I always like to come up with a just for fun spooky gothic horror offering for Halloween. Here is one of my favourites, written a few years ago, with a few notes on the folklore references down at the end.
Bargest (Halloween Horror)
Who would climb the windy height
and walk the lonely moor at night
when Hunter’s Moon is high and bright
above old Demdike’s Tower,
and in the shadow of the hill
when all is silent, cold and still
wait for the darkest hour?
The weak will creep, the brave will run
but none will stay to see the sun
rise and dispel the things that shun
its warmth and light and power;
the forces that thrive in the dark
and stalk and strike but leave no mark
as they destroy and devour.
High on the moor a traveller rests,
a soldier, veteran of many tests,
whose scars and trophies all attest
such a man would never cower
from bogle and sceadugengan
nor anything neither beast nor man.
Superstition holds no power.
But in the lee of Pendle Hill
the night is heavy, deep and still
and loneliness gnaws at his will…
Below lies Demdike Tower.
And as the soldier takes a sup
of rum to shore his spirit up
doubt begins to overpower.
Helpless in his solitude
as fearful fantasies intrude
of Demdike and her demon brood
whose legend still was sour
bane upon the blighted land
so real that few would stop and stand
to look at Demdike’s Tower.
Then fear and panic paralysed
the soldier and he could not rise
and flee the Bargest’s eldritch cries
that made the hillside lour.
The demon dog red eyed, red eared
and poison-fanged; most greatly feared
hunter of the midnight hour
begins its hunt for feeble minds
as through the bush and scrub it winds
until, seeking, at last it finds
the pungent scent of fear.
The soldier feels its panting breath.
The ruthless harbinger of death
senses the kill is near.
By quarry’s edge the corpse is found:
another legend grows around
the mystery of the demon hound
that stalks the darkest hour
on nights when spirits pass between
human realm and worlds unseen
through the Demdike Tower.
Notes on folklore:
Hunter’s Moon: The full moon that falls in October is hunter’s Moon as it was a time when all the harvests were in and the hunters were busy laying in stocks of food for January’s Hunger Moon.
Demdike Tower Old Mother Demdike, leader of the witches executed following the notorious Pendle Witch trials ,actually lived at Malkin Tower on Pendle Hill, a very spooky place on dark nights.
Bogle and Sceadugengan: A bogle is a very ordinary, run of the mill creature from the dark side, sceadugengan or shadow walkers are much more interesting. Who has not felt at some time, a threatening presence close to us when we are alone in the dark. Most of us grew out of it as we leave childhood but even so the sensory deprivation of being in a dark, still, silent place can produce feelings of unease.
Bargest or Bargeist, the demon dog that represents fear. It is a creature of the moorland heights of northern England and Scotland and is also found in Germany and Scandinavia. There are many local Bargest legends, most involve lone travellers being stalked by a Bargest and either falling over a cliff, scree or into a quarry. The red eyes and ears of the one in the poem are a bit of poetic theft. They rightfully belong to The Hounds Of The Morrigan, a different breed of legendary dog owned by the Celtic Goddess of Retribution, The Morrigan.
I think that covers everything.