Hallowe'en: Night of Spirits

About the Songs

Ancient Halloween fascinates me ... mostly because it was a night for discerning spirits.

 

Pagan Celtic tribes of the British Isles believed the dead visited on the eve of Samhain (pronounced SOW-en, meaning "end of summer"). These ghostly visits could be comforting or frightening, so one must discern which visitors were benevolent — for which food offerings were set out — and which visitors were malicious — against which masks were donned to fool and lead out of town.

 

Whom to welcome? Whom to ward away?

 

The medieval Christian church adapted this festival by encouraging people to remember the departed saints, or hallows. Eventually the eve of Samhain became known as All Hallows' Even. Over the centuries it shortened to Hallows' E'en, then Hallow E'en, then Hallowe'en, then finally Halloween.

 

I'm titling this CD "Hallowe'en" to take us at least one step back into these intriguing ancient traditions. "Night of Spirits" is one of the old names for Halloween (along with Mischief Night, Nutcrack Night, Colcannon Night, Bonfire Night, Snap-Apple Night, and more).

 

The etymology of "haunt" relates to the concept of "home" — "to inhabit, to frequent, to reside, to house." It also means "to visit, linger, or stay with." Who or what do we want to haunt us? Which spirits do we invite into our abode? Which do we dismiss?

 

This new group of Halloween Carols™ explores various spirits that might visit us:


• “Ghoulies and Ghosties” — my setting of the traditional Scottish prayer … listen for the “Scotch snap” rhythm in the organ and vocals


• “Demons” — a demon-slaying pipe organ rock anthem with triumphant guitar slashes and galloping bass and drums … listen for the eldritch rub rods throughout the song


• “Scary Fairies” — a cute-and-dark jig telling of historical Irish superstitions and folktales about protecting oneself against the fairies who were supposedly more dangerous on Halloween … listen for the banshee guitar howls, the fairy-like organ zimbelstern (small bells), and the fairy-warning words spoken into an acoustic guitar


• “Hallowe’en” — a sweet-and-spooky counterpoint of organ and bells (and toads) … about all the trick-or-treat flavors of visitors … and friends from the other side


• “Naked Skeletons” — a pounding dance beginning and ending with bare drums, symbolic of bare bones dancing on their own


• “Zombie Ambience” — a lively romp with the dead in voodoo-jazzy-bluesy style, featuring an undead choir with B-3 and Farfisa organs … listen for the round at the end of the instrumental version


• “Bumps in the Night” — an old-timey, vaudeville-esque radio program showcasing charming and whimsical sound oddities


• “Monsters” — a tightly harmonic terror demonstrating stomping pipe organ pedals and percussive grand piano growls … listen for the odd rhythmic meters and piano string plucks


• “Wickéd” — a wafting swirl of acoustic guitars accompanying a plaintive melody mingled with stately organ interludes … about a candle, its light and warmth symbolizing visits from loved ones (dead and alive) … listen for the round in the guitars


• “Jack o’ Lantern” — a “soundtracky rock” journey with the spirits of the Old World coming to the New World, the turnip bowing out to the pumpkin, and how the jack o’ lantern tradition came to be … listen for the round in all instruments


• “Gust” — pipe organ rock featuring baritone guitar, mandolin, and gusty choir spirits … listen for the round at the end of the song and the theremin in the instrumental version


• “Visitors” — pipe organ background music to play when setting a place at the dinner table for deceased loved ones, a tradition in Mexican and Wiccan cultures … also related to the Jewish Passover practice of setting a place for Elijah


• “Mostly Ghostly” — I released two versions of this carol on A Broom With A View, but neither of my arrangements featured the round, so this version is the round only … background music for haunted houses, spook alleys, and trick-or-treat porches

 

Historic Halloween had much to do with fire. It was by bonfires that the Celtic druids conjured their divinations on Samhain night (their calendric new year's eve) to foretell destinies in the coming year. In many religious rites, firelight symbolizes enlightenment from God or gods. Light allows one to discern.

 

(Interesting to note here that a lasting offshoot of this ancient divination practice manifested in romantic fortune telling; Halloween was commonly associated with games of romance up until the first part of the 20th century.)

 

Bonfire traditions carried well into recent centuries, especially in Scotland where youth begged house to house for peats to build bonfires (a related thread of trick-or-treating). Historian James Frazer observed in 1922, "In the Isle of Man also, another Celtic country, Hallowe'en was celebrated down to modern times by the kindling of fires, accompanied with all the usual ceremonies designed to prevent the baneful influence of fairies and witches."

 

In "Wickéd," I mention the art term chiaroscuro (extreme contrasts of light and dark) — the atmosphere when we light the wick of a candle in a dark room. (I think the world in autumn looks like one grand chiaroscuro painting.) The spirits of the jack o' lantern, whether in a turnip body or a pumpkin body, is fire. In "Jack o' Lantern," I call this spirit the "light of autumn ... carved in the present, engraved with the past — haunting and beckoning fires that last!"

 

Discernment of spirits is an empowering force to practice year 'round, but accompanied by the enrapturing autumnal season and insights from history, it really seems no less than ... magic.

 

Happy Halloween. Happy Night of Spirits.

 

Kristen

Lyrics

Ghoulies and Ghosties

 

music - Kristen Lawrence

lyrics - traditional Scottish prayer

 

 

From ghoulies and ghosties

And long-leggedy beasties

And things that go bump in the night,

Good Lord, deliver us.


 

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Demons

 

music and lyrics - Kristen Lawrence

 

 

And they don’t stop 

All the pestering lies,

Love confusion

And make sadness their prize.

Away with you!

Be gone, untrue! 

The demons vie,

The demons lie.

 

Made of half-truth,

Full of frivolous spite,

Mean accusers

Seek to dim and kill light.

Away with you!

Be gone, untrue!

The demons vie,

The demons lie.

 

Crushing

My lungs,

Teasing cowards

Steal my breath in sleep.

Jealous of flesh,

They try to pry into my temples,

My deep.

 

Second guesses

Tangle reason with mud,

Dam all pathways

With cerebral crud — 

Endless doomsday,

Horses red, black, and pale,

Wars and losses,

Death in detail.

 

Rise, my mind,

Envision greater orbits.

Find the calm

By the steady star above night.

O logic sweet!

O reason’s fleet!

More be with me

Than be with thee.

 

Laying traps to

Catch me in my words

And seek offenses,

Evil counterfeits compassion

And love.

 

Mal den Teufel

Nicht an die Wand.*

Devils rage

Enough outside.

 

In a mask or

Shielded only by face,

Sacred refuge

Stands inside its sure place.

Away with you!

Be gone, untrue!

The demons vie,

The demons lie.

Deceivers, fear

The white horse here.

Dismissed are you;

No more ado.

 

 

(*German idiom: Don't paint the devil on the wall.)

 

 

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Scary Fairies

 

music and lyrics - Kristen Lawrence

 

 

On Halloween don’t go outside alone,

For what may be is frightful on its own — 

The fairies seek to take you away.

Beware! Beware! They thrive this holiday.

 

No souls have these who get what they demand,

And once they kidnap you to Fairyland,

There’s little chance escaping their stead.

Beware! Beware! They’ll dance you ’til you’re dead.

 

Oíche Shamhna* — 

Night of Spirits comes alive.

Oíche Shamhna — 

Night when scary fairies ride.

 

Tam Lin was saved, but not before he turned

Into a snake, bear, lion, iron burned.

So, at midnight look out! These vindictive, jealous folk

Consort with ghosts — so easy to provoke.

 

Hang a little harvest maiden,

Stick a needle in the door

Lest Queen Mab exchange a changeling,

Granting your dreams whether they’re good or poor.

 

Let’s rub some oats and salt into your hair,

Protect you from what runs around out there — 

The fairy hills are open today.

Beware! Beware! Their lights will lead astray.

 

Oíche Shamhna — 

Night of Spirits comes alive.

Oíche Shamhna — 

Night when scary fairies ride.

 

 

(*Irish Gaelic: Night of summer's end/Samhain night - EE-hyeh HOW-nuh)

 

 

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Hallowe’en

 

music and lyrics - Kristen Lawrence

 

 

Wisdom of witches,

Musings of cats,

Hanging out with

Guileless bats —

Benevolent, similar companions

Alight from the stars tonight.

 

Sippings of cider,

Fall leaves bestrewn,

Sharing sweets

Under the moon —

We ponder illuminating pumpkins

Carved slowly from outside in.

 

RIP the veil between

Worlds upon Hallowe’en.

Ghost friends

Love and will be seen.

All souls knock at the door;

Give out your candy, but

Think back on old lore — 

Who will you let inside?

Mind your core.

 

Night covers the words

And the poison in shadowy smiles.

Discern the eyes,

Whether they be loving

Or be hostile — 

To glimpse at imps,

To peer at peers.

 

Toads wait at the porch,

Wanting more treats

In croaking contempt.

Cast out the spell of them

As with a diadem — 

Ward away,

Welcome in.

 

Whispering spirits,

Questioning owls,

Stepping out with

That which prowls — 

Good hauntings will come of inspiration

And fellowship magical.

 

RIP the veil between

Worlds upon Hallowe’en.

Ghost friends

Love and will be seen.

All souls knock at the door;

Give out your candy, but

Think back on old lore — 

Who will you let inside?

Mind your core

On Hallowe’en.

 


 

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Naked Skeletons

 

music and lyrics - Kristen Lawrence

 

 

Dance your skin off,

Unveil the bones.

Sing your chin off,

Let out the tones.

Ribs and sockets reveal the ones

Living as naked skeletons.

 

Who are you and who am I?

Flay the covers, wonder why

Mulling can make the skull so vulnerable — 

Will you dare to bare your soul?

 

Dance your skin off,

Unveil the bones.

Sing your chin off,

Let out the tones.

Ribs and sockets reveal the ones

Living as naked skeletons.

 

The skin will crawl — 

This sarcous sheath —

But aren’t we all

Osseous underneath?

When blood has fled,

And all that’s red, 

What’s really dead?

 

Bare the sternum, bare the spine — 

See how much the two align.

Let teeth betray what lips would never say.

Sever nerves from vertebrae.

 

Dance your skin off,

Unveil the bones.

Sing your chin off,

Let out the tones.

Ribs and sockets reveal the ones

Living as naked skeletons.


 

 

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Zombie Ambience

 

music and lyrics - Kristen Lawrence

 

 

Voodoo! Love you!

 

Zombie ambience — shake your dirt and shake your

Zombie ambience — hey, hey, hey ya.

Swing your dead vibes, toss the old jives —

Time to slough the earth.

Arise and dance a trance in your shredded pants — hey, hey.

Spin your corpsey souls, throw your hearts and brains around,

And then find them again.

Again.

 

Eat sweet meat cerebral, undead lovers.

Taste and consume each other’s hearts

To live and let die.

Zombie-ombie … ambience.

 

Zombie ambience — fling your flesh and fling your

Zombie ambience — hey, hey, hey ya.

It’s been dull and days’ve been full of 

Mindless wandering.

Come, join the crowds from shrouds where the grunts are loud — uh, uh.

Strut your dusty stuff! Fun apocalyptic times!

Oh, yeah! Feel you’re alive!

Alive.

 

Eat sweet meat cerebral, undead lovers.

Taste and consume each other’s hearts

To live and let die.

Zombie-ombie … ambience.

 

Voodoo! Love you!

Hordes of hugs come out to subdue.

Moth-mouth moans surround in the haunts.

Zombie-ombie ambience.

Voodoo! I love you!

 

Zombie ambience — bust your ribs and bust your

Zombie ambience — hey, hey.

Pounding beats for cuties of yore: 

Billy Butcherson! 

The boyfriend’s back! Alack? Oh, no. Heart attack! — hey, hey, hey.

We can go to prom, kiss with stitchy lips,

And walk among Ishtar’s array.

Array.

 

Zombie-ombie ambience!

Zombie-ombie ambience!

Voodoo! I love you!

 

 

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Bumps in the Night

 

music and lyrics - Kristen Lawrence

 

 

Yesternight all was right. 

So it seemed until a fright — 

First a thump, then a scream,

Or was I just dreaming?

 

In the darkness, coming after me:

Everything that I cannot see —

Wizard wiles and snapping crocodiles!

How far will the darkness go?

 

As I peeked, rather freaked,

Down the hall where something shrieked,

Books flung out, chimes encroached.

Has my mind gone tricky?

 

In the darkness, coming after me:

Everything that I cannot see —

Monkey paws and raspy raven caws!

How far will the darkness go?

 

In the quiet of the night,

Things that go bump never quite

Show a face, yet they will bite.

 

Creaking doors, moving floors —

Out I crawled upon all fours.

What was there but a stare!

And some surly breathing.

 

Chilling heat ran up my neck,

Shook my skull into a wreck.

Shivers slid down to my feet,

Each of which desired retreat.

 

What is nothing? What is dread?

What is something in my head?

Things that go bump in the night

Trick my eyes, for what is sight?

 

In the darkness, coming after me:

Everything that I cannot see —

Witches’ rungs and fortune-telling tongues!

How far will the darkness …

How far will the darkness … 

 

What things will go bump tonight?

 

 

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Monsters

 

music and lyrics - Kristen Lawrence

 

 

Under beds

And inside heads,

Their seething stares

Chase up and down stairs.

Horrid screams

Invade your dreams

As gnashing teeth

Coax your belief in

Monsters

Snarling, growling,

Coming for you.

Even so,

Let nightmares go;

Forgive your

Monster anguish.

 

Fearsome truths,

Fearsome falsehoods

Creep their way

To your room.

And they say,

“Don’t you move;

We have come to

Eat your soul.”

 

Under beds

And inside heads,

Their seething stares

Chase up and down stairs.

Horrid screams

Invade your dreams

As gnashing teeth

Coax your belief in

Monsters

Snarling, growling,

Coming for you.

Even so,

Let nightmares go;

Forgive your

Monster anguish.

 

When to walk?

When to battle?

Measure well;

Power resounds.

Now to say,

“Who are you?

I won’t feed your 

Empty souls.”

 

Cinderella, are you scared?

Cinderella’s creed she shared.

 

Under beds

And inside heads,

Their seething stares

Chase up and down stairs.

Horrid screams

Invade your dreams

As gnashing teeth

Coax your belief in

Monsters

Snarling, growling,

Coming for you.

Even so,

Let nightmares go;

Forgive your

Monster anguish.


 

 

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Wickéd

 

music and lyrics - Kristen Lawrence

 

 

Candle, I set you out this night.

You’re wickéd and waxéd, casting light.

Oh, don’t obey that gust or blow,

But stay with me, flickering your glow.

 

Wafting and warm, your haunting smell

In chiaroscuro evenings’ spell

Allures as twisting shadows spread,

For Jack and I smile while lightheaded. 

 

Dripping, your hours diminish, friend.

Your pleasant wax wanes, for all must end.

Then snuff, arise your smoky curls;

Extinguishing grace abides in swirls.


 


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Jack o’ Lantern

 

music and lyrics - Kristen Lawrence

 


 

Jack o’ Lantern, oh light us a path tonight!

Shadows tease with flickering shapes

On hedges and fences and doorsteps,

So smile your secrets to us!

Hollow yet filled with a luminous stare —

Eerie façade of what you’re aware!

 

Long ago in the Gaelic land of your roots,

You enthralled the ghosts of the time,

Then traveled the waters Atlantic 

To find a home on new shores.

Purple no longer the color adored, 

Turnips gave way to the orange gourd!

 

Jack o’ Lantern, oh light us a path tonight!

Shadows tease with flickering shapes

On hedges and fences and doorsteps,

So smile your secrets to us!

Hollow yet filled with a luminous stare —

Eerie façade of what you’re aware! 

 

Light of autumn, you’re often quite mischievous — 

Fairy glows or will o’ the wisps

Or corpse candles floating

Or Jack whom the devil spurned with a coal.

Carved in the present, engraved with the past —

Haunting and beckoning fires that last! 

 

 

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Gust

 

music and lyrics - Kristen Lawrence

 

 

Gusty spirits sing, "Halloween!"

Autumn skies unveil their mien.

Fallen leaves sheen,

Whirling there, showing where ghosts have been.

 

Through the chilly Halloween night,

Ghosts and demons trick our sight.

Wild in their flight - 

Catch your hair, satchels tear - they just might!

 

Impish flurries curl past your nose,

Gusting moans and howling blows.

Oh, how fear grows,

Quivering, shivering to your toes!

 

Gusty spirits sing, "Halloween!"

Halloween ... Halloween ... Halloween ...

Halloween!

 

At a crossroads or by a grave,

Mind you how the winds behave.

Lantern flames wave - 

From a jack in the black - howl and rave!