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’Tis the season. But what season? This is an interesting time of year.

Winter.

A time of rest.

The land stands fallow and sleeping.

The days shorten, the nights lengthen.

The shadows stretch, the darkness grows.

What season?

There is a time, a time outside of time. A season? Certainly. Better, a time, a tide.

A time outside of time. The Time of Misrule. The Tide of Misrule. Misruletide.

I’m not talking just about the Christmastime, Christmastide, celebration by this name, but the portion of time starting at All Saint’s or All Hallow’s and extending to Candlemas. I’m talking of a year ending at Hallowtide and starting at Candletide. The year has ended. The year has not yet began.

It is a time of rest. Certainly. A rest for whom? The land, well, yes, but who else? If it is the Time of Misrule, the Season of Misrule, the Tide of Misrule, we should start with what Misrule is, both in the festival use of the word and how we mean it here.

I won’t go much into the festivities or history, but the tradition of Feast of Fools and similar celebrations on Christmas and around that part of the year, was a celebration where everything was turned on its head, socially. It was a time or revelry and irreverence, a time of no rules, or, namely, misrule. Depending on where and when, it was sometimes a large scale celebration and sometimes a private affair. Regardless, the “ruler” over the festivities was among the peasantry or the lower clergy, taking the role of king or abbot. In Britain, the Lord of Misrule. One aspect of this, anything trying to hurt or cause problems for those higher in society would be mislead into going after those low in society as well. I can’t rule out that this aspect was not a part of things as well.

This is the sense I am using for this part of the year, from its end at Hallowmas to its beginning at Candlemas. The Time of Misrule, the time when the normal order of things is tipped on its head.

It is during this time of year, at various points, in various forms, that we see lore of the Wild Hunt and traditions and folktales that have descended from the Hunt. In its many forms, the faeries or the dead or witches or other beings ride abroad. They are lead by various figures, Öðinn, Frigg, Frey, Freyja, Holda, Frau Holle, Berchta, Diana, Gwydion, King Arthur, Nuada, Herne, the Devil, Sir Francis Drake, Manannán, Arawn, Nicnevin, Ankow, and many others. The Wild Hunt is said to occur, depending on the lore, on All Hallow’s Eve, on Midwinter’s Eve, on Christmas Eve, or on Twelfth Night (Epiphany Eve), or simple during the winter months, during the Misruletide we are discussing.

The variations veil and hide things, for it is the nature of lore to shift, but under it all, we see a Hunt lead by a figure, or two figures, and a host of the Dead or of spirits. It is interesting to note that the lore of All Hallow’s Eve is of a time when the Dead or spirits roam in the world of the living. This is not the “normal” state of things, it doesn’t follow the normal rule. And many of the figures seen leading the Hunt are either dead folk heroes or gods or goddesses of death.

If we consider the parallel of a time when the Dead walk lead by a lord or lady of death with the Feast of Fools led by the Lord of Misrule, the idea becomes apparent.

Consider for the moment an image.

See a woman dressed in black robes with a red veil hiding her face. She stands in a stone chamber deep beneath the ground, a round chamber with stone benches carved in the sides. There are two thresholds in the room, an empty doorway with no door to her right, and a pair of massive doors to her left. A figure stands before the black doors, watching her, still as death, silent as the grave. In front of her is a black altar, a cube of unworked black stone, the colour of deepest night, deepest shadow. A body rests on this altar, or a Thread, there is less difference than there seems. The body is familiar. In one shrivaled hand, she holds a rod or wand, wood, made of a blackthorn root. In the other, she holds a knife.

When the time becomes full, when the tide is complete, the knife drops, the Thread is cut, the blood flows from the body, blood black in the shadows, covering the black altar. This time has ended, the Thread cut, the Cutter’s knife has fallen.

The woman raises the rod and points at the doors, and the figure before it moves. The figure it tall and thin, covered in black tattered robes. His face is hidden in the shadowed cowl. Folded at his back is a pair of skeletal wings with shadow stretched between the bones. His hands, sticking from the arms of the robes, are nothing but bone. In one hand, he holds a book, chained to his wrist. His other hand is em

When the woman raises the rod, the winged figure wipes a line from his book with one skeletal finger. The ink flows like smoke off the page and a figure rises from the body and joins it, the two becoming one, a spectral image of the body still on the altar. The figure reaches and opens the doors wide. Beyond, it is both as dark as the night and bright beyond imagination. A wind fills the cavern, and the body crumbles to dust and blows away.

The figure beacons, silent, and the spectre walks through the Gates of Life and Death, which are closed fast behind them.

It is finished.

This is the normal rule, the Quick die, becomes the Dead, cross through the Gates, and rest until the time comes for them to return, becoming Quick again. But this is the time of Misrule, the Dead don’t always stay dead, sometimes the Wild Hunt rides.

But who sides at the front of the Hunt? Who leads the Dead? Death. Like Hel leading the people of her domain in Ragnorak, like the Queen of Faerie leading the people of her domain forth, like Odin or Freyja leading the Dead they have gathered forth, Like King Arthur leading the knights that died, Death rides forth at the front of the Host.

But, if Death leads the Hunt, who guards the Gates? Ah. The Time of Misrule. The Quick caught up in the Host become Dead, and the Dead beyond the Gates can walk. This is Misruletide. Among other things.

Now, when the Keeper of the Lost sits as Regent, and the Quick and the Dead can switch station, now is when things aren’t always what they seem.

