Today is the autumnal equinox; the last day of summer, or the first day of autumn, depending on how you look at it, and the day will be the exact same length as the night. After today the nights will be longer than the days, and folk will have to wait until the vernal equinox until long days return once again. Preparation for the winter has always been the key activities undertaken at this point of the year, and many see this as a sad time, when the heady days of summer already seem so long ago.
This is not to say that autumn has no delights to offer; the leaf fall in and around the City is beautiful, and the snows of winter are too. There will be the chance to wear lovely thick jumpers and to sit by the hearth, and in Buentoille there is always some celebration to look forward to. Nevertheless, today’s primary festival has a decidedly funereal air to it, and whilst it is indeed a celebration of what has passed, there is a sense that today is more to come to terms with its passing than to celebrate, so that folk may deal better with what is to come.
There are several groups who have their own festivals today, not least the Coven of Irah, who hold the coming of the dark in great esteem. It’s not known exactly how they celebrate today as their rituals are mostly performed in secret, but there certainly seems to be a lot of activity around their tower (which is actually fairly stubby, more of a short cylinder atop an old stone building) tonight. It is said to involve the mass killing of moths, who are attracted to light and therefore deemed traitors, but this has never been confirmed or denied by the Coven themselves.
The primary festival which happens today, however, is called the Snuffing of the Light Festival. This ancient ritual seems to have been celebrated in the City since time immemorial, and is thought to originate with the Escotolatian tribes, who saw the coming shortening days and the leaf fall as an intensely sad moment of the year; it is telling that the Escotolatian afterlife is said to be a place where, no matter the weather, the leaves never fall from the trees and the flowers are always in bloom. It seems fitting that they would wish to see off the summer in some symbolic manner, and this, rather than any real evidence, is what drives the theory that this is where the Snuffing Festival originates.
It happens in most homes across the City; after the sun has set today, the family will take out every candle that they own (sometimes buying in more for the purpose) and arrange them on their dining table or a similar surface. They then light the candles and leave them for half an hour, before taking a newspaper or a large piece of card or fabric with which they then create a great gust of air which blows out all the candles at once. Sometimes, obviously, this doesn’t work, and another try is needed, but contrary to what you might expect, this is thought to bring bad luck to the home. Quite why is again, unclear, but it is possibly linked to the Escotolatian belief that death must happen quickly, if it has to happen, and that leaving an animal alive which is clearly suffering a slow death will lead to the animal haunting you later. Similarly, if the summer must die, it’s best it was done quickly. Others claim that it is because Father Winter looks unkindly on those who delay his coming.
Since 1708 there has also been a much larger version of this yearly ritual held in the sheltered Milliner’s Square in Whight Hollow district. The whole square is covered in candles, arranged into a grid pattern with small pathways through it. At the allotted time, sixty individuals will carefully walk in amongst the candles with large, purpose made paddles. They must not prematurely put out a candle or, again, risk terrible personal bad luck. They do not speak, but all count down together, until the allotted moment, when they swing their paddles in unison. The spectacle is so well designed that nobody has ever failed to put out all their candles in that very moment. Suddenly plunged into darkness, the spectators all walk home quietly, saying very little.
Other festivals happening today:
- The Festival of Brightness Gone
- The Festival of Darkening Shores
- The Festival of Welcoming the Dark