NOVEMBER sees the beginning of the darkest quarter of the annual cycle when the stars and moon are more manifest than the sun and daylight. The darkness brought people into the home where they engaged in more introspection and reflection of clan and the past amidst the fireside tales of heroic ancestors. As spider webs were getting large, women would use this time to weave and make clothes to provide added insulation; and so the darkest quarter of the year became linked to fate and ancestors. Little wonder, then, that the darkest day of the year was especially sacred to the ancestors and a number of important megaliths are aligned to this day of the longest shadows of the underworld that many ancient cultures saw as manifestations of the ghosts of the dead.
At this time, the moon appears distant and high in the sky, giving rise to ideas that nothing is as high as the moon. While other cultures spoke of the ‘mountains of the moon’ from which the greatest of all watercourses was thought to flow, the Celts seem to have imagined transparent ‘towers of glass’ propping up the features of the welkin. As the night is ever looming, shadows are long and pervasive as the sun is low in the heavens and it seems as though the world had dipped below the normal level beneath the sea. In Irish myth, the King of Lochlann, Colga, talks of dragging Ireland by chains into the north and under the sea, a metaphor for the land’s passing into the wintry quarter for the Fomorians are always linked to the north whence come the coldest blasts in Western Europe.