Wish hounds under a harvest moon


It is almost Michaelmas, one of the two quarter days of the year when night and day are of equal length. The dying summer is fading now into the mists and frosts of early autumn. The harvest is nearly all gathered in. The harvest moon will light the way of the last carts and weary workers as they make their way home from the fields.

The hob tells me this time of year has always been important, and has always been celebrated. The church celebrates the feast of the Archangel Michael, the saint to whom Crowfield Abbey is dedicated. But long before the abbey was built, and long before Michaelmas, the people who lived in clearings in the forest lit bonfires and feasted. They prayed to their gods and goddesses and made pilgrimages to their sacred places, to stone circles and hallowed trees, holy wells and rivers. Echoes of these old ways still linger and from time to time I glimpse something I cannot explain. People in nearby villages and farms tell stories of the Whistling Hollow, a strange and haunted place close by the abbey gates. The hob remembers a time when offerings were made to the spirit who inhabits the pool at the heart of the Hollow. I sometimes wonder if the malevolence that can be felt there is because the spirit resents being abandoned and forgotten.

There can be few people within a day's walk of Crowfield who have not heard of the Wish Hounds. They are the wild black dogs who hunt in the forest with the Unseelie king. They have fiery eyes and brimstone breath, and their baying cries chill the blood. Autumn is the time of the Wish Hounds and people travelling along the forest tracks are careful to be safely home by dusk.

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