You glance up at the calendar taped to your fridge as you throw your jacket on, it’s October 31st, you had completely forgotten. The evening is dark and cold, but that won’t stop you taking your usual evening stroll through the woods. You fasten up your boots and open the front door, beginning the short walk down into the forest near your home.
Pumpkins with crooked smiles greet you on every doorstep, tea-light flames flickering gently behind their eyes. It’s prime trick-or-treating time, and children with sheets over their head or covered in sticky fake blood run around with skull-shaped buckets brimming with candy.
Coming to the end of the row of houses, you turn into the dense forest and begin the walk down your usual path. The earth is cool and damp, a slight mist hanging in the air and the only sound a soft scurrying of woodland animals in the undergrowth. What leaves are left are flushed with gold and crimson, spreading a strange feeling of warmth through the trees.
It’s a full moon, you notice, and the milky glow illuminates the path ahead of you. You muse on the day, walking absent-mindedly until you begin to notice a strange smell. Not a bad smell, but certainly out of place for the middle of the woods. It’s sweet and spicy… like a freshly baked pie.
Continuing on the path, you begin to see a warm glow flickering in the distance, the soft golden light bouncing off the dying leaves, maybe some people are camping out in the woods for Halloween? Apprehensive, you approach quietly, hearing quiet chatter and what sounds like folk music, though you’ve never heard anything quite like it before.
The smell grows stronger as you get closer to the activity, the thick scent of sweet spices overpowering you. As you approach, you realise there is a clearing in the woods and what seems to be a lively celebration happening.
A large oak dining table lies in the centre of the clearing, easily seating over 30 people. The table is overflowing with food, celebrating the bounty of Autumn. Ornate platters boast fat purple grapes, wild berries and apple slices dusted with spice.
Pastries, soft breads, sugar-speckled pies and miscellaneous baked goods are steaming hot, the smell of caramel and cinnamon spilling from them and saturating the air. The remaining table space is taken up by large flagons and jewelled jugs which are being passed around gladly, filled to the brim with honeyed mead and sweet wine.
There are people sitting all around the table, laughing and chatting together happily. They look strange, like they’re dressed up for something, you’ve never seen clothing quite like this before. A woman stands to greet you, wearing a gown of deep emerald and flowing chestnut hair braided into a complex arrangement. She smiles and it reaches her eyes, the same deep green as her dress. She gestures you to sit and you take a seat, accepting a cup of wine graciously.
The other guests are dressed in a similar way, with thick gowns of crimson and purple, beautifully intricate hair, long beards and ornate jewellery. Although they speak a strange language you can’t understand the sound of, it sparks an ancient knowledge in you, and you smile at their gentle greetings as the meaning is somehow relayed in your mind.
You reach for a pastry and take a bite, the flavours of sweet vanilla and warm butter melting on your tongue. The smell of nutmeg, cinnamon and clove overpower you and you can’t help but reach for another. You hadn’t noticed when you first arrived, but a large bonfire also lies in the clearing, the heat of the flames both comforting and alluring.
A woman with silver hair strums on her lute, gradually starting to pick up the pace. A man nearby with ivy trailing through his long beard reaches for his bodhran drum and joins in. People begin to sing together in perfect harmony, and two strangers grab your hand, pulling you into the dance. The otherworldly melody captivates and enchants you, it seems like days are passing as you move in synchronised flow around the crackling fire.
Finally the dancing reaches a natural end, you take a seat back at the table, enjoying a cup of mulled cider that has replenished itself. The strangers tell tales of ancient lands and people you’ve never heard of, warriors and princesses, strange creatures and spirits. Songs are sung and poetry is spoken with dramatic effect, all the while you listen intently. Tears are shed at stories of heartache, but laughs soon follow. The guests descend into a soft chatter among themselves and begin to gaze up at the sky.
The thick darkness of night is beginning to subside, giving way to the delicate haze of morning. Pastel lilac, dashed with orange, the sun is rising and the night is almost over. The woman in the emerald dress reaches into a leather pouch around her waist and pulls out a single candle, offering it to you to remember the night by.
You stand and bring the candle up to your face, breathing in the sweet scent of melted butter, tonka and warming spices. Closing your eyes, you wished the night could last forever, but at least you have your candle to remind you of what happened.
When you open your eyes, the soft sound of lutes and laughter has been replaced by the early morning chatter of birdsong. The table is gone along with the fire, with no trace that either had existed the night before. A perfectly ordinary forest. You pocket the candle and smile, beginning the slow walk back up to your house.
You can’t wait for Samhain next year.
Take yourself back to the magical night in the woods with the Samhain Harvest candle.