The Talking Forest Runes

The Dark Night of the Soul

Samhain 2022

by Kay Broome

Hostpapa web photo

A pet peeve of mine is people who put up their Christmas decorations right after Halloween, not even bothering to respect the war dead on Remembrance Day. I understand that the period between leaf fall and first snow in temperate climates can be rather dreary. But it is a worthy and necessary task to acknowledge the dark night of the soul that separates Samhain and Yule - Halloween to Christmas. And the beauty of November is both subtle and profound. All is laid bare and the world is now in subtle shades of browns and greys. Herein we are forced to look within ourselves, to face our own mortality, our own eventual fall. So give the month of November its due - wait til December 1st to put up those Yuletide decorations!

There are a multitude of myths that deal with the fall of the year, perhaps the most famous being the abduction of Persephone, the corn maiden by Hades, the dark lord of the Underworld. When he refused to return her to her mother Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, the grieving goddess withheld her favours to the earth, causing widespread famine. Eventually Demeter and Hades reached a truce, so that Persephone would return to her mother for the warm, fruitful months of the year and remain in the underworld with Hades during the winter months.

Hostpapa web photo

The Wild Hunt

On moonlit Autumn nights when clouds sail the windswept skies, my thoughts turn to the legends of the Wild Hunt. As with many pagan myths, the origins of the Wild Hunt are obscured by the mists of time. Simply put, this tale concerns a god who is a psychopomps or leader of souls into the afterlife, particularly valiant soldiers lost in battle. Perhaps the earliest known story is the tale of Odin and his Valkyrie shieldmaidens leading the ghosts of the Norse fallen to Valhalla. From Welsh mythology we have Gwynn Ap Nudd, a faery king of the Sidhe, whose retinue often called the battlefield slain to Annwn, the Welsh Underworld. In later times, in England, the Wild Hunt was reduced to the legend of Herne the Hunter, who was a mere ghost cursed to eternally haunt the Windsor Castle woods. But his retinue of horses, his baying hounds and especially, the antlers that sprouted from his head, all hearken back to older tales and to more regal figures such as Odin, Gwynn Ap Nudd and Cernunnos, the Celtic antlered god, whose purview was the wilderness, fertility and quite likely, the afterlife.

 The Yew Tree

Yew berries, 2019, Kay Broome

In the Talking Forest, the Yew tree is the tree of death and its time is Samhain, October 31st. This dense bush of the profoundly dark needles is not entirely drab. In September and October comes the chartreuse hard green seed surrounded by a soft fleshy scarlet fruit, called an aril, which stands out against the dark foliage of yew. One of this rune’s kennings is the arrow, paying heed to the long tradition of Yew's strong and springy wood being used to make arrows capable for both hunting and warfare. The Yew rune consists of three branches, each with a shaft facing upward toward the higher realms and with one facing downward to the underworld. In a reading, the rune augers endings and transformations, but only rarely does it portend actual physical death.

Talking Forest Yew Rune

Talking Forest Yew © 2009, Kay Broome

You can learn more about Yew and the rest of the Talking Forest runes by purchasing my book, available internationally in print or ebook on Amazon.

Prior Plantings