path between two of the stones. Atop the limestone altar in the center of the site sat her basket, the long stems of several plants sticking over the sides. The edge of her tartan shawl, bunched beside it, fluttered in the breeze. Braden paused in the shade of one of the slabs, a sudden wary tension in his stance.
Warm moist air looped around them. A prickling sensation fluttered over Coira’s skin as though a lightning strike had just dispersed. The smell of smoke lingered on the breeze. Braden’s grasp tightened upon her hand, holding her at his side.
More curious than alarmed, she ran a soothing hand down his arm. “Be at ease. There is nothing to fear in this place.”
She closed her eyes and embraced the power that lingered on the air like mist. Pulling away from Braden’s grasp, she walked clockwise along the edge of the circle. A low hum traveled through the bottoms of her feet to the top of her head, the vibration intensifying as she neared one particular stone. The Ogham designs carved into the pillar writhed black against the reddish light the setting sun painted upon the slab’s surface.
The air grew still and weighted with moisture. She tasted it, like dew, on her tongue. Her skin grew damp. The sound of the wind, the movement of the trees, her own breathing, ceased. Her ears felt full, as if she had climbed a tall peak and needed to swallow to clear them. What was about here?
“Coira—” Braden spoke behind her, his tone taut with wariness.
An area, head high, on the block wavered like something live wrestled within it. A bulge appeared pulsing, panting, as if the stone were giving birth. A shape thrust forward. Coira staggered back in surprise and fear, a startled cry torn from her.
Shoulders bowed, the figure stretched its neck back as though attempting to relieve the cramped pain of release. The head turned. A strange oval structure covering the top third of the face, a round disk covered the mouth with a black piece as thick as an eel attached to it.
For a moment, the form retained the gray color of the limestone in which it was imbedded, and then the stone slid away like liquid leaving the flesh exposed. The features were feminine, her head, neck, and shoulders encased in something gray-black as a seal’s pelt. With a wiggle, and a sound like the release of suction, a single arm and hand flopped free reaching toward her. The pale blue eyes that gazed at her from behind the strange mask reflected her same horror and fear. The wide cheekbones, the dark slash of her brows, the narrow bridge of her nose, mirrored hers in exact detail, and for a moment Coira thought she gazed at her own image.
With a twisting movement, the woman tried to break free of the stone, her chest heaving in and out as she attempted to breathe. Coira’s eyes stung with tears of pity. She could not stand aside and watch her die. She had to pull her free. Coira reached up to grasp the hand extended toward her.
“Nay!” Braden bellowed.
A current passed through Coira’s fingers, and a force, invisible but strong, looped around her wrist like a rope and pulled. Fear lanced through her, bone deep. She braced her feet and leaned back, fighting against the power that sucked her forward against her will. As she looked up, the hand above her reached out like a black claw to grab her.
Happy All Hallows' Eve to all,