October 5th – The Night of the Harvest Moon

The night of the harvest moon has always been a significant point of the year for many groups, especially those in the eastern half of the City, where the lunar calendar is observed more closely. Unlike the lunar new year, the harvest moon is a night for work, rather than revelry; traditionally there would be additional harvest activities performed tonight, when the lack of mechanised harvesting tools drew the process out far longer and any additional light would be taken advantage of. The harvest moon is usually in September, too, rather than October; it falls on whichever full moon is closest to the autumnal equinox.

There are certain foods, such as pumpkins and corn which are yet to be harvested properly, but the majority of the Buentoilliçan harvest has always been of wheat and barley. Still, the farming cooperatives will set aside a small selection of crops to harvest tonight, as the light of the moon is said to impart a certain arcane quality to the harvest, especially the white cabbages which seem almost to glow under her gaze. The best way to eat these cabbages is raw, shredded thinly in a salad; they have an excellent crunch, as if the moonlight had made them swell as they were plucked from the ground.

The traditional association of work with tonight has survived long after those days when half the City would be involved in the harvest, and many folk will work from home, their curtains thrown wide open to catch the night rays. As a result there are many depictions in Buentoilliçan art of the harvest moon, and the magical effect it has on the land. The light of the harvest moon is usually strong enough to pierce any clouds that choose to spoil the event, albeit with an accompanying halo, which has also been the subject of many paintings, photographs and poetry. For those who are unable or who do not wish to work, it is traditional to go for a long night-time stroll, to enjoy the uncanny nature of a place they know well in the day, to experience the strangeness of the night brightly lit.

There are more specific beliefs and traditions that exist tonight; many folk will choose to pass through The Hollow Stone of Hollowstone square, looking for a subtly different alternate world on the other side, and some children will stay up, trying to glimpse the straw figures, which they made earlier in the year, dance in their secret nooks. Yet it is the many roving walkers out tonight, each nodding or waving to each other as they pass in the half-lit streets, who might unknowingly engage in the strangest aspect of the night of the harvest moon; a phenomenon known as the Opening of the Ways.

There are many explanations for this odd phenomenon, where the routes of the City seem misshapen, strangely shortened or distended, where paths don’t lead quite where they should, where a road that takes a minute in the day seems to take ten or twenty under the warping light of the moon. Perhaps it is just the unfamiliarity of the streets at night, the ability of the moonlight to obscure some details and make others more obvious, that makes folk get lost more easily tonight. Perhaps it is that they are tired, falling asleep as they walk that makes some roads seem longer or shorter. Perhaps folk just don’t know their neighbourhoods as well as they think they do, and the landmarks that they rely on aren’t immediately obvious at night. Yet if you ask them, most walkers will say there was something else beyond these easy explanations at work.

Stranger still, and disputed in terms of its authenticity, are the ‘portals’ that open up tonight, scattered here and there across the City. These seem to have been first introduced to the City by way of an article in The Weekly Buentoillitant, which featured eye-witness testimony from several people who had seen round windows, high up on buildings, through which the moonlight was somehow brightly shining down into the street. Where the light fell was apparently a ‘bright white pool of water,’ rather than the brickwork or pavement that should have existed there; one witness’ brother apparently stepped into this pool, and was never seen again. The article, which implied that this was no new phenomenon but something which happened regularly on this day, spawned many similar tales in the following years. About seven years after it was published, it was revealed to have been written as a publicity stunt for the band Naggmoth’s album, Moonpool, which was never released because one of the band members became very ill and subsequently died. Obviously this has done nothing to deter those who claim to have seen these ‘pools,’ and reports of them surface every year.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Lightening the Burden
  • The Hopeful Mackerel’s Last Supper
  • The Night of Unholy Reflection