The Dying Light
(At a dolmen, towards the end of the Neolithic age)
The drums were beating, and in clay pots, the fire burned, a thick and smoky flame. And we were waiting, expectantly, in the darkness, around the entrance to the mound. Then the sun rose, and the drums were still, and it was so very quiet. The light of the rising sun came streamed softly down the stone passage, and hit the great stone at the end.
Once more the sun and stars had turned in the heavens, and once more the great rite of spring had come. This was usually a time of celebration, but the past seven years had seen cold icy winters, and hard frozen soil. The rituals had been performed, but the rites had failed, and the tribe was fragmented, and none knew the cause. Had we angered the gods and goddesses? Was this a judgement upon us? All our prayers had been to no avail. The chanting of the song of Spring was empty, hollow, and the singers could say the words, but there seemed no virtue in them.
We had gathered the elders together, and the priests, and they had conferred for days and weeks, and with a heavy heart, they had decided to abandon the old ways. The spirits of the ancestors would be sealed, and a great rock placed across the entrance to the mound, and it would be covered with soil, and left to the wild grasses and flowers. The sun god had failed us, and the gods of the grove deserted us, and we were lost.
This is a time of ice, and the sun is dying, its warmth fading in the cold winds that tear at the land, and the sleet and hail that rains down upon our crops. Already we know hunger, and the children cry for food that is not there. So we will sing songs of pain, of sorrow, of death; we will try to supplicate these gods who come from the North, bringing their dark and wounding breath upon the land.
We walk from the stones, now sealed in darkness against the future, against the unknown. It is strange, and we will need to find a new hope, and a better way, an ending to despair. Through dark valleys we walk, seeking a sheltered haven from the storm, and waiting for a new light, and a fresh rising of the sun.
Spirits of Oak and Horse
(During the Early Iron Age, in the North of the Island)
I followed the druid, and we all processed, the entire tribe, from the grove within the oak wood, along to the barrow. This was an ancient place, and we have left it in peace for many years, for we respect the spirits of the ancestors. The time of the barrow is long past, and not even the eldest of the tribe has knowledge of its great maker; all that has been handed down is that it marked the boundaries of the dead, a wall of stones between this world, and that of the shades, the land of mist. It is a strange place, and one we respect, but leave alone. We follow the spirits of the oak, the sap rising in the bark, and the peoples of stone we leave in their past, in the darkness, just as when their light died, and their wisdom was forgotten.
Now we come to the entrance of the barrow, which has been opened, the earth, piled high, and still moist with dew, and the passage lit with urns of burning oil. The druid turns towards the bearers, who carry before them a simple frame of wood, on which is placed the remains of the chieftain's horse. It was last month, that the horse died, and her bones have been ritually purged of flesh by the spirits of air, gathered in reverence, and placed on this small frame.
The druid intones the rite of burial, the words which will release the spirit of the horse within this tomb; the chieftain's horse has seen many summers and winters, and he was full of grief on her parting, as indeed were the entire tribe. The augury told us where to lay her bones, at the time when the light of the day balances the dark of the night, and so we came here in the Spring, and now place the bones within.
The lights are extinguished once more, and the stone is rolled back into place. The earth is piled upon the stones, and the druid intones the rite of closing, and makes with a staff a sign within the air; it is the rune of ending, the seal of death.
The sunlight is fading, and twilight begins, and we return to face the darkness, and our loss, and mourn the end of an age. For our chieftain grows old, too, and his breath comes sharply in the damp air, and he will not live to see another midsummer this year. And we will pray to the gods to raise up a new chieftain, and restore to us the light that we once knew.
(In the Southwest of the Island, during the Dark Ages)
The old stone was laid in place at the threshold; it was taken from the old times, and is a bridge between the past and the present, and a sign that our light is a light renewed, and restored, and made whole. For that Word which was spoken in the beginning has always been heard, and through that word, the Great Maker made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him.
Our small church is now built this year, and the last stones have been laid in place; this is our Eastertide, and the tide of faith is rising on this island of ours. The altar is in laid out, and we have placed a candle on it, in preparation for our celebration.
The night is still black, and when I look at this sky, which the Great Maker has created, at the moon and the stars, which he set in their places, I see how small and frail we are in, motes of dust in a vast firmament. What are human beings, that our Maker should think of them; mere mortals, that he cares for them? Yet he makes us inferior only to himself, crowning us with glory and wisdom. Out of the fullness of his grace he has blessed us all, giving us one blessing after another.
Now we chant the songs of David the King in the Latin tongue, and the priest leads the people in prayer. The holy fire is lit; flame blazes from the wooden bonfire, and tapers of wax are lit, to take to the altar, and light the Easter candle. This day our Lord has risen, and the light that was quenched burns brightly once more, for the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.
The Lord is risen. He is risen indeed. And the sun is rising, and we rejoice. The long winter is over. Now is the dawn of a new age, and we shall see the fullness of light, and behold his grace and truth. The seal of death has been broken, and the light that comes into the world now shines on all people. And we break bread, and drink of the vine, and sing hosanna in the highest.
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