Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees – Birch

Birch

The graceful Birch is the White lady of the Woods. It is fitting that these trees,
ghostly in twilight, should stand at either side of the gate of the Celtic New
Year of October 31st, for it has come down to us that passing among the
birches can take you into the Otherworld.

_2F_images_2F_origs_2F_909_2F_new_beginning_autumn_aspen_paintings_birch_tree_art_by_jennifer_vranesNew Beginnings by Jennifer Vranes

Witches Wheel

Birch, white stemmed birch
Stands pale in the dark forest.
A rod of Birch will cleanse us of evil
And usher us through November’s long doorway…

Beth (Beh)

There was an old Samhain tradition of running down an avenue of birch trees
while being flogged with the twigs as a means of purification for the New Year.
This birch portal at the gate of the New Year mirrors its position as first of the
letters, for it is the opener of the gate to the Ogham, the creation of Ogma
Sun-Face, God of Eloquence.

Birch was traditionally used to make cradles for babies to protect them from
being stolen by the Siddhe. It seems typically paradoxical that the tree that
opens the doors to the Otherworld would be used to protect a child from
possession by it, but perhaps the birch bark cradle served to fool the Gentry
into thinking the child was already theirs…

In Britain, the maypole is made of birch while the wonderful scraggly birch twigs
are used to kindle the Beltane fires. The best witches brooms are made of birch with those wonderful black twigs as sweepers.

There is an old tradition of burying the dead with conical birch bark hats on their heads to insure the purification of their souls.

The lines are from the English ballad: The Wife of Usher’s Well. The lady’s sons appear wearing their birch bark hats — proof that they are dead.

It fell about the Martinmass,
When nights are lang and mirk,
The carlin wife’s three sons came hame,
And their hats were o the birk.

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Birch Working

Imagine the birch trees standing across from each other, their topmost branches in the shape of a Gothic arch. On the other side, calling you with its mysterious, mist filled grandeur is Faery. If you walk through, you will enter the trance that allows divination by the Ogham.

Divination by Birch: Protection from harm both physical and magical. Cleansing, leaving the negative, life draining energies behind to start over refreshed. A time of going inward to store power in purity. Clear the ground of
obstructions so that new things may grow. Change comes gradually with the turning of the Wheel.

Magic can be done for fertility and creativity, healing and protection.
Tie a red ribbon around a birch tree to ward off negative energies. Hang birch twigs over a new baby’s cradle. Use birch bark as magical parchment to keep your writings safe.

Magical Correspondences:

Ogham Letter: Beth
Letter: B
Deities: The White Goddess, Belin, White Ladies of the Forest
Bird: Pheasant
Animal: White Cow
Herb: Fly Agaric Mushrooms — The Flowers of Annwn
Color: White

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Witches Familiars: Witchery of the White Sow

Witchery of the White Sow

The pig shares its symbolic value with the boar. In Mesopotamia, at Catal Huyuk, in shrine EVI8, rows of breasts molded over jaws and tusks of boars express the idea that life comes from death.- Buffie Johnson

But, I hear you say, “Isn’t the White Sow the beast of Cerridwen, and is she not a Lammas Goddess, a Goddess of sacrifice? Why bring her to darken the door of Springtime? What has she got to do with flowering  Beltane?”

Let me tell you a little story.

As the trees are reflected in a mirror lake, their branches reaching across the water from their roots into the underwater sky, so do I climb the branches of the Underworld Tree from roots to branches that plunge deep into the earth. Before me is light for which I aim — a green sky shining between the leaves. Out in the light, I reach the topmost twigs, and drop down to the green grass below. Lifted by a wind, I float to the low hills glimmering on the horizon. Inside the door of the hill the Watcher,cloaked in scarlet and black, waits. A penny for your thoughts? I drop a coin into box and find the opening that leads into the Palace of the Faery Queen.


The Faery Hall at Beltane

The dome of the Faery Hall is supported by pillars of trees. Its floor is composed of black and white stones filed flat as tiles set out in squares like a chess board. On a green terrace are two carved and ancient thrones where sit the Horned God, and the Lady with Antlers, the Faery Queen. When they see me enter, their gray eyes glitter, they stir. The low bells toll, and the drums roll under the earth.

The Faery Court surrounds me, full of focused intent. They wear the clothes of Medieval France. Their movements are graceful, coy, unpredictable. Do not be fooled. The Faery, though beautiful, are one with nature and, like nature, they are wild.

