No Treats Back Then: Tricks of Ancient Samhain by Gary Davis

Jack swung a lantern
now he swings a long scythe
Jack is grim no more

crimson leaves swarm
gnarly rutted Druid oak
souls scream within

fairy mound looms
enter and you don’t return
Samhain Eve tonight

spy my lovely queen
Morrigan on Samhain
don’t yield to her crow

Conaire broke taboos
foretold by hag on Samhain
Conaire loses head

cut, strangled and crushed
nameless body in bog
triple death but why?

crept to distant hill
raging Samhain bonfire
catch whiff of burnt flesh

fierce Celtic fighters
severed their enemies’ heads
else return as ghosts


Historical Notes on the Haiku: 1) The Morrigan is an ancient Celtic goddess/queen associated with doom. 2) Conaire is a legendary Celtic king who courted disobedience and death on Samhain. 3) It is possible that some of the “bog body” deaths in Britain and Ireland, about two to three millennia ago, were connected to Samhain or other Celtic sacrifice rituals. 4) Fairies were still considered dangerous and mischief-making by many people in the British Isles up to about a century ago. 5) Ancient Samhain celebrations, occurring around harvest time, probably included bonfires and animal sacrifices. Human sacrifice also?—we don’t know. 6) There may be a historical connection between the severed head trophies taken by ancient Celtic warriors (fearful of vengeance from ghostly enemies) and early Jack-o’-Lanterns.


Gary Davis enjoys exercising his imagination through crafting dark and darkly humorous haiku and other forms of poetry. He finds haiku, in particular, both challenging and fun. Writing haiku is like doing a miniature Zen painting and, when you look at the painting, seeing something unexpected (and maybe scary in the case of horrorku). Mr. Davis has published haiku in Tales from the Moonlit Path, Scifaikuest, Star*Line, Lupine Lunes, and It Came from her Purse (2016-2022). He has published other poetry in Tales from the Moonlit Path, Tales of the Talisman, Bloodbond, Illumen, Spaceports & Spidersilk, Zen of the Dead, Potter’s Field 7, The Hungur Chronicles and a sci-fi anthology, Kepler’s Cowboys (2014-2022).

Published 10/27/22

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