Granny Phillis

The fire, a welcome contrast to the descending mist outside, was soon obscured by all seven grandkids. As they fought over who would be directly in front, the youngest Seán, decided that he would sit with his beloved great granny Phillis. “Hello granny! Happy Halloween. Would you like a sweet?” Her marble eyes found him, and she squinted. “Is that you Georgie?”

Seán smiled, unoffended. “No, it’s me Granny. It’s Seán. I’m Georgie’s son!” Her solum face lit up. “Ah it’s me little pet Seán, how are you love?”

“I’m grand granny I got loads of sweets would you like one? I have the sucky sweets you like!” As she reached out Seán was already obliging with an orange flavored glazier. “Thanks pet, and by the way, we don’t say happy Halloween.”

Seán, a wise nine-year-old, knew not to question his great granny. His sister Susan however, was a boisterous twelve. “My teacher taught me it’s polite to say happy Halloween to your friends and family.” Granny Phillis sat up straighter in her armchair. Seán often wondered if granny was born in that chair because he rarely saw her out of it. Although in fairness, she had been 85 when he was born.

“Susan, don’t talk to your granny that way!” Her mortified Mother squeaked. Susan gave a familiar look. One that normally resulted in an argument. Tonight, however, Susan had a big bag of sweets and wasn’t about to relinquish them. “Sorry, granny Phillis.” She muttered.

Seán cast his eyes over to granny’s face. Although not as indignant as it had been, she still looked annoyed. “Why shouldn’t we say happy Halloween granny?” He asked gently. Phillis glanced at her great-grandson smiling. His resemblance to her husband in both manner and looks had always given her pause.

“Well, young man I’ll tell you why once your father gets me my Halloween treat.” His father Georgie promptly lept up from his seat and went to the kitchen to get her a double whiskey. Seán offered her another sweet and when Georgie returned with her whiskey she took a good swig.

“Now, Seán. Do you know what Halloween is?” Seán tilted his head. This seemed like a trick question. “Oh, I know this!” Susan shrieked. “It’s a festival to celebrate the harvest.” Waiting for her obligatory pat on the back for the correct answer. Her shocked face, when it didn’t come, was glorious to Seán.

“Listen to me. Halloween is a very dangerous night of the year. Why do you think our ancestors had the bonfires? As a way to be grateful for the harvest? Nonsense. They were trying to keep the light going until midnight when it was safe again.” At that Seán’s mother jumped in. “Now Phillis no need to scare the children, come on everyone I think your Granny Tricia has the tea ready, quickly now, into the kitchen.”

The rest of children, grateful to be finally allowed leave their eccentric great granny Phillis alone, milled out of the room. Seán remained, as unlike the rest, had a soft spot in his heart for the elderly. Phillis knew this, and her heart swelled. “Who were they afraid of Granny?”

Phillis shuffled in her chair so she was facing Seán. Her glassy eyes shone in the firelight. “You see Seán, there are many things out there, especially in Ireland. We have the likes of the banshee, the faeries, and the tricksters. Now most of them, are not much trouble. They live alongside us, as hidden as they may. Now you don’t have to worry about them. The banshee weeps at the dead, the faeries love treasures, and the tricksters are feckin’ annoying.”

Seán’s eyes widened. “Faeries are real!?!” Granny held up her hand. “Don’t interrupt me Ghassan. Now those entities have been around longer than us and will be long after we’re gone. They’re in our world but they’re not, and most of them are happy with that. It’s the dark ones that you need to worry about.”

Granny’s eyes deepened, and she sipped at her neat whiskey. Moments went by and Seán had to nudge her. “Sorry pet, I was just thinking back to when I was your age, now that wasn’t yesterday or the day before.” She glanced down at her hands. “85 years or so now.” Seán’s head comically shook in disbelief. Although he knew her age, he never thought about it like that. He had certainly never thought of her as a child before.