A horn sounds  near and far away. A huge white sow enters the Hall. Waving black steamers float around her head. She sniffs the air when she sees me and next thing I know, I am under her feet. As she tramples me with her cloven hoofs, I hear a great drum beating, but it is not a drum. It is the unified breathing of the Faery Court, keeping time to her stomping and grinding me into the black and white stones of the floor. Soon, I am nothing but a smudge of darkness on the white square, and a spray of gray dust on the black ones.

There is silence, and then a blare of trumpets coming from somewhere between the pillar-trees.  Suddenly I see myself, the way all dreamers do, sitting sideways, and unladylike, on the back of the great white sow. I am dressed in a green gown, my waving golden hair is encircled with flowers. Hawthorn flowers entwine the Sow, who is also crowned May Queen, She Who is Reborn in Spring. Smiling, the Sow Goddess dances on the black and white floor, taking me with her. I raise my hands, palm up, as if to catch the rays of the sun. The Faery Court claps and laughs. Soon we are dancing in the bright green light as the Sow carries me around the Faery Hall.

This vision was prophetic. Literally. For when the long seven years in the dark forest of the Horned God’s initiation was over, I went out to a May Day celebration at the Deveraux Pub in London, and was made May Queen by a drawing of lots.

Here is what remains of my hawthorn crown. It has traveled many miles with me. They were elder witches that gave it to me.

Beltane and the Underworld Goddess

Beltane comes to pass in the sun sign of Taurus. At mid tide, the Sacred Cow sees her self in the mirror of a Full Scorpio Moon. As Taurus is birth and the nurturing of life, Scorpio is the sting of death whose weapon is the blade of sacrifice.

Because they were less expensive to feed and care for than bulls, sows appear as lesser sacrificial animals in vegitative festivities. Afterward they were eaten by worshippers who thus partook of the essence of the divinity. In Crete the pig was a favorite sacrificial animal at the Peak Sanctuary on Mount Juktas and other mountaintop shrines consecrated to the Lady of the Beasts. In Crete the Crone, as Goddess of Wisdom, takes the form of a Sow... Buffie Johnson, Lady of the Beasts

Triplicity

Fertility, death, resurrection are the threefold cycle of Earth. The pig with her litter of piglets, sucking her to the bones. The Sow that eats her young. The sacrificed pig who fertilizes the grain, whose death is the promise of life to come.

The Sow is the creature of the Underworld — she lies under the Earth, one with the soil seeded with grain. Divinized, the pig’s blood is given to the soil from which the Goddess springs up in the long days of May. All  spiral into, and out of each other, feeding on each other as life feeds on itself. Close to the forces of nature, the ancients lived these cycles day after day, night after night, season after season. The Full Moon in Scorpio reminded them, that in the fullness of Spring, the darkness of Death was waiting.

Sow and Reap

As early as the seventh millenium B.C.E., the sow was involved in vegetation rituals. The pig’s habit of rooting in the soil with its tusks is a primal image of the plowing of the soil. the sow’s fast growth, and wealth of piglets, made her a creature of plenty. The existence of an ancient Sow Oracle attests to her transformative nature, and intimacy with the powers of fertility — the main concern of agrarian cultures worldwide. Ancient votive figures of pigs have grains pressed into their bodies, making them one with the crops. Neolithic Priestesses wore sow masks to represent the Goddess as they copulated in the fields during Beltane.

The association of sowing and reaping with iconography of Old Man, Death, are well known.

The Sow Goddess acts as an epiphany of the Lady of the Plants. The Greek Goddess, Demeter carries a pig and a torch into Hades when she searches for Persephone. It is no accident that the only witness to Hades’ abduction of Persephone is a swine herd, and that the swineherd reports the rape to Hecate, Goddess of the dark side of the Moon.

As the pig is sacrificed to the Goddess to make the crops grow, the boar is often the agency of death. Set takes the form of a boar to kill Osiris. The Irish God Diarmid is killed by a boar — in fact many Grail Knights are wounded in the thigh by boars to be rescued by Faery Queens. The rites of Tammuz follow the same boar slain pattern as all the dying and resurrecting Gods of the Grain.

Cerridwen

The Welsh Goddess, Cerridwen, has long associations with the White Sow, magic, and poetry. She is a Goddess of doorways between death and rebirth. A shape shifter, Inspiratrice, and witch, it was she that trampled me in the Faery Hall to initiate me into her Mysteries. It was she who dogged my steps for nine years.

