Wikipedia notes the ‘Witching Hour’ as the time of night when “creatures such as witches, demons, and ghosts are thought to appear and to be at their most powerful and black magic to be most effective.”
Personally the most memorable reference to this period of the night when time seems to stand still and you feel as though you are the only person awake in the darkest and most silent of moments is when Roald Dahl’s pragmatic Sophie lays awake in her orphanage bed unable to sleep ‘because a brilliant moonbeam was slanting through a gap in the curtains’ onto her pillow, and she first encounters the BFG.
This reference struck a chord with me. Not just because I felt a bond with Sophie as my fellow namesake at a particularly impressionable point in my life, but because I was – and am still (a little) – afraid of the dark. I well remember many times when I awoke in the night as a child and was terrified of going to the loo (the dark bedroom, the gap in the door / under the bed, the ‘black’ window with no curtains and the deep darkness that was ‘DownStairs’). I would usually be OK on the way there, but would then run as fast as my bare feet would carry me back into the bedroom and leap back into bed to avoid the hands which might try to grab my ankles from underneath with my heart racing and my head full of ‘things that go bump in the night’.
Thankfully, this irrational fear has pretty much dissipated as I have grown older (though I generally avoid horror movies as these still don’t tend to sit well with me), but I wonder now whether I am chased (on occasion) by some slightly different ‘demons and ghosts’. These ghouls which now keep me awake at night are generally split into two groups – the ‘Devil on my shoulder’ that keeps me up too late because I am enjoying what I am doing, and the ‘work demons’ which take advantage when I am dragged out of slumber for a call of the wild or to pacify one of my children.
To be honest, the Devil on my shoulder feels more like an old friend who understands that every once in a while you need to let your hair down and release the tensions of ‘mid-30’s life’ (perhaps I will save my thoughts on ‘mid-30s life’ for a separate blog entry altogether). Suffice to say that this particular ‘friend’ usually leads me slightly astray, but once I’ve recovered from the lack of sleep I have generally had more fun, feel more fulfilled, and am more relaxed than I would have otherwise been.
The work demons are much more serious. These are much more akin to the ones which kept me awake as a child – the ones which get your heart racing and won’t let you forget about them without a concerted effort. At other times in my life these could easily have been replaced with ‘money demons’ or ‘relationship demons’, but really the essence at the heart of their power is the same; in the middle of the night when you are at your most vulnerable, your thoughts and worries are not blocked out by the soothing ‘white noise’ of daytime but are allowed through in all their terrifying glory.
Perhaps this may seem a little dramatic, but to be honest – dramatic is how I feel when it is the middle of the night and I can’t get back to sleep! We all know that everything seems better in the morning, but getting through the witching hour – fighting your demons and getting up the next day to carry on regardless, seems (to me) to be important for the success of the human race. Everyone has their own Witching Hour demons to fight and many people are dealing with nightmares in their waking lives let alone worrying about disturbed sleep, but one thing is for sure: while we may all be visited in the Witching Hour by demons and ghosts, the rising of the sun always brings hope and (to end on a lighter note) hopefully a hot cup of Earl Grey tea.