Summer died that night. It was a time of celebration, the deep fire-pit, filled to the height of a man with peat, brush, bracken and branches ready to be lit. The cattle, pigs, sheep and fowl driven in to the central enclosure ready for the elders to carry out their grisly task,
The children had asked the usual questions which we had asked when we were young. The answer was always the same throughout the years. “This is the way it has always been.”
“The beasts we have nurtured lovingly throughout the year must repay our kindness. There will be feasting for everyone before the dark days come as they surely will. There is not enough goodness in the fields to keep and sustain our flocks and herds. Only the necessary few will be kept for our daily needs.”
“The offering we make now will be noted by the sky-dwellers and if pleased they will send the bright sun back to lighten our days once more when the time is right. This is as it has always been.”
As we watched the great fire was lit. Bright scarlet and yellow tongues of flame leaped into the not yet dark sky. Our animal’s eyes rolled at the sight. As each one was led through the narrow entrance between the stakes into the very heart of the village the remainder started to grow restless and were snorting, bleating and clucking wildly. We could hear the loud cries of pain from within and panic started to spread through the now terrified animals. We beat them furiously to try and stop the by then dangerous mayhem.
A greasy cloud of dark smoke hung motionless in the air above the cluster of thatched dwellings and the smell of animal fat was strong in ours and the remaining animal’s nostrils. The addition of the animal fat helped the flames to reach high above the height of the palisade for all to see.
The last beast was lead through the opening, their dark, deadly destiny assured. Gradually we heard the sound of drums performing an increasingly louder, rhythmic, hypnotic beat. It was hard to stop our feet from stamping and dancing in time to the music.
Finally the last of the sun’s rays died and only then were we able to pass through the portal to join the great feast marking the change of the seasons.