Nine: Number of the months of human gestation. Sacred number of the Moon.

The  Black Book of Carmarthen  contains two poems by the bard Cuhelyn that associate Cerridwen with seeds, and therefore fertility and growth in the darkness of the Underworld. As she seeds the Earth, she seeds the imagination of poet, becoming his dark Muse:

A successful song of fruitful praise, relating to the bustling course of the host,

According to the sacred ode of Cyridwen, the goddess of various seeds,

The various seeds of poetic harmony, the exalted speech of the graduated minstrel–BBC III

Her Name

Scottish, Welsh) [KARE-id-ooín or KARE-id-win] Moon Goddess; Great Mother; Grain Goddess; Goddess of Nature. The white-corpse eating sow representing the Moon. Her symbol was a white sow. Death, fertility, regeneration, inspiration, magic, astrology, herbs, science, poetry, spells, knowledge.

Cerridwen is the goddess of dark prophetic powers. She is the keeper of the cauldron of the underworld, in which inspiration and divine knowledge are brewed. She is often equated with the famous Greek crone, Hecate, and to the Irish Badb. She is also sometimes related to the Greek Muses, only in a more violent and dark form.

Cerridwen’s name has many meanings that signify Moon, Sickle, Sow.

Cerid-wen: fair, beloved

Cerit: hooked, crooked Hook, sickle, ben: woman Crooked Backed Woman ( Sounds like the moon to me.)

Ceritwen: crooked white one

One can see that the round shape of the pig suggests pregnancy, the Moon. The cyclical swelling of her belly with unborn piglets decreasing to bone thinness after birth, mimics the phases of the Moon. While in Mexico, I saw a mother pig almost devoured by her suckling piglets who were almost the same size as she. The connotations of the life feeding on darkness as the sow almost dies to feed her young, are resonant. The crooked back of the Sow mirrors the crooked sickle moon, whose belly is in darkness.

The Moon, as has been discussed before, is the vessel of fertility, the place from whence the souls of the unborn descend to earthly incarnation.

Full Moon in Scorpio

Give me more death. — Pablo Neruda

The Poet and his Muse.

The artist must be taken sometimes against his or her will. The Muse possesses the artist, for the artist is the instrument through which the Goddess speaks. The creative process is a fire. It brings illumination, radiation, and sometimes pain, when one comes to close to the flames. The Goddess, Cerridwen, kept the Cauldron of Poetry and Rebirth. As Gwion’s fingers are spattered by the Witch’s brew, he gains the gift of prophetic speech. If he enters the cauldron he will be twice born, divinized, springing up like the grain from the soil of death. He becomes Taliesin, poet, prophet, divine son of the Goddess.

Beltane, your flowers spring from the death of winter. When the sun and moon are joined in the sign of the solar Bull and the lunar Cow, they procreate in the dark. The grass grows, the flowers bloom, the birds feast on buds, and worms that make the gardens fertile.

Merciless, the moon soon rises, and like a mirror, shines back to the joyous Great Mother Goddess her other face: Scorpion Queen of Samhain.

The cycles moves around and around, eternally, or as long as there is life on Earth. Sacrifice, Purification, Divination, and Rebirth. The transfigured Sow Goddess rules Beltane.

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Beware Walpurgis Night

Walpurgis NIght and the Vampire: The Influence of Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Countess Bathory, La Noche de Walpurgis
Countess Bathory, La Noche de Walpurgis

Perhaps it has to do with the phases of the Moon.

It is under the rays of the moon that all life on earth is fecundated. When she shows her bright face to us, the spirits of fertility come out of the trees and hills to dance Nature into abundance. But when she shows us her dark side, spirits of the dead, and the undead, forces of blight and miscarriage come to earth.  Perhaps when Bram Stoker wrote the chapters called Walpurgis Night, deleted from the published version of Dracula, the Moon was  hiding behind her dark veil of stars, and ever afterwards, Walpurgis Night would belong to the Vampire.

Why else should a a Celebration of the arrival of Summer, a time for the Gods and Goddesses to marry, joy in  the  visible resurrection of the Green Earth, be associated with Vampires and Witches? Why should we fear, in this night of growing light, those who come through the veil from the Land of the Dead to haunt the living?

Maybe the smaller span of darkness makes the Vampires more intense. They become vicious in their need to slake their thirst quickly, before the dawn brightens the sky all too soon.