So, what do we have at Hallowtide? Not just All Hallow’s Eve. It is the Eve of All Hallows, of course, All Hallow’s Day, All Saint’s Day, which is followed by All Soul’s Day. Three days focussed on the Dead, in different ways. But let’s look specifically at All Soul’s Day.

This is of course best known in the part of the world I live in as the Mexican celebration of Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, when masks are worn and feasts and presents are prepared for the Dead, often at grave sites, is a similar fashion to the tradition practiced by many of my Craft brothers and sisters in a Dumb Supper on All Hallow’s Eve. The giving of food to the Dead is present in many cultures throughout the world and throughout time, though not always this time of year. It is common this time of year, however.

In Catholic practice, All Soul’s Day is a day of commemoration for the “faithful departed”. This is a somewhat enigmatic phrase to many. It’s taken to mean those who have died and are in Purgatory. The phrase is, “fidelium animae”, fidelium, fidelis, fides, faith/belief/trust/confidence, so faithful, believing, or trustable, animae, anima, soul/spirit/life/air/breeze/breath, so spirit of the dead in this context. Those that believe but haven’t obtained heaven, basically.

Misruletide begins with a focus on the dead, and another use of the phase “fidelium animae” gives some interesting things to consider. A prayer has been commonly prayed for the “faithful departed” is as follows:

English:

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Latin:

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat eis. Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.

The last phrase, many of us are familiar with, at least in English, “rest in peace”. This has become the most common expression for those who have died, though if you read lore of the dead from many times past, this directive implies a desire for the Dead not to be unrestful, not to rise. The Dead don’t always rest peacefully, that the Gates aren’t always sealed, as we’ve been discussing.

Consider this phrase in Latin for a moment, "requiescant in pace”. “Pace” is “pax”, meaning peace or harmony. The sense is not in terms of no war, like we often see in in English, it’s the sense of being silent, not being dissident, not conflicting. “Pax!” was also used like we would use, “Be silent!”, or “Hush!”. “Requiescant" is “requiesco”, to rest or repose or sleep. Rest in peace, sleep peacefully and don’t cause me trouble. If you pardon my humour.

But “requiesco” is “re-“ and “quiesco”. “Re-“ means back, backwards, or again. Basically, to go back to a previous state. “Quiesco” means to rest, cease, sleep, repose, abstain, cease, stop, and similar ideas. It is from “quies” and “-sco”. “-sco” changes a verb to have a meaning of starting to or beginning to. “Quies” means to rest, repose, quiet, and figuratively, to dream. So, getting to the root, we have the same meaning as we started with, but the combination implies a bit more specific sense than we saw with the original meaning. “Quiesco” would be, to begin or start to rest, repose, or be quiet. “Requisco” would be, to return to a state of beginning or starting to rest, repose, or be quiet. But beginning to rest or repose would be to go to sleep, basically, and to begin to be quiet would be to stop making noise. So, returning to these would be to go back to sleep, or to become quiet again. A returning to a previous state of sleep or quietness.

This brings to mind discussions of Charon the ferryman being silent, and of the Dead being silent until Odysseus provides blood, and other stories relating to the silent dead being given speak though blood or other methods. Bran the Blessed’s cauldron returned the Dead to life, but they were silent, unable to speak. This is common in much of the lore, the Dead cannot speak, they are silent, unless voice is brought by some means. To be Dead is to be Silent. “Requiesco” implies a return to a state of sleep and silence, a return to death.

In modern Catholic context, the prayer implies those in Purgatory moving on quickly to Heaven, but the wording has other repercussions, and begs the question, as this prayer was introduced by St. Benedict in the sixth century and is believed to be older still, was the meaning always what it is now seen as? The formalized beliefs concerning Purgatory were much later, though the concept existed in deferent forms back before Benedict. It seems possible, though, that the implications of the prayer as that to keep the Dead at rest is not impossible.

"Requiem aeternam” is of note. “Requiem” is of course from requies, also, a “place of rest”. “Aeternam”, “arternus”, is translated as permanent, lasting, eternal, endless, immortal. Hence, eternal rest, or an eternal resting place. The second word comes from “-rnus”, making it an adjective, and “aetus”, meaning lifetime or age. The root meaning is more about a resting place that will last a lifetime than the modern sense of eternity.

So, my tongue and cheek transition:

A place to sleep until we all die, O Lord please give them, and let the uninterrupted light shine on them, and those of the Dead who are trustworthy, by the mercy of God, keep quiet and not bother us. Amen.

Misruletide is a time when the Dead can walk among the Quick, and when much of the feasts, fasts, celebrations, measures, folk traditions, and rituals are concerned with keeping them from doing so, or misdirecting them so they don’t succeed in whatever they seek to do.

And, I say:

Hail, oh Builder of Storms, Keeper of the Lost, Regent of the North, Ruler of the Time of Misrule, bringer of Change.

Hail, oh Cutter, you whose Knife cuts every Thread when the time comes, the Last Witness, Priestess of the Black Altar.

Hail, oh Guardian of the Gates of Life and Death, Darkling Twin, Shadow of the World, Keeper of the Book in which all is written and all is erased.

May the Time of Misrule bring its secrets and lore and surprises, may the storms bring the life of spring, may the Dead speak when speech is needed, be silent when it is not, ride forth when it is time, and rest in peace when all is accomplished.

Dance, oh Spirits of Misruletide, dance through the long dark nights, and may the lights of the new year find us when Candletide comes again.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat eis. Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

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