On the eve of the eve of the end of the celtic year (the night before Halloween) I fed and watered the chickens under the bowl of stars on a cloudless night. The black (and white) cats darted in and out of the shadows around me. I couldn’t stop myself stopping at the end of the lane. I lingered for a while before closing the gates. The bull is rising higher in the east every evening, taking its place in the winter sky with its red Aldebaran eye. Cygnus the swan used to be directly overhead a few weeks ago, now it is making its own annual migration west for the winter. As I stood and carried out my own cheap eye test by counting the stars in the Pleiades, my ears picked up a chilling cry. The mythology is that, on the night of Halloween, all the unseen creatures and unmentionable things come out and walk the earth before the beginning of the new year. Tonight the cold autumn air carried the cry of one such unseen creature. It was a noise that is difficult to describe; somewhere sitting uncomfortably half way between a woman’s scream and a dog’s bark. I peeled the edges of my woollen hat up over my ears and closed my eyes, and waited. After a few more minutes she cried out again; the vixen fox. If I fell for the myths I should place our pumpkins on the window ledges to scare it away. I’m more pragmatic than that. The pumpkins are for the fun of carving them and the magic of childhood, and the fox’s cry reminded me to pour urine* around the hen house.
*a fox deterrent that, although disturbing, really does seem to be effective.