Watch this little film clip, based on the deleted chapters of Dracula, titled Dracula’s Guest, and see what can happen when the unwary traveler ventures into the forest on Walpurgis Night:

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davidkruschke
Clip from the 2004 short film by Director David Kruschke. Part of the ScreamFest LA Horror Film Festival at Universal Studios.
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Dracula’s Guest by Bram Stoker

In case you have decided to stay in on this Night, for there is but a silver sickle of moon in the sky, I have included the text of Dracula’s Guest for your frightful enjoyment….

DRACULA’S GUEST

1914

by

Bram Stoker

NOTE: DRACULA’S GUEST was excised from the original DRACULA MSS by his publisher because of the length of the original book MSS. It was published as a short story in 1914, two years after Stoker’s death. Enjoy!
NEW WAVE PUBLISHERS 2103 N. LIBERTY STREET PORTLAND OR 97217-4971 (503) 286-5577

When we started for our drive the sun was shining brightly on Munich, and the air was full of the joyousness of early summer. Just as we were about to depart, Herr Delbruck (the maitre d’hotel of the Quatre Saisons, where I was staying) came down bareheaded to the carriage and, after wishing me a pleasant drive, said to the coachman, still holding his hand on the handle of the carriage door, “Remember you are back by nightfall. The sky looks bright but there is a shiver in the north wind that says there may be a sudden storm. But I am sure you will not be late.” Here he smiled and added,”for you know what night it is.”

Johann answered with an emphatic, “Ja, mein Herr,” and, touching his hat, drove off quickly. When we had cleared the town, I said, after signalling to him to stop:

“Tell me, Johann, what is tonight?”

He crossed himself, as he answered laconically: “Walpurgis nacht.” Then he took out his watch, a great, old-fashioned German silver thing as big as a turnip and looked at it, with his eyebrows gathered together and a little impatient shrug of his shoulders. I realized that this was his way of respectfully protesting against the unnecessary delay and sank back in the carriage, merely motioning him to proceed. He started off rapidly, as if to make up for lost time. Every now and then the horses seemed to throw up their heads and sniff the air suspiciously. On such occasions I often looked round in alarm. The road was pretty bleak, for we were traversing a sort of high windswept plateau. As we drove,I saw a road that looked but little used and which seemed to dip through a little winding valley. It looked so inviting that, even at the risk of offending him, I called Johann to stop–and when he had pulled up, I told him I would like to drive down that road. He made all sorts of excuses and frequently crossed himself as he spoke. This somewhat piqued my curiosity, so I asked him various questions. He answered fencingly and repeatedly looked at his watch in protest.

Finally I said, “Well, Johann, I want to go down this road. I shall not ask you to come unless you like; but tell me why you do not like to go, that is all I ask.” For answer he seemed to throw himself off the box, so quickly did he reach the ground. Then he stretched out his hands appealingly to me and implored me not to go. There was just enough of English mixed with the German for me to understand the drift of his talk. He seemed always just about to tell me something–the very idea of which evidently frightened him; but each time he pulled himself up saying, “Walpurgis nacht!”

I tried to argue with him, but it was difficult to argue with a man when I did not know his language. The advantage certainly rested with him, for although he began to speak in English, of a very crude and broken kind, he always got excited and broke into his native tongue–and every time he did so, he looked at his watch. Then the horses became restless and sniffed the air. At this he grew very pale, and, looking around in a frightened way, he suddenly jumped forward, took them by the bridles,and led them on some twenty feet. I followed and asked why he had done this. For an answer he crossed himself, pointed to the spot we had left, and drew his carriage in the direction of the other road, indicating a cross, and said, first in German, then in English, “Buried him–him what killed themselves.”

I remembered the old custom of burying suicides at cross roads: “Ah! I see, a suicide. How interesting!” But for the life of me I could not make out why the horses were frightened.

Whilst we were talking, we heard a sort of sound between a yelp and a bark.It was far away; but the horses got very restless, and it took Johann all his time to quiet them. He was pale and said, “It sounds like a wolf–but yet there are no wolves here now.”

“No?” I said, questioning him. “Isn’t it long since the wolves were so near the city?”

“Long, long,” he answered, “in the spring and summer; but with the snow the wolves have been here not so long.”

Whilst he was petting the horses and trying to quiet them, dark clouds drifted rapidly across the sky. The sunshine passed away, and a breath of cold wind seemed to drift over us.It was only a breath, however, and more of a warning than a fact, for the sun came out brightly again.

