Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Soul's Day and Random Thoughts

Today was my last ghost stories program for the year, or at least, the last one on my schedule. This was a re-schedule of Tuesday's school program which was canceled when school closed because of the snow.

There is nothing quite like a Halloween party at a small country school. Everybody comes--parents, grandparents, little brothers and sisters. Many were in costume. The costume parade was such a sight! It has been a long time since I've been in attendance at one; I think the last time was when I was storytelling for Sutton Elementary in Braxton county, probably in 2009? A long time, anyway, not to see so many people having so much fun. And even though a black cat did cross the road in front of me on my way to the school, all went well.

I was there to tell ghost stories for the third grade, and they were awesome listeners and participants. I picked through my stories to find ones suitable for the age group, and toned down a few parts that might have been a little too much for them. That's the joy of performance storytelling--I can adjust stories on the fly to fit the age group, location and time limits. It takes time and experience to learn how to do that, and I can remember my early years when I was still figuring out these dynamics. Now it's so easy I almost don't realize what I am doing. Experience is a great teacher.

'Tonight we're having trick or treat--and we're getting a few costumed kids to our door! Those of you who have traveled my driveway know the challenge it can present to the faint-hearted, but these hardy souls are people born and bred on this hill and I doubt our drive deters them at all. This year I'm giving out light sticks, flashing eyeball rings and Halloween activity books instead of candy, and the kids seem okay with it. Judging by the loaded bags I've seen, the supply of candy on Joe's Run will be plentiful in the days ahead.

Today is also All Soul's Day. I was pondering on that last night as I headed to bed just after midnight. On this day in the past, it was believed that the spirits who left their graves the night before roamed the earth, only returning when darkness came again. I must admit I wanted to go up on the hill and just watch as the full moon struggled to find its way through the clouds and rain. Would I have seen any flitting shadows, do you think? Or would I have just got wet and cold? Somehow, with the rain and fog, I think there would have been shadows. (You can read the post I wrote a few year's ago about All Soul's Day here.)

And since today is also the first of the month, and it's "rabbit, rabbit, rabbit" day, here is a fitting poem for both the rabbits and All Soul's Day:

Graveyard Rabbit
In the white moonlight, where the willow waves,
He halfway gallops among the graves—
A tiny ghost in the gloom and gleam,
Content to dwell where the dead men dream,

But wary still!
For they plot him ill;
For the graveyard rabbit hath a charm
(May God defend us!) to shield from harm.

Over the shimmering slabs he goes—
Every grave in the dark he knows;
But his nest is hidden from human eye
Where headstones broken on old graves lie.

Wary still!
For they plot him ill;
For the graveyard rabbit, though sceptics scoff,
Charmeth the witch and the wizard off!

The black man creeps, when the night is dim,
Fearful, still, on the track of him;
Or fleetly follows the way he runs,
For he heals the hurts of the conjured ones.

Wary still!
For they plot him ill;
The soul’s bewitched that would find release,—
To the graveyard rabbit go for peace!

He holds their secret—he brings a boon
Where winds moan wild in the dark o’ the moon;
And gold shall glitter and love smile sweet
To whoever shall sever his furry feet!

Wary still!
For they plot him ill;
For the graveyard rabbit hath a charm
(May God defend us!) to shield from harm.

by Frank Lebby Stanton, 1890

For more about rabbits and superstitions about them (including one that rabbits are witches), read my post Rabbitry from 2010.

Hoping all the souls make it safely home this night--the living as well as those long past living.

Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


DebbieC said...

Sue, Today is All Saints Day and tomorrow is All Souls Day. I went to Mass tonight for All Saints. Close enough though. Looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks.

Granny Sue said...

Whoops! You're exactly right, Debbie! I was a day ahead of myself :) So I get to celebrate it for 2 days, right? Thanks for the correction!

Sue said...

I like the way that refrain is repeated in the poem. Thanks for sharing it!


Nance said...

I don't have All Saints or all Souls nights in my background. Here in the mid-west we have Beggars Night. That is October 30th. A lot of communities deem trick-or-treat night to be Beggers Night instead of October 31. I think Beggers' night might have been invented to get the little children out to trick or treat ahead of Halloween when the big kids were out to do their tricks. But can't prove that! Anyway, it has come and gone for another year.

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