“So when I was your age, Halloween was no laughing matter. We didn’t go around begging for sweets from our neighbours. We battened down the hatches as if there was a storm coming…” Sip. “Yes in those days we feared the dark on Samhain, it’s not like it is now. There is always light available when you go outside these days, but when I was a young wan. Well…”

“Must have been Halloween 1932. No no, it was 1933 I think. Whatever year it was, I was a young girleen, about your age Seán. I was sent to me granny’s to check on her, It was early enough in the afternoon around three or so. I was to be back by five. She only lived down the road sure.”

Seán shifted uneasily in his seat, chewing slowing. Granny Phillis loved to tell him tales of her childhood. This time, however, his arms were trembling. “Getting to my granny Síle’s house was one thing. It was another one entirely getting home. You see, the mad McDonagh woman caught me, unawares. She stopped me and started babbling about things I weren’t in the habit of thinking about.”

Phillis shook her head. “In those days regardless of how mad they were, you respected your elders. She was babbling about the demons, and how on Halloween a young girl like myself shouldn’t be out alone. When she was a girl she would be burning a fire with her family, like it was proper, to ward off the bad spirits.”

“Eventually I had to tell her my Mammy was expecting me, and oh God!” Granny Phillis laughed. “She actually gave me a wallop and said, ‘then what are you doing standing around here for, have you no respect for your mother, get home now you brazen brat!’ Well, I hopped off as quick as I could with my arse stinging from the slap.”

She looked up at the door as if to make sure no one was going to correct her swearing in front of the children. “It was already getting dark then, and although normally I felt safe walking the 20 minutes from me granny’s house to me own, I felt frightened that night.” She sipped on her whiskey, and then looked at Seán directly. “I’m not scaring you lad, now am I?”

Seán held his breath for a moment and shook his head. Although this was a lie, he wanted to hear the story. He wanted to hear what happened to granny all those years ago. She nodded and patted his hand. “You’re a good boy Seán, you remind me of my husband Jack God rest his soul.” She tipped her glass to the sky at this declaration and Seán felt the need to tip the bar of chocolate he was holding. Phillis cackled and she took another sip of her whiskey.

“Ah God, back in those days I was so innocent Seán. I thought nothing could hurt me, because they all told me the monsters in the woods weren’t real.” She looked at him directly now, her vitreous eyes filling up. “I’m saying this because you might get a bit scared pet, but you need to know the truth. There are things we know nothing of only legends and hearsay, and most of it is crap. But some of it, well some of it is real, and it came after me that night while I was walking home alone in the dark.”

Seán shuddered, realising he was still wearing his jacket, but the fire gave him no warmth. A charge spiked down his back, and he seen Phillis looking worried too. “Granny are you ok?” She nodded as firmly as her old neck would allow. “Oh don’t worry pet I’m fine, it still just gives me the chills to this day.”

“Well I was walking down the road just before I turn down the lane to my family’s old farmhouse. That house is long gone now. When from the thickets, I heard someone calling my name. Except they weren’t calling me Phillis like most would. They were calling me Philomena.”

Seán’s brow furrowed. “Philomena?” Phillis nodded furiously. “Sure that’s me full name pet. Bet you didn’t know that. The only people who ever called me Philomena was the local priest Father Martin, and me granny Síle. So naturally, I thought she’d walked behind me and got stuck in the hedges or something beside the road.”

“I stopped walking. It was dead quiet at this stage. I heard the voice again. ‘Philomena?’” Granny stopped and finished her whiskey off. She placed the glass on the table beside her. “The voice almost sounded like me granny Síle, except, there was something not right about it.”

Seán couldn’t move. He had lost all interest in his sweets, his eyes transfixed on his great granny Phillis. “I looked around. It was dark now, the moon wasn’t quite out yet. It was that great half dark.”

“My eyes were adjusting to the dark, so I looked into where the voice was coming from.” She paused. “When I tell you I can’t truly describe the horror of what I seen. I’m doing it justice Seán. It was a thin white creature, mostly hidden by the hedges, but what I could see was spindly and sharp.”

“Its eyes were the worst though. They were sunken dark holes. No matter how many times I call up this memory, my brain tells me that the creature, whatever it was, was evil. Evil like the demons of hell that Father Martin used to talk about. And it was calling to me.”