Johann looked under his lifted hand at the horizon and said, “The storm of snow, he comes before long time.” Then he looked at his watch again, and, straightway holding his reins firmly–for the horses were still pawing the ground restlessly and shaking their heads–he climbed to his box as though the time had come for proceeding on our journey.

I felt a little obstinate and did not at once get into the carriage.

“Tell me,” I said, “about this place where the road leads,” and I pointed down.

Again he crossed himself and mumbled a prayer before he answered, “It is unholy.”

“What is unholy?” I enquired.

“The village.”

“Then there is a village?”

“No, no. No one lives there hundreds of years.”

My curiosity was piqued, “But you said there was a village.”

“There was.”

“Where is it now?”

Whereupon he burst out into a long story in German and English, so mixed up that I could not quite understand exactly what he said. Roughly I gathered that long ago, hundreds of years, men had died there and been buried in their graves; but sounds were heard under the clay, and when the graves were opened,men and women were found rosy with life and their mouths red with blood. And so, in haste to save their lives (aye, and their souls!–and here he crossed himself)those who were left fled away to other places, where the living lived and the dead were dead and not–not something. He was evidently afraid to speak the last words. As he proceeded with his narration, he grew more and more excited. It seemed as if his imagination had got hold of him, and he ended in a perfect paroxysm of fear–white-faced, perspiring, trembling, and looking round him as if expecting that some dreadful presence would manifest itself there in the bright sunshine on the open plain.

Finally, in an agony of desperation, he cried, “Walpurgis nacht!” and pointed to the carriage for me to get in.

All my English blood rose at this,and standing back I said, “You are afraid, Johann–you are afraid. Go home, I shall return alone, the walk will do me good.” The carriage door was open. I took from the seat my oak walking stick–which I always carry on my holiday excursions–and closed the door, pointing back to Munich, and said, “Go home,Johann–Walpurgis nacht doesn’t concern Englishmen.”

The horses were now more restive than ever, and Johann was trying to hold them in, while excitedly imploring me not to do anything so foolish. I pitied the poor fellow, he was so deeply in earnest; but all the same I could not help laughing. His English was quite gone now. In his anxiety he had forgotten that his only means of making me understand was to talk my language, so he jabbered away in his native German. It began to be a little tedious. After giving the direction, “Home!” I turned to go down the cross road into the valley.

With a despairing gesture,Johann turned his horses towards Munich. I leaned on my stick and looked after him. He went slowly along the road for a while, then there came over the crest of the hill a man tall and thin. I could see so much in the distance. When he drew near the horses,they began to jump and kick about, then to scream with terror. Johann could not hold them in; they bolted down the road, running away madly. I watched them out of sight, then looked for the stranger; but I found that he, too, was gone.

With a light heart I turned down the side road through the deepening valley to which Johann had objected. There was not the slightest reason,that I could see, for his objection; and I daresay I tramped for a couple of hours without thinking of time or distance and certainly without seeing a person or a house. So far as the place was concerned, it was desolation itself. But I did not notice this particularly till, on turning a bend in the road,I came upon a scattered fringe of wood; then I recognized that I had been impressed unconsciously by the desolation of the region through which I had passed.

I sat down to rest myself and began to look around. It struck me that it was considerably colder than it had been at the commencement of my walk–a sort of sighing sound seemed to be around me with, now and then, high overhead, a sort of muffled roar. Looking upwards I noticed that great thick clouds were drafting rapidly across the sky from north to south at a great height.There were signs of a coming storm in some lofty stratum of the air. I was a little chilly, and, thinking that it was the sitting still after the exercise of walking, I resumed my journey.

The ground I passed over was now much more picturesque. There were no striking objects that the eye might single out, but in all there was a charm of beauty.I took little heed of time, and it was only when the deepening twilight forced itself upon me that I began to think of how I should find my way home. The air was cold, and the drifting of clouds high overhead was more marked. They were accompanied by a sort of far away rushing sound, through which seemed to come at intervals that mysterious cry which the driver had said came from a wolf. For a while I hesitated. I had said I would see the deserted village, so on I went and presently came on a wide stretch of open country, shut in by hills all around. Their sides were covered with trees which spread down to the plain, dotting in clumps the gentler slopes and hollows which showed here and there.I followed with my eye the winding of the road and saw that it curved close to one of the densest of these clumps and was lost behind it.

