I freely admit to having had some interesting encounters over the years. I’m sure they’ll make appearances here, given enough time. One of the more intriguing though happened only a few months ago, on Samhain, incidentally enough.
As I was walking through one of the small wooded areas behind Kent Uni’s campus, I was being periodically guided to collect fallen oaken branches. This is not really anything new, it must be said. I’ve been guided to many things, places, and persons over the years. In the process, though, as I was admiring the foliage of one of the trees lining the footpath, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of bright blue. I turned to look and, as you might expect, there was nothing visible. I turned back to the tree, keeping more aware of my surroundings. My first thought was tales I had heard of Will-o-the-Wisp, leading travelers on wild chases to their doom on uneven ground, the edge of a cliff-face, etc. (doom and gloom in various forms)… I can only cite that it was yet light and I had been expecting something to happen that day. I cannot say what it was I heard exactly, as it sounded like a high tinkling of bells or a distant child’s voice — perhaps a combination thereof, but it came in conjunction with the next blue flash. This time, upon turning, it was still present, and another wisp appeared a few feet farther down the path. Upon reflection, I was rather strongly reminded of a few scenes from Disney’s Brave:
Now, I had traversed the footpath once before, but only to a point and the as the foliage was quite dense still, and it was already late afternoon, the light was fading considerably. However, I have had much experience reading the energy of a place, of intent, and there was no feeling from this wisp. Just curiosity and a wish to play. So I followed. I followed down the path, and across a bridge that while contemporary, was fashioned to appear older than it’s years. At this point, the light grew stronger, as the trees became more sparse and the wisps disappeared.
I knew I was still not alone in the wood, however. Hikers and cyclists use the paths behind the university as well, so I continued on for a few paces, but no sound followed. Looking back, I saw what appeared to be a large dark, transparent shape standing within the treeline. As I continued, I looked back and it appeared to move into the more open area where I was standing. Upon closer inspection, I noted the shape, was vaguely canine in nature, with what appeared to be a bushy tail, swinging cautiously. Now while I realise I may have done well to be cautious, it was Samhain — the day when the veil is lowest. I was expecting to see the spirits walk. And tales I have heard and seen of the Black Dogs recount that they can be both ill omens and protectors, depending on circumstance. As such, upon noting my continued accompaniment, I turned and told the being that they were welcome to accompany me on my journey–I believe that was the right choice; the canine’s tail flicked in the rapid way dogs have of indicating happiness and anticipation, and we journeyed on. Though it became more difficult to see my traveling companion, as the light became stronger, he (for I felt a masculine energy), remained until I sighted my apparent destination.
I had not known where I was headed, necessarily, trusting the wood to guide me and it and its denizens did. I do not have a photograph of the bridge, nor the stream it crosses, but it is a place where the sun strikes as it sets. A rightly appointed place for commemorating the turn of the year. A place of ritual and peace. I brought the collected oaken boughs onto the bridge, and following some selection process I still cannot fully claim to understand, distributed them, one to the ground on either bank, one on the bridge’s railing, and one in my hand. The rites were done, blessings asked, and homage given, and I continued on, the remaining bough tucked into my belt, cloak and hair trailing behind in the breeze. I watched the sun set still more over a field just up the path, before turning back. The branch on the bridge was gone. It was one of the heavier ones as well and not visible when I looked down-river. I choose to believe that was an answer.
Continuing back through the dimming light, I returned to the mundane, to the campus proper, to the sundry horrors of student accommodation and trials of being a MSc student. I did not see the dog, nor the wisps on the return, nor have I caught sight of them since. I have, however not felt truly alone in the wood when I have returned. Whether it be the Raven, high in the trees, spirits, the Fey, or mundane humans, there is never a lack of company.
Not all between worlds are good, nor are all malevolent. Be aware, mindful, and watchful. Be kind, yet direct. I will go into more detail in further tales, but know that those of the otherworld are just as prone to changes in disposition as we mere mortals.
The forests are calling. Will you listen? Take care if you do and heed any warnings you feel.