Gate Night: The Veil Grows Thin

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The fairies be out that night and they would take you away with them if you were out at that evil time. It is also said that the devil shakes his budges [fur] on the haws and turns them black and according to the old people if you eat a haw after Hallow Eve night you will have no luck (qtd in “Halloween in Irish Folklore”).

Happy Gate Night! For those of you who may not be familiar, the night before Halloween is called Gate Night. It’s the night when the veil between the world of the living and that of the dead begins to blur, culminating in the spirits of those beyond the veil walking among us on All Hallow’s Eve. Growing up, my hometown did trick-or-treating on Gate Night rather than Halloween itself (leave us small towns to our quirky ways), so it was always a special night to me, both for its candy-fueled revels and the mythos that surrounds it. So it was only natural that Beneath Blair Mountain take place on Gate Night, with the hour growing ever later and closer to Halloween as Lara Rae tumbles further and further down into the Underworld.

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From fey folk spiriting away unsuspecting travelers to cracks between our world and the next to restless spirits returning for aid or revenge, Beneath Blair Mountain drew heavily on Irish folklore and the beliefs surrounding Gate Night, Halloween, and Samhain that I grew up with. I also had Icelandic Jul tales of encounters with ghosts and hidden folk on an eerie winter’s night in mind. It was a great pleasure to weave threads of old stories and superstitions together to create something at once new and familiar and to truly revel in the magic and mystery this time of year seems to awaken in us.

Do you have any Samhain, Halloween, All Souls’ Day, Día de los Muertos, or Hallowmas customs or beliefs in your family or town? Do you know where they come from? Whether your plans involve candy for the living or candles for the dead, I hope you all have a happy Gate Night and a happy Halloween. Just keep to the roads and beware the fey now, mind. 😉

Most people dared not leave their homes on Samhain eve. In addition to encounters with unwelcome spirits, they believed they might fall prey to the music of the Little People, whose enchanting sounds could lure them into the underworld, where — unless their jackets were turned inside-out or they wore iron pins as protective talismans — they might be trapped for eternity, explained John Gleeson, director emeritus of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Celtic Studies. Those brave enough to go out disguised themselves with masks and costumes to avoid recognition by spirits (“Love Halloween? Thank the Celts for your favorite traditions”).

If all this talk of lost souls and sinister fey has you in the mood for a ghost story or All Hallow’s Read, Beneath Blair Mountain is available in both Kindle and paperback on Amazon.

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If only Lara Rae had brought her jacket.

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