As a young woman, I fell in love with the work of Mary Stewart and have read all of her books. There is one that is set in Lebanon called The Gabriel Hounds and from it I learned the phrase "gabble ratchet" which is a folk corruption of "Gabriel's hounds." It means the sound of wild geese flying, a sound that is evocative of a pack of baying hounds. In folklore, the Gabriel hounds are sometimes the souls of unbaptized children crying in the night, or they may foretell a death or they're thought to be the hounds of Hel(l).
In my heart, though, that eerie sound--so full of longing and grief--always evokes the Ancestors, the Beloved Dead. My writing desk sets by a west-facing window and that window looks out over the French Broad River. The Canada geese use the old river as a flight path that sweeps them northward to a couple of good feeding grounds and a man-made lake. In the spring, we are rewarded with the site of families of the gabble ratchets with their fuzzy chicks, grazing on the chickweed near the old railroad tracks.
I returned from the West Kentucky Hoodoo Rootworker Heritage Festival last evening. The festival site was set in farm country in western Kentucky and vast fields of soybeans formed a crescent around the encampment. A rooster crowed up the Sun each morning and coyotes yipped through the long, cool nights. We had one wet night and one cold night and days filled with one of the most diverse groups I've seen in my (admittedly limited) Pagan festival experience.
There were workshops, rituals, classes and plenty of networking with colleagues from as far away as Toronto. The food was good, the company cheerful and remarkably even-tempered. Lots of nice vendors tempted us all with their pretty wares and I can't even complain about the late-night karaoke simply because the folks doing it were having so much fun.