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The Festival By: Terry D. Scheerer

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The Festival
By: Terry D. Scheerer


Editor's Note: In honor of the month of May, I offer this story of how the ancients possibly celebrated Beltane, or May Day.

The village elder was up well before dawn, observing the sky and the weather for omens of the coming day, just as he had done countless times before. His heavy wool cloak wrapped around him to protect against the pre dawn chill, he stood gazing up at the heavens; a velvet blanket strewn with twinkling pinpoints of light so numerous he could not count them.

Many nights in the past he had studied the sky and then, as now, he wondered yet again what those countless points of light represented. Were they the souls of the dead, as some had suggested, or the eyes of the gods watching over their world, as others had claimed? On many nights he had seen them frequently fall from the sky, leaving a burning trail in their wake. On some nights they would fall by the hundreds and on other nights only a handful would choose to leave their lofty positions. Where did they go and why did they fall--and what were they, really? There were so many unanswered questions.

Taught by his father, who had been instructed by his father before him, going back more generations than he could know, the elder was aware that the night sky rotated around the earth, just as the sun and moon did. He recognized the winter and summer constellations and could tell the time of year by the positions of these heavenly bodies. He could read current weather omens in the sky and foretell future weather by the way certain crops and other plants grew, as well as by the way some animals acted. Still, the answer to the great mystery eluded him: What did it all mean?

The nights were still somewhat cool, but the days were becoming definitely warmer and the light dew that clung to the newly grown, ankle high grass would burn off soon after the sun rose. There was a light breeze coming from the southeast, so he turned his face into the wind and took a deep breath. The air had a touch of dampness to it from the morning dew, but there was no trace of rain on the breeze and he noted the faint tang of salt from the marshes, far to the south. Thus far, all the omens appeared good.

From the nearby village, a cock crowed the coming of dawn and the elder turned back to face the east. The night was just beginning to lose its hold on the world; the cloudless black of the sky slowly fading to grey at the horizon. He nodded to himself and decided it was time.

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He returned to his hut and crossed the large central room to the now, cold hearth. This dwelling, like every other in the village, smelled of unwashed bodies, poorly cured animal skins and old smoke. These smells were only faintly noticed, however, within the elder's home, being overlaid with the sweet and tangy scent of herbs, both fresh and dried, which were hung from the thatched ceiling and around the wattle walls. Sleeping near the hearth amid a pile of tattered hides and old blankets was his young grandson and the elder gently shook the boy's shoulder.

"Awake, Tad," he said, softly, so as not to disturb the other sleepers, though they would be getting up soon enough. "It is time."

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About the Author

A published writer since 2001, along with his work which has appeared in "The World of Myth," Terry D. Scheerer's short stories have appeared in such magazines as, "Dragonlaugh" and "Sword's Edge," and a book of his collected poetry and short stories was published by Gateway Press in August, 2005. Mr. Scheerer continues to work as an Editor and writer (as health permits) on a number of ongoing projects.
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