November, and the holiday season is upon us. I haven't tired of the holidays -- which, in Kansas City, consist of a continuous run of celebratory moments from Halloween to New Year's Eve. Of course I don't live the holidays the same way I did as a child. But I still love the feel of this time of year, the transformation of the colorful autumn landscape into the chill of winter, the donning of sweaters and coats and the occasional scarf, the constant sense that something special is about to happen, like the first fall of snow, or an unexpected call from an old friend, or even just the chance to sleep an extra hour over winter break.
Holidays are an important part of Eolyn's world. Similar to the pagan or Wiccan traditions of our world, Moisehén has eight important days of observance that commemorate the yearly cycle from Winter Solstice to Winter Solstice. Central to this sacred calendar is the journey of the Sun, which, according to the beliefs of Moisehén, travels between the World of the Living, giving us 'day', and the World of the Dead, giving us 'night'. I will not list all of the High Holidays today, but I would like to share a few that are of special importance to the novel.
Winter Solstice. The longest night of the year, Winter Solstice is a moment of celebration and risk. For six months, the Sun has lingered ever longer in the World of the Dead, becoming colder with each night, more distant, more reluctant to return to the World of the Living. At Summer Solstices, mages and magas shoulder the immense responsibility of calling the Sun back from the seduction of the Underworld. Through celebration, song, dance and sensuous delights, they remind the Sun of the pleasures of the living world, causing the days to lengthen once again, and the warmth of the earth to be renewed.
Eostar. Spring equinox. Eolyn's name is derived, in part, from this sacred holiday, which celebrates the renewal of life after the long winter, and the start of the growing season. It has long been a tradition, under the Kings of Vortingen, to host a tournament for the knights of Moisehén during the week of Eostar.
Bel-Aethne. Perhaps the most favored holiday of the people of Moisehén, Bel-Aethne celebrates the mythological lovers Aithne and Caradoc, who together discovered magic. In the novel EOLYN, Ghemena relates that Aithne and Caradoc "consecrated their love under a full spring moon, and the heat of their hearts sparked a fire in the center of their village. The villagers gathered in awe to observe the blaze. With branches of pine they divided the flame so that each family took a piece back to their own home." Thus, fire was brought to the people of Moisehén.
Summer Solstice. The shortest night of the year, Summer Solstice is when the sun must be turned back toward its journey into the Underworld. Here we have the opposite dilemma of Winter Solstice, in that the Sun has become very attached to the World of the Living, and is reluctant to linger in the World of the Dead. While magas and mages hold vigil on this night through song and dance, they refrain from practicing magic. Instead, it is the responsibility of the Guendes, ephemeral creatures of the forest, to invoke the lengthening of nights that will lead the year back toward Winter Solstice. Offerings are made to the Guendes, in the form of food and drink, in thanksgiving for the use of their magic.
Samhaen. This holiday corresponds to our "Halloween" and is a time to commemorate those who have passed into the Afterlife. This is usually celebrated as a quiet night of rememberance. It is believed that the dead return to the World of the Living on this night, to visit family and friends. Food and drink are left on porches and doorsteps to welcome returning loved ones.
Today's image is a painting by Edward Robert Hughs.