“Well Seán I hightailed it out of there. I was sure it was chasing me the whole way back to the house. Even though I stared out my bedroom window all evening I didn’t catch a glimpse it again. A week or so later I finally plucked up the courage to ask my Granny Síle about it. We were very close. I needed an adult to tell me that it was my imagination, and I was safe.” She glanced at her whiskey glass, willing it to be full again.

“She did to some part. She told me I was safe because it wasn’t Halloween anymore. The things in the dark couldn’t get at me any other night of the year. On Halloween though, the walls are soft…”

“They can creep through, and they want a warm body to possess, and sometimes they succeed. That’s why there’s true evil in the world Seán, because that one night a year, God can’t see what they are doing.”

Silence fell on the room. Seán’s imagination ran wild, scaring himself to almost epic proportions. “How do I protect myself granny I’m scared!?” Granny Phillis turned to him with her shining eyes and grabbed his arm. “My dear boy we are doing it now. The fire, the whiskey, the company of another. They cannot reach where light and love is. I just want you to know that there are risks, but you are more than safe here with me.”

Seán’s fear melted away. He was just about to ask Granny Phillis another question when Susan burst into the room. “We’re leaving now Seán say goodbye to great granny Phillis.” Susan came over and made a show of hugging her great granny, Showering her with kisses. “Love you granny Phillis bye now, you mind yourself.” Her flattery didn’t go unrewarded and she left with a five euro note in her hand. “Thank you so much granny!” She curtseyed and left the room.

Phillis turned to Seán. “My young boy, I love all my grandchildren equally. Do you understand that?!” Seán nodded kindly and hugged his grandmother tight. He was rewarded with a twenty euro note, and a small photograph of his great-grandfather Jack. She put her finger to her lips, and Seán nodded gratefully. As he was walking out the door, Phillis spoke once more. “Remember Ghassan. Let the light burn, even if it is within you.” Seán nodded as if he understood, storing these words in his brain forever. He left his almost blind great-grandmother staring into the fire.

 

Copyright © 2018 Thinkingmoon.com – All rights reserved

Want to stay safe? Read this poem.

https://thinkingmoon.com/2018/10/30/consecrate-fire

Consecrate Fire

Bronze dead chattels,

Fading to grey, in the mist. The veil ascends.

Catch it before it clutches you.

 

They are waiting, patiently eager,

Vibrating into view, atrophied senses, madness-inducing.

Dimensional shrouds have their limits.

 

The whiskey slowly warms,

Burn the fire, oxygen combusts, creating florescent beings.

Gatherings create havens for the living.

 

The dead are beyond.

Do not let the Mephistopheles trick you of your elemental form.

Dybbuk will cede your soul.

 

Let the light burn, even if it is within you.

 

Copyright © 2018 Thinkingmoon.com – All rights reserved

Previous poems and stories!

https://thinkingmoon.com/category/stories/

 

Obsolescence

*warning this contains adult themes*

Her skin was frigidly cold now, the pain in her leg was easing. Endorphins flittered down throughout her blood causing her to shiver. The wound still pulsed but the aching was retreating. Although she would have welcomed this relief not an hour ago, she understood what her body was doing. It was giving up.

She drew a blanket around her and limped to the window, the sun was rising in the desolate, ash-filled sky. It cast flickering rays through the clouds of debris. From the window, in the distance, she could see the Atlantic ocean, bobbing as it always had. It worried not about the dead and poisoned marine life. It cared not regarding the polluted rivers joining it at it the coast. It cared not for Lilith who sat on an uncomfortable chair by the window, gazing at it, taking her final few hundred breaths.

Lilith knew last night that death was upon her as the fever had reached maddening heights. Visions of a world free from nuclear winter had raged, her loved ones living, with plenty to eat and drink. Although now she knew that they had been delirium dreams, the pang that it caused her now tormented more than the wound ever had.

As the last of her water streamed down her face her mind grew bitter in the knowledge that she was dying at the tender age of twenty, not quite twenty-one. Twenty years of suffering, death, and violence, ending now in a flurry of anger. Why had they so royally fucked up the world? What did it accomplish? Where were they now? Dead most likely, nothing gained, and everything lost.

