Thursday, 11 September 2014

Moon in the Water

The moon is above, shining white in the night sky.
The people are below, on the dark earth.

There is a prosperous village, full of health and happiness, surrounded on all sides by a thick, black marsh. Those wishing to journey to or from the village must first negotiate tiny pathways and sticky depths.

Evil resides in the marsh - deep shadows that lanterns of the village cannot penetrate; whispering voices that lure from the path into the sinking swamp; strange, pale lights that dance and deceive.

When the moon is high in the sky, the path is clear enough to navigate but those who travel on nights without her light are lost.

Woe betide the wanderer who goes without the light of the moon to guide her.

One night, a mother lamented her child lost in the marsh-darkness and the moon heard her sorrows. The moon had always loved the people of the village and was deeply distressed by the cries.

Mother Moon wrapped her radiance in a thick cloak, put a hood over her bright hair and sank to earth.

A small glow around her feet was all that she had to guide her through the marshes. She felt around for rushes, grass underfoot, but the path was not clear and she heard the distant murmurings of sorrowful thoughts.

You could walk forever in this strange, dark place.

At that moment she lost her footing, slipped and splashed into water. Mother Moon struggled and grasped, but she only sank deeper. The evil things that live in the swamp came creeping up around her, curious and hungry, holding her tight in their murky grasp.

Suddenly, there came a great sobbing voice: "Help me, please help me" and footsteps approached.

"Turn and walk away. Do not come this way. There is no path here," cried Mother Moon, but it was no use - the man came ever nearer.

"Hello? Is there someone there? Please, help me!"

"NO! Do not come this way. Turn around!" She struggled and twisted with all her strength, crying with full voice to the traveller. As she pulled and kicked, the hood of her cloak fell back and the face of the moon lit the marshes for miles around.

Startled and relieved, the lost man fled on moonlit paths through the marsh and was gone.

He did not stop to think what marvellous thing had happened.

Exhausted, Mother Moon sank into the mud. Her head fell to her breast and her light was concealed once more. Full of hate and spite, the evil things returned to do away with the blinding light of the Moon. Sharp claws pulled her downward, cold voices crowed and strange songs were sung.

A great boulder was brought to cover where Mother Moon was buried and keep her light from the world forever.

From that night onwards, the moon was gone and many, many travellers, wanderers and dreamers  were lost to the never-ending dark.

How long was she down there, in her living tomb? How long were we without her?

After too many did not return, the villagers decided something must be done. With blazing torches, they gathered together to search the marshes for the moon. Evil things scratched and pulled at their ankles, but together they were strong and together they remained marching deeper into the blackness.

"This rock," cried a child. "It doesn't belong there."

With a great heave, the people of the village wrenched the stone from the inky water. In a heartbeat, the marsh was filled with a glowing light and there she was, rising from the depths - a great gleaming wave of guidance.

Sorrow and fear faded in this moon-rising.
Dark thoughts fled from this moon-dawning.

The bright Mother smiled at her children and they watched as she climbed the staircase of night to took her place amongst the stars. Her distant shining brought them safely home.

She is above, shining white in the night sky.
The people are below, on the dark earth.
Upturned, their faces silver in the light of the Moon.

From an old English folktale (

Retold by Abigail Palache September 2014



  1. Superbly evocative Abby. We were at Flag Fen, in Peterborough where the Bronze Age walkway through the fens across to Whittlesea Island was found. The walkway was renewed every 19± years, exactly the time in the moons cycle when it returns to its original position in the stars and back in sync with the Sun. For me, your story captures the reasons the moon was so important then. You must at some time tell your stories around the fire in the iron age house. Cheers, Ron

  2. Thank you Ron! I'm hoping to visit that walkway one day - I was watching a documentary about the discovery and it looks incredible. Here's hoping I can persuade them to let me tell tales in the iron age house :)