I was out in the yard catching up with my next door neighbor. What we heard next brought our conversation to a screeching, or shall I say honking, halt. It was the sound of a flock of geese flying overhead in a V formation. The volume of their conversation was almost deafening, and the two of us just stood there awed by the sight and sound. A week later, I would learn a term to describe this cacophony of sound…gabble ratchets.
What in the world is a gabble ratchet, you might ask? The phrase sounds a bit ominous but it can also be seen in a positive light. In days of old, gabble ratchets were the spectral hounds who roamed the night sky, searching for the souls of the newly dead. Some also thought that if one heard their bark or whelp, it was an omen of impending death. Gabble ratchets are known by many other names and appear in a number of European folk traditions. The most common alternative names are the Gabriel Hounds, the Hounds of Hell (Welsh) or the Wild Hunt (Germanic).
In our day and age, we know that gabble ratchets are only geese doing what they do this time of year. However, because the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest I would like to think that their other-worldly song is leading all lost souls to the place where they belong. I see it as a sign of blessing and comfort, especially during the pandemic when so many people have died before their time. It’s a reminder that the Divine Presence surrounds us always, even in death, and hold us for all eternity.
Copyright ©2020 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com