The 31st October is an exciting time for my grandkids who love to dress up and pop over to my house where we 'dook fir aipples'. I'm not sure if that's happening this year, since their time for visiting me now competes with visiting friends' houses. Whatever happens, there are enough left of the apples from my garden to indulge them in the traditional ‘dook’, or to just eat them instead along with the nuts and special shortbread shapes that I usually make for Halloween. This year the shortbread will be pumpkin shaped, so long as I stop my formatting for Ingram Spark publishing for a while and get around to baking the shortbread!
But what would my characters in the Celtic Fervour Saga Series be doing on Samhain? Samhain is the Celtic word for the quarter year beginning of winter festival. Samhain is traditionally a different festival from the other three and has more spooky associations. At Samhain, when the land is asleep and unproductive and the weather has turned cold and often frosty, the veil between the living and the dead is thinner. At Samhain, during the long hours of darkness till the first rays of the new dawn of the 1st November the dead can mingle with the living…
Hence the modern commercial concept of Halloween with its ghouls and ghosts and witches and warlocks.
In After Whorl: Bran Reborn, Book 2 of the Celtic Fervour Series, At Samhain in A.D 73, Ineda is not experiencing anything like the commercial Halloween that pervades western society just now, and neither is she able to observe her tribal traditional Celtic Samhain. Why is this? Ineda has been captured by an Ancient Roman Tribune and kept as his personal slave, a bed slave and more.
In the following extract Ineda has already found that not everything is the same between her Celtic worship of multiple deities and those of the Romans. If Ineda wants to pray to her goddess Rhianna, or Brigantia, she needs no trappings around her. Tribune Gaius Livanus Valerius is different…
After Whorl: Bran Reborn is currently on a fantastic blog Tour organised by Rachel Gilbey of Rachel's Random Resources and will be visiting around 21 Blog during the coming week! Look out for the special competition if you've not yet read the Celtic Fervour Saga Series!
Inside the wooden temple building were many cubicles separated by simple wooden walls to a little above head-height. Ineda had not seen what lay in each niche as Tribune Valerius used only one when he dragged her along. Whether, or not, he prayed to other gods or goddesses when he was alone, she could not say. At present she could detect only the murmurs of a few other worshippers.
That seemed to be how he preferred it. For reasons unknown, he always waited if the building was full of worshippers. She guessed he wanted his deity to have no confusion over who might make a plea.
She knew the drill, could have slipped to the floor, but preferred to make him do the ordering – that way she accommodated her forced capture better.
The niche he had towed her to, dedicated to the goddess Etain, had a small altar just of sufficient height for the average soldier to top when kneeling with bent head. As Tribune Valerius knelt down beside her she could not fail to notice that the bowl set in the stone showed traces of dark brownish-red, indicating a sacrifice had not long since been offered. Attempts had been made to wipe it clear, but the smears across the rim, and the drips to the side, coupled with the acrid blood tang that lingered in the air, told it was a recent event.
It mattered little to her, and did not surprise her; she was now well used to the frequency of the rituals. The aedes was a temple used by the whole garrison, and the altar she faced was only one of many.
“Etain hear my plea…” Tribune Valerius’ words were low, suffused with zeal.
He had never had a sacrifice conducted in her presence, though to her knowledge, his secutore organised it often enough for him. His main scribe, Pomponius, was a bustling little man full of his own importance, yet she knew Gaius Livanus Valerius relied heavily on the man to carry out his duties faithfully and competently.
She understood Tribune Valerius’ need for privacy at such times, but wondered why. Bloody sacrifice was a ritual she had witnessed often enough to her own goddess Rhianna and to Taranis before battle, the Celts being no stranger to the proceedings. He understood that about her.
Sacrifice was denied her, but in this frequent ritual he now conducted she was included. Roman ways were definitely strange, and the tribune was a very perplexing man.
Fierce. He sounded fiercer than she had ever heard before.
She joined his low mutterings, praying to Etain, the goddess not unfamiliar to her. He murmured feverishly alongside, his pleas louder than hers, never appearing aware of what she always asked for. Her request never varied, but if he ever heard her murmurs he never acknowledged it.
“Freedom, my lady, Etain,” she whispered a repeated refrain. “I beg my freedom. I hate him, hate him…” She made her usual pleas though added a new one, whispering it so that it was not overheard. “Give my King Venutius the means and the opportunity to overcome this Roman dung horde, and make Agricola and Cerialis capitulate like they make the Celts do…and…expel the Roman oppressors from our land!”
She never had anything personal to offer the goddess in turn for the favour, but she prayed, nonetheless.
Directly behind the stone focus of the altar was a representation of the horse goddess in carved wood. It was a crudely-made image depicting Etain riding a horse, the beast’s forelegs high in the air. Etain was partially naked, breasts proud and bountiful, her open bratt flying wide to her sides. Contemplating the goddess Etain drew her attention for a while.
Tribune Valerius’ mutterings grew louder, more harried, too fast for any comprehension.
She allowed her head to dip further, surreptitiously checking to see if the fool tironis remained in place at the door. Too bad that he was; he had no wit to disobey and wander off.
“Etain, lady, hear my pleas…” Tribune Valerius was so intent.
Ineda scoffed silently. Etain was not heeding any of her pleas for freedom.
His murmurs continued. She knew this bit, since he always chanted it very slowly, nearing the end of his ritual. Why he towed her along every now and then to the aedes she had not yet worked out. Perhaps the frenzied part of the prayers concerned her? If so, she never ever detected her name as part of it. To discover all of his ritual she knew she would need to learn a lot more of the Latin tongue, though learning more of the Latin tongue was something she wanted to do anyway – regardless of the tribune’s instructions.
As his intonation tapered off, she tried to read the letters that decorated the pedestal, but knew only the part which stood for Legio XX.
He held on to her shoulder as he rose to his feet. Not because he was in poor health or incapable: it was more that he was somehow claiming her in the sight of his deity. Turning back to his assistant his voice seemed much calmer now, though she felt a great tension in his fingers as his full power seemed to fall on her through his heavy squeeze.
Tribune Valerius gathered the bunch proffered by his secutore. Splitting the greenery to each side of the focus, he went on to the next part of his ritual, the conclusion.
The mumbling coming from behind her was usual as his scribe made his own prayers.
Monosyllabic orders from Tribune Valerius were the norm in the aedes.
Towing after him, she side-stepped the scribe who went to lay down an apple to each side of the stone basin before kneeling at the altar. The underling always produced something of his own for the focus, but only after his superior officer was completely finished.
“Take her back to my quarters!”
The tironis outside the door acknowledged the order accordingly before Tribune Valerius turned away from her without any further speech.
Deep, deep anger simmered. Ignoring her as though her value was again redundant was a habit she could well do without, his treatment constantly exasperating her. Desperation to escape surfaced to swamping level at such times as these.
She sensed Tribune Valerius was desperate to get along to Antonius Pulis Praefectus Castrorum – the camp commandant – who was the third most senior soldier at the garrison fortress and a man who did not ever like to be held up. She had seen him before, and he was a formidable veteran soldier. Pulis was not one she would want to cross – except if it gained her the freedom she sought every single day.
(Chapter Nineteen – After Whorl: Bran Reborn)
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Happy Samhain / Halloween!