Lilith shifted her leg one last time, and the faint web of pain confirmed her suspicions. The sprinkling sun lit up her pale, undernourished face. Her brown eyes flashing in its splendor. She looked at it directly now, for the first time, and the last. Her tears ceased, and although she had determined to die with dignity, all that remained was fear. Fear that this was all there was and all there ever would be for her. She let out a miserable whimper, and was no more.

The sun continued to rise, the ocean continued to flow, and the Earth continued to turn as the last human being, died in the room she was born in, not twenty-one years ago.

Copyright © 2018 Thinkingmoon.com – All rights reserved

Inspiration:

—T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men” (1925)

Genuinely tell me, how did this make you feel, on your inside space?

Or would you rather listen than read?

Also, check out additional spooky Tuesday blogs:

https://thinkingmoon.com/2018/10/02/wicca/

Wicca

Wicca. Noun. “A religion influenced by pre-Christian beliefs and practices of western Europe that affirms the existence of supernatural power (such as magic) and of both male and female deities who inhere in nature and that emphasizes ritual observance of seasonal and life cycles.”[i]

 

Although I don’t follow an organised religion, I’ve always felt there was a spiritual gap in my life. I envy my friend’s meditative connection to a higher power when they pray. When I’m struggling with my mental illnesses, I know the ability to focus my mind would give me peace. Yet meditation is not an easy skill to learn as I’ve struggled with it for many years. However, those practising Wicca take this training as the due course in their craft.

“Be aware…that disciplines are ineffective unless a routine is established because the unconscious is attuned to patterns and will respond easily once the pattern of a conscious routine is rhythmic.”[ii]

In my local Vincent De Paul, I came across a book on Witchcraft, and absentmindedly bought it as research for one of my projects. In reading it a revelationary paradigm was cracked. Not only due to its descriptive worth, but it’s connections to female power struggles throughout history. While the modern Wicca has both male and female practitioners, it’s roots are in paganism and witchcraft. Both known for their charged feminine figures.

As a feminist I hunger to understand the lore of the feminine, and that which is interwoven into my body. It was comforting to discover that our pagan ancestors used their awareness of the heavens to not only influences the outer world but their inner worlds. To them inner peace begat outer peace.

“Discovering the sublime silence at the center of your being and activating that center.”[iii]

Wicca

Of course, as Halloween approaches, (my favourite time of the year), that which is chilling surfaces. Yet it is my duty to remind you that although dark magic exists and was practised as a religion throughout the ages, those that called themselves witches were persecuted out of fear. Not as a result of any true evil. Women were murdered for their independence, for displaying fortitude, and simply for their feminine energies.

Wicca was born in the 20th century out of the ashes of witchcraft and paganism. It can be practised alone or as the member of a coven. It’s the way of the Goddess, to live beyond the ego, to firmly grasp your senses, so you are their ruler. “Awareness is the ability to literally read the feelings in the air…awareness means control of one’s undertakings.”[iv] Wicca is not about changing the outside world to your every whim. It’s changing how you process your inner world so your journey in life may be more mindful, enjoyable, and rich.

‘Do as ye will, e’re it harm none’

Copyright © 2018 Thinkingmoon.com – All rights reserved

References:

De Angeles, Ly. 2006. “Witchcraft: Theory and Practice.” Llewellyn Publications. Llewellyn Worldwide.

https://books.google.ie/books/about/Witchcraft.html?id=1TFuAm5N7gEC&redir_esc=y

Footnotes:

[i] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Wicca

[ii] De Angeles, Ly. 2006. “Witchcraft: Theory and Practice.” Llewellyn Publications. Llewellyn Worldwide. Page 4.

[iii] De Angeles, Ly. 2006. “Witchcraft: Theory and Practice.” Llewellyn Publications. Llewellyn Worldwide. Page 9.

[iv] De Angeles, Ly. 2006. “Witchcraft: Theory and Practice.” Llewellyn Publications. Llewellyn Worldwide. Page 37.

 

Do you like my Spooky Tuesday blogs? Well, there are more coming soon this October. Until then why not satiate your hunger with my stories section:

https://thinkingmoon.com/category/stories/

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