Into the Deep
Night of the Pale
Not all of Golarion’s holidays and festivals are times of rejoicing and delight. Holidays worshiped by dark and sinister cults and religions tend to be hidden affairs, their rituals and ceremonies involving cruelties and vile practices that send shivers of fear through gentler society. Scholars suspect that the Night of the Pale—a holiday that traditionally takes place on the last day of the year, the 31st of Kuthona—has links to several sinister religions, but today no one church has specific association with the event. Nonetheless, the Night of the Pale is an event that many look forward to all year, whether in fear or excitement.
On the Night of the Pale, it is said that the ghosts of those who died during the previous year manifest upon the world and come to visit the homes they lived in during life. Although some might think that the chance of seeing even the shade of a dearly departed one might be a blessing, the Night of the Pale is not a time for tearful reunions, for these ghosts, tradition says, do not return out of love for those they left behind but out of darker compulsions. Lingering jealousy, unfinished arguments, or the simmering need for revenge are said to be what compels the dead to return to torment the living on the Night of the Pale.
The evening of this night in many communities is celebrated by a morbid feast, the food prepared with themes revolving around graveyards, the dead, and other spooky traditions. This feast, on one level, helps the celebrants to make light of their fears while sharing good company with similarly nervous neighbors, but at another level is believed to placate vengeful spirits as toasts are raised to the memories of the recently departed. These feasts include retellings of favorite memories of the departed, in hopes of reminding the approaching ghosts of brighter and kinder memories than those that compel them to return. The feast always ends at least an hour before midnight in order to give participants time to return home, decorate doors and windows with salt and other trinkets taken from the feasting table (salted bread baked into crook-like shapes are a favorite, as these can be hung from doorknobs and eaves) to ward off evil spirits, and hide in their bedrooms until dawn. Brave youths and adventurers often deliberately stay out after midnight, either to dare the ghosts to challenge them or simply for the thrill of bucking tradition. Every Night of the Pale, it seems, there are disappearances among those who stay out after midnight, although whether these vanishings are the result of dissatisfied locals taking the opportunity to run away from home, murderers or wild animals or other mundane dangers, or the vengeful spirits carrying off their victims depends upon the circumstances.
The morning after a Night of the Pale is also the first day of the new year—a time that many celebrate more as a relief for surviving the night before than in anticipation of what the new year might bring, although regional preferences for how this day is celebrated vary enough that no single tradition holds over the other. Save, of course, the lingering fears of what dread spirits might come knocking upon warded doors one year away…