Note: I have been in real life to the Avebury 31 Oct ceremony, and of course this is inspired by that and the people there. But that is as far as it goes. It is in no way representative of the real Archdruid or anyone else!

We stamped our feet on the ground in an effort to stay warm.

It had seemed such a good idea when we were in the nice, warm cosy pub. The jolly chap with a beard turned out to be the Archdruid of Avebury and was going to lead the Hallow’een ceremony just before midnight.

Gee-ed up with cider and laughing at the clots with enwhitened faces and silly witch outfits, we said yes to stumbling out in the perishing cold and finding our way in the dark up the Avebury Avenue.

A little group of people were hanging around the stones trying to avoid sheep poo.

Some clearly knew what they were doing, others were touching the stones to get themselves in the mood and others, like us, were trying not to look out of place; mentally whistling, gazing at the stars, taking the odd peak at the rag tag bunch of people.

It was 11.30pm. Towards us walked the Archdruid. Now he was garbed in his white robe he no longer looked like Santa on his day off.

Giving us a cheery greeting, he explained where we were going. “We’re going to cross the road and head up the Avenue,” he said. “We’re lucky enough to have permission to cross the Marlborough College Master’s garden today, so we can follow the original route all the way to the Sanctuary.”

I looked down at my feet. Okay so at least I had trainers on but they were for fashion rather than anything like training. I didn’t have all the accoutrements of a midnight excursion into the countryside either such as hat, gloves, scarf. But I did have drink induced insanity, so that helped.

We headed off. I must admit, there was something quite atmospheric about walking alongside those ancient stones. And at least it was clear moonlight, and not the usual rain.

A mile or so up the field, the stones were becoming fewer and far between. From my limited knowledge I knew at some point there were the large stones all the way to the Sanctuary. This was the most sacred part of Avebury: a smaller ring that, today, only existed in small marker stones and in the hearts of those who held Avebury dear.

How ironic that this monument, built by superstitious Stone Age people, survived for thousands of years only to be torn down a couple of hundred years ago by more modern superstitious people.

I guess it’s easier to take out life’s frustrations on a few stones than face up to the problems in ourselves.

Gosh. I guess I must be at the philosophical drunk stage. For goodness sake, steer clear of politics, religion or otherwise – I’ll bend your ear for hours.

Our aching feet eventually carried us to the small ring of stones. People were filtering off to the left around the stones. My friend decided it would be quicker to go right. “Stop!” Called one of the other druids. “Don’t go anti-clockwise around the ring.” My friend’s arm was grabbed and led in the opposite direction.

She caught my eye and I grimaced in a comedy fashion. “We may turn into frogs!” I whispered. Jo giggled and then stifled it quickly with her gloved hand. How I envied her gloves!

We surrounded the ring and the Archdruid began his speech. Most of it went by in a blur… ‘All Hallows Eve is the thinnest veil between life and death…we use apples to represent our loved ones who have passed over this year….’

The next bit made me concentrate: “ Most people have heard,” explained the Archdruid, “that we like to share booze and cavort naked round the stones. Well it’s far too cold for that so we’ll keep our clothes on and share a bit of cider and biscuits.”

Great! More drink! It may take off the chill.

After the communal food and drink we were invited to remember our loved ones. Each person put an apple in the centre of the circle for each soul.

The first voice was American. “I’m an ex-soldier.” He said. “I’d like to remember all my friends who’ve died in the gulf and especially in Iraq. What a stupid war. Please let us make up with Iran.”

A few more remembered friends and family. Next up was the Archdruid himself. His story was about a broadcaster I recognised from Radio 1. Apparently they shared a love of vintage bikes.

Then a voice next to me spoke. It was Jo. I hadn’t known her for that long. A drinking buddy really and our friendship revolved around, well, drink.

“I’d like to remember my mum. We didn’t get on really. Actually she was a shit mum. But she was still my mum and now she’s dead. Rest in peace.” She tossed her apple onto the pile.

I chanced a look sideways and saw her wiping her nose with her glove. Then the Archdruid cleared his throat. “I think someone has a message for you.” He sounded less jolly than before, in fact, a bit, well, scared?

Jo looked at him, puzzled. He pointed at the space above the pile of apples. We all looked where he indicated. Nothing. What was he playing at?

Again, Jo spoke: “What, mum? Tell me?”

I looked at her then back at the apples. Still nothing.

“Dad did for you? No! No! He loved you! He loved me! You led him to hell and back.”

What the hell was going on? Jo looked distraught. She was on her knees, crying, her hands held out to the space over the apples.

“Okay. Okay. You’re right – what have you got to win by lying? I’ll bring him justice. I promise. Please don’t go, please! I didn’t mean about you being shit. I’m sorry! Please, no!”

Jo collapsed on the cold grass. The Archdruid slumped and his druid helper rushed to him. The air was a buzz. What the hell had happened?

“Are you all right?” I asked helplessly. Jo didn’t answer. She just sobbed. “Um, we should be getting back.” What the hell else could I say?

“Mum she was here. Dad, he did her in. I have to sort it – for Mum.”

“Come on. We need to get you back home – to a big coffee,” I said, still way out of my depth.

I picked her up off the floor and we made our way back, leaving confusion and amazed chatter behind us.

© AgentLouisa

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