A Neo-Pagan Samhain Ritual

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

Priest/ess
Guardian


EQUIPMENT NEEDED

Altar
...set in North, and well away from space needed for free movement
Candles
...at strategic places around the room and on the altar, one (black) or three (black, purple or indigo, and white)
Magical Tools
Cup & ritual beverage (pomegranate wine is good), Athame, Panacle and bread (challah with poppy seeds, Jewish braided bread is nice), Wand
Ritual Script
Nice if memorized, but can be read, if done dramatically, not in stiff, robotic "i-am-reading-this" monotone voice.
If one is going to read, have short pieces of paper or note cards at strategic places so one is not rustling sheaves of paper
Audio Equipment & spooky Music
A "Halloween" recording with howling, clanking, screaming is helpful, but not essential
Plate of Honey and sliced Apples
Toss the apple slices with lemon juice to prevent oxidation, keeps them from turning brown.
Extra nice if honey is in a decorative container with one of those honey-dipping thingies.
Pomegranates and tiny Pumpkins/ gourds/ squashes
One pomegranate is probably enough for the entire group. Leave it whole until needed.
You will need one tiny pumpkin for each participant, or substitute mandarin oranges or tangerines if tiny pumpkins are too expensive or not available.

PARTICIPANTS BRING

Scarf
...to serve for both blindfold and veil - they keep this on.
Percussion instruments
...set around the room, out of the center. I have a big basket full of various percussion bits i've collected over the years - tambourines, zils, claves, guiro - which i keep near the altar in case anyone is empty-handed.
Name of deity
...who will protect them in the Land of the Dead
Votive candles in holders
...for the honored dead. I keep a box of spare "Tea Lights" (tiny candles in aluminum holders) in case anyone is empty-handed.
Ancestors' favorite food
...and a story about why it is meaningful
Name of a deity
...of transformation or rebirth
Token
...for wish for the new year - something small that is easily carried

I. Create Sacred Space

A. Preparations

Sacralize space before participants arrive.
Be sure to have enough candles around the room so that if you are reading you can see the words.
Play spooky music as participants arrive.
Lights may be dim, but not out, so everyone can get settled, divest themselves of coats and backpacks, etc.
Food for feast should go on a table, near the altar if possible.
Votives in holder should go near the altar.
Percussion instruments should go near the altar.
Once all have arrived, unburdened themselves, and settled down, turn out electric lights.

B. Cast Circle, Call Quarters by walking visualization

Priest/ess ask participants to stand if they are sitting, blindfold themselves, and hold hands.
Priest/ess leads them slowly around the space, from West to South to East to North, describing each direction, and what happens to them in each quarter (see text below), stripping them of their human form.

West
Sailing, you are sailing, West to the Island of Apples,
over the Waters, the Wide Waters of the World.
As you pass over, storm clouds gather, and rain pours, pummelling you.
Waves rise, washing over you. Cold with fear,
you are battered by grey-green waters, translucent & bitter,
They draw from you all fluids, the elixers of life leave you,
out of your pores, your orifices they flow,
You arrive at the shore, cold and shriveled,
dried from the inside, you've lost your life's juices.

South
You step forward into a smokey haze, hearing screams of anguish and pain.
Raging fire crackles all around you, the heat sears you,
but you cannot sweat. Gradually your fat begins to melt.
As you step through the flames, you sizzle like bacon.
In orange and red glare, your eyes are stinging and singed.
Your flesh bakes as you wander through this inferno.
Cooked, it falls off like charred meat.
You arrive at the edge of the holocaust, nothing but bones,
and a few flakes of grey ash.

East
You stand on the edge of a barren plane, struck by a howling gale.
You are light-weight, nothing but bones,
and the wind glancing off your ribs sounds like the moaning of an untuned harp.
You move only with effort, you have little strength,
your bones jangling & rattling with each jarring stride.
Sometimes the gusts are so strong, you lose control
and your bones clatter and bang against one another.
At last you arrive at the mouth of a black cavern.

North
You step inside, and in the darkness lose all sense of solidity.
You are no longer blood, no longer flesh, no longer bone,
you are only your intuition, your consciousness, and your will.
You hear around you the roaring of mountains caving in,
the groaning of rock slides and avalanches.
You would cringe or cower but you have no body.
Yet you sense yourself continuing downward,
until the passage levels out and your movement forward begins to slow.
Finally you arrive at the Gateway to the Land of the Dead
and greet the Guardian there.

II. In the Land of the Dead

A. Enter the Land of the Dead

When they arrive in the north, Priest/ess directs participants to drop each others' hands. One by one they are taken by the Priest/ess to the Guardian of the Gate.

Guardian, challenging: "What deity will vouch for you and protect you in the Land of the Dead?"

After each invokes their chosen mentor, the Priest/ess spins them around a bit to disorient them and leads them, still blindfolded, to stand in wait for the others. (We seem to have a lot of middle-aged and older folks around here, so i set up chairs, which i normally don't use, so they could sit at this point)


B. Invoke the Dead

Once all have entered The Realm of the Dead, Guardian says:
"You may remove your blindfolds."

When all have done so, Guardian continues:
"Now, you will call the names of those among the Dead whom you would honor.
As you each name your honored dead, light your votive candle and place it on the altar."

Group Chant or song to draw the dead.
(suggested: "Breaths" by Sweet Honey in the Rock - if this is not a song people know, you can play a recording - it's an African song, sung in English, about how the breaths of the ancestors are still around us in the wind, water, plants, rocks, etc.)


C. Dance with the Dead

Guardian: "Now put your scarves over your heads as veils, and pick up your instrument, for now you will dance with the spirits you have called here tonight."
All dance, drumming, humming, etc.

Guardian will call an end to dance, when appropriate.
After all participants are sitting, the Guardian recites:

It ended on the beach.
It ended with a hulk of serpents formed into a boat,
      A boat that glided on those burning waters.
It ended on the rim of some great sea,
      With his face reflected in the mirror of its waves.
      He was dressed in garments like the sun.
It ended with a bonfire on the beach
      where he would hurl himself
      and burn, his ashes rising, and the cries of birds;
It ended with songbirds, with birds of turquoise color, birds the color of wild sunflowers,
      red and blue birds,
It ended with birds of yellow feathers in a riot of bright gold,
      Circling while his heart rose through the sky.
It ended with his heart transformed into a star,
      With the bright star of dawn and evening,
      With his body changed to light,
A star that burns forever in the sky.

from The Flight of Quetzalcoatl an Aztec mythopoem,
published in Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas by Jerome Rothenberg.


D. Feast for the Dead

1. Feed and Libate the Deities

Bless the Beverage
Priest/ess raises athame in left hand, blows on it slowly along its full length from handle to tip. Picks up Cup in right hