Ankou: Breton Halloween Story


The night's celebration of Kala Goany (the Celtic festival of Halloween) had been good. A walk home on this crisp autumn night on the outskirts of Belle Isle en Terre, Brittany gave the opportunity for Morgyn to clear her head. The wine had flowed freely all night and everyone had entered into the spirit of things, dressing in costumes and of course, it being Halloween, the more gaudy and macabre the outfit the better. Midnight had arrived; people had listened attentively to the ghost stories being told around the crackling log fire, alternately frightened and amused. That was the way of things on Kala Goany, a traditional celebration with an undercurrent of respect for the supernatural. Morgyn loved Halloween; there was a special magical atmosphere on this night that gave her a feeling of closeness to her Breton ancestry and Celtic identity.

Five of them including Morgyn had left the party together at about 1pm. They lived in the same direction and one by one they had split away to go to their respective homes. Morgyn was eventually left on her own. She drew her coat tightly to protect herself from the cold as she walked the path skirting the woods that led to her house. Morgyn's thoughts were interrupted by the loud snapping of a twig somewhere in the woods to her right. It startled her for an instant, but she quickly dismissed the noise; there were lots of animals in the wood. Then she heard it again, another twig being broken but this time accompanied by the clear sound of footfall on the leaves that now carpeted the autumn ground.

Morgyn quickened her pace focusing ahead and then she saw someone step out of the woods a few yards ahead. A tall thin figure dressed in black with long white hair cascading below a dark rimmed hat. Over his shoulder he carried a scythe. Morgyn recognised the figure immediately; it could only be Ankou the 'collector of souls' and famous in Breton mythology. She breathed a sigh of relief for at the party a number of people had come dressed as Ankou. Someone she knew was out to scare her she thought. Well she wouldn't let them get away with that. 'Very funny' she shouted toward the figure that had now turned his back toward her. Morgyn strode purposefully toward the man and as she got closer she was surprised at how tall he was. She reached up and tapped him firmly on the shoulder expecting one of her friends to turn and face her in fits of laughter. Morgyn knew something was wrong as soon as she grasped the man's shoulder. All she felt beneath the dusty black garb were cold bones. Slowly the head of the figure turned to face her; Morgyn fell to her knees as she continued to stare in shock at the skull that looked down at her.

Everything seemed frozen in time to Morgyn after that. She saw the head of Ankou shake from side to side as he looked at her. As he turned to walk away his meaning became clear and his words seemed to form in her mind 'not your time Morgyn - NOT YET'. Morgyn remained on her knees even after she had seen Ankou put his skeletal hand into the trees and draw forward a black horse pulling a cart. The cart that all Breton's know Ankou uses to transport the newly dead to their destination in the 'other world'. Morgyn never spoke of her experience on that Halloween night to anyone, but forever lived in fear of her next meeting with Ankou. His final words still ringing in her head 'NOT YET' Morgyn.

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© 2012 Dominique Corolleur

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