As I looked there came a cold shiver in the air, and the snow began to fall. I thought of the miles and miles of bleak country I had passed, and then hurried on to seek shelter of the wood in front. Darker and darker grew the sky, and faster and heavier fell the snow, till the earth before and around me was a glistening white carpet the further edge of which was lost in misty vagueness. The road was here but crude, and when on the level its boundaries were not so marked as when it passed through the cuttings; and in a little while I found that I must have strayed from it, for I missed underfoot the hard surface, and my feet sank deeper in the grass and moss. Then the wind grew stronger and blew with ever increasing force, till I was fain to run before it. The air became icy-cold, and in spite of my exercise I began to suffer. The snow was now falling so thickly and whirling around me in such rapid eddies that I could hardly keep my eyes open. Every now and then the heavens were torn asunder by vivid lightning, and in the flashes I could see ahead of me a great mass of trees, chiefly yew and cypress all heavily coated with snow.

I was soon amongst the shelter of the trees, and there in comparative silence I could hear the rush of the wind high overhead. Presently the blackness of the storm had become merged in the darkness of the night. By-and-by the storm seemed to be passing away,it now only came in fierce puffs or blasts. At such moments the weird sound of the wolf appeared to be echoed by many similar sounds around me.

Now and again, through the black mass of drifting cloud, came a straggling ray of moonlight which lit up the expanse and showed me that I was at the edge of a dense mass of cypress and yew trees. As the snow had ceased to fall, I walked out from the shelter and began to investigate more closely. It appeared to me that, amongst so many old foundations as I had passed, there might be still standing a house in which, though in ruins,I could find some sort of shelter for a while. As I skirted the edge of the copse, I found that a low wall encircled it, and following this I presently found an opening. Here the cypresses formed an alley leading up to a square mass of some kind of building. Just as I caught sight of this, however, the drifting clouds obscured the moon, and I passed up the path in darkness. The wind must have grown colder, for I felt myself shiver as I walked; but there was hope of shelter, and I groped my way blindly on.

I stopped, for there was a sudden stillness. The storm had passed; and, perhaps in sympathy with nature’s silence, my heart seemed to cease to beat. But this was only momentarily; for suddenly the moonlight broke through the clouds showing me that I was in a graveyard and that the square object before me was a great massive tomb of marble, as white as the snow that lay on and all around it. With the moonlight there came a fierce sigh of the storm which appeared to resume its course with a long, low howl, as of many dogs or wolves.I was awed and shocked, and I felt the cold perceptibly grow upon me till it seemed to grip me by the heart. Then while the flood of moonlight still fell on the marble tomb, the storm gave further evidence of renewing, as though it were returning on its track. Impelled by some sort of fascination, I approached the sepulchre to see what it was and why such a thing stood alone in such a place.I walked around it and read, over the Doric door, in German–

COUNTESS DOLINGEN OF GRATZ

IN STYRIA

SOUGHT AND FOUND DEATH

1801

On the top of the tomb, seemingly driven through the solid marble–for the structure was composed of a few vast blocks of stone–was a great iron spike or stake. On going to the back I saw, graven in great Russian letters: “The dead travel fast.”

There was something so weird and uncanny about the whole thing that it gave me a turn and made me feel quite faint. I began to wish, for the first time, that I had taken Johann’s advice. Here a thought struck me, which came under almost myssterious circumstances and with a terrible shock. This was Walpurgis Night!

Walpurgis Night was when, according to the belief of millions of people, the devil was abroad–when the graves were opened and the dead came forth and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water held revel. This very place the driver had specially shunned. This was the depopulated village of centuries ago.This was where the suicide lay; and this was the place where I was alone–unmanned, shivering with cold in a shroud of snow with a wild storm gathering again upon me! It took all my philosophy, all the religion I had been taught,all my courage,not to collapse in a paroxysm of fright.

And now a perfect tornado burst upon me. The ground shook as though thousands of horses thundered across it; and this time the storm bore on its icy wings, not snow, but great hailstones which drove with such violence that they might have come from the thongs of Balearic slingers–hailstones that beat down leaf and branch and made the shelter of the cypresses of no more avail than though their stems were standing corn. At the first I had rushed to the nearest tree;but I was soon fain to leave it and seek the only spot that seemed to afford refuge, the deep Doric doorway of the marble tomb. There, crouching against the massive bronze door, I gained a certain amount of protection from the beating of the hailstones, for now they only drove against me as they ricochetted from the ground and the side of the marble.

As I leaned against the door, it moved slightly and opened inwards. The shelter of even a tomb was welcome in that pitiless tempest and I was about to enter it when there came a flash of forked lightning that lit up the whole expanse of the heavens. In the instant, as I am a living man, I saw, as my my eyes turned into the darkness of the tomb, a beautiful woman with rounded cheeks and red lips, seemingly sleeping on a bier. As the thunder broke overhead, I was grasped as by the hand of a giant and hurled out into the storm. The whole thing was so sudden that, before I could realize the shock, moral as well as physical, I found the hailstones beating me down. At the same time I had a strange, dominating feeling that I was not alone. I looked towards the tomb. Just then there came another blinding flash which seemed to strike the iron stake that surmounted the tomb and to pour through to the earth, blasting and crumbling the marble, as in a burst of flame. The dead woman rose for a moment of agony while she was lapped in the flame, and her bitter scream of pain was drowned in the thundercrash. The last thing I heard was this mingling of dreadful sound,as again I was seized in the giant grasp and dragged away, while the hailstones beat on me and the air around seemed reverberant with the howling of wolves. The last sight that I remembered was a vague, white, moving mass,as if all the graves around me had sent out the phantoms of their sheeted dead, and that they were closing in on me through the white cloudiness of the driving hail.

Gradually there came a sort of vague beginning of consciousness, then a sense of weariness that was dreadful. For a time I remembered nothing, but slowly my senses returned. My feet seemed positively racked with pain, yet I could not move them. They seemed to be numbed. There was an icy feeling at the back of my neck and all down my spine, and my ears, like my feet, were dead yet in torment; but there was in my breast a sense of warmth which was by comparison delicious.It was as a nightmare–a physical nightmare, if one may use such an expression; for some heavy weight on my chest made it difficult for me to breathe.

This period of semilethargy seemed to remain a long time, and as it faded away I must have slept or swooned. Then came a sort of loathing, like the first stage of seasickness, and a wild desire to be free of something–I knew not what.A vast stillness enveloped me, as though all the world were asleep or dead–only broken by the low panting as of some animal close to me. I felt a warm rasping at my throat, then came a consciousness of the awful truth which chilled me to the heart and sent the blood surging up through my brain. Some great animal was lying on me and now licking my throat. I feared to stir, for some instinct of prudence bade me lie still; but the brute seemed to realize that there was now some change in me, for it raised its head. Through my eyelashes I saw above me the two great flaming eyes of a gigantic wolf. Its sharp white teeth gleamed in the gaping red mouth, and I could feel its hot breath fierce and acrid upon me.

For another spell of time I remembered no more. Then I became conscious of a low growl, followed by a yelp, renewed again and again. Then seemingly very far away, I heard a “Holloa! holloa!” as of many voices calling in unison. Cautiously I raised my head and looked in the direction whence the sound came, but the cemetery blocked my view. The wolf still continued to yelp in a strange way, and a red glare began to move round the grove of cypresses, as though following the sound. As the voices drew closer, the wolf yelped faster and louder. I feared to make either sound or motion. Nearer came the red glow over the white pall which stretched into the darkness around me. Then all at once from beyond the trees there came at a trot a troop of horsemen bearing torches. The wolf rose from my breast and made for the cemetery. I saw one of the horsemen (soldiers by their caps and their long military cloaks) raise his carbine and take aim. A companion knocked up his arm,and I heard the ball whiz over my head. He had evidently taken my body for that of the wolf. Another sighted the animal as it slunk away, and a shot followed. Then, at a gallop, the troop rode forward–some towards me, others following the wolf as it disappeared amongst the snow-clad cypresses.

As they drew nearer I tried to move but was powerless, although I could see and hear all that went on around me. Two or three of the soldiers jumped from their horses and knelt beside me. One of them raised my head and placed his hand over my heart.

“Good news, comrades!” he cried. “His heart still beats!”

Then some brandy was poured down my throat; it put vigor into me, and I was able to open my eyes fully and look around. Lights and shadows were moving among the trees, and I heard men call to one another. They drew together, uttering frightened exclamations; and the lights flashed as the others came pouring out of the cemetery pell-mell, like men possessed. When the further ones came close to us, those who were around me asked them eagerly, “Well, have you found him?”

The reply rang out hurriedly, “No! no! Come away quick-quick! This is no place to stay, and on this of all nights!”

“What was it?” was the question, asked in all manner of keys.The answer came variously and all indefinitely as though the men were moved by some common impulse to speak yet were restrained by some common fear from giving their thoughts.

“It–it–indeed!” gibbered one, whose wits had plainly given out for the moment.

“A wolf–and yet not a wolf!” another put in shudderingly.

“No use trying for him without the sacred bullet,” a third remarked in a more ordinary manner.

“Serve us right for coming out on this night!Truly we have earned our thousand marks!” were the ejaculations of a fourth.

“There was blood on the broken marble,” another said after a pause, “the lightning never brought that there. And for him — is he safe? Look at his throat! See comrades, the wolf has been lying on him and keeping his blood warm.”

The officer looked at my throat and replied, “He is all right, the skin is not pierced. What does it all mean? We should never have found him but for the yelping of the wolf.”

“What became of it?” asked the man who was holding up my head and who seemed the least panic-stricken of the party, for his hands were steady and without tremor. On his sleeve was the chevron of a petty officer.

“It went home,” answered the man, whose long face was pallid and who actually shook with terror as he glanced around him fearfully. “There are graves enough there in which it may lie. Come, comrades–come quickly! Let us leave this cursed spot.”

The officer raised me to a sitting posture, as he uttered a word of command; then several men placed me upon a horse.He sprang to the saddle behind me, took me in his arms, gave the word to advance; and, turning our faces away from the cypresses, we rode away in swift military order.

As yet my tongue refused its office, and I was perforce silent. I must have fallen asleep; for the next thing I remembered was finding myself standing up, supported by a soldier on each side of me. It was almost broad daylight, and to the north a red streak of sunlight was reflected like a path of blood over the waste of snow. The officer was telling the men to say nothing of what they had seen, except that they found an English stranger, guarded by a large dog.

“Dog! that was no dog,” cut in the man who had exhibited such fear. “I think I know a wolf when I see one.”

The young officer answered calmly, “I said a dog.”

“Dog!” reiterated the other ironically.It was evident that his courage was rising with the sun; and, pointing to me, he said, “Look at his throat. Is that the work of a dog, master?”

Instinctively I raised my hand to my throat, and as I touched it I cried out in pain. The men crowded round to look, some stooping down from their saddles;and again there came the calm voice of the young officer, “A dog, as I said. If aught else were said we should only be laughed at.”

I was then mounted behind a trooper, and we rode on into the suburbs of Munich. Here we came across a stray carriage into which I was lifted , and it was driven off to the Quatre Saisons–the young officer accompanying me, whilst a trooper followed with his horse, and the others rode off to their barracks.

When we arrived, Herr Delbruck rushed so quickly down the steps to meet me, that it was apparent he had been watching within. Taking me by both hands he solicitously led me in.The officer saluted me and was turning to withdraw, when I recognized his purpose and insisted that he should come to my rooms. Over a glass of wine I warmly thanked him and his brave comrades for saving me. He replied simply that he was more than glad, and that Herr Delbruck had at the first taken steps to make all the searching party pleased; at which ambiguous utterance the maitre d’hotel smiled, while the officer plead duty and withdrew.

“But Herr Delbruck,” I enquired, “how and why was it that the soldiers searched for me?”

He shrugged his shoulders, as if in depreciation of his own deed, as he replied, “I was so fortunate as to obtain leave from the commander of the regiment in which I serve, to ask for volunteers.”

“But how did you know I was lost?” I asked.

“The driver came hither with the remains of his carriage, which had been upset when the horses ran away.”

“But surely you would not send a search party of soldiers merely on this account?”

“Oh, no!” he answered, “but even before the coachman arrived, I had this telegram from the Boyar whose guest you are,” and he took from his pocket a telegram which he handed to me, and I read:

Bistritz. Be careful of my guest–his safety is most precious to me. Should aught happen to him, or if he be missed, spare nothing to find him and ensure his safety. He is English and therefore adventurous. There are often dangers from snow and wolves and night. Lose not a moment if you suspect harm to him. I answer your zeal with my fortune. –Dracula.

As I held the telegram in my hand,the room seemed to whirl around me,and if the attentive maitre d’hotel had not caught me,I think I should have fallen. There was something so strange in all this, something so weird and impossible to imagine, that there grew on me a sense of my being in some way the sport of opposite forces–the mere vague idea of which seemed in a way to paralyze me. I was certainly under some form of mysterious protection. From a distant country had come, in the very nick of time, a message that took me out of the danger of the snow sleep and the jaws of the wolf.

Vlad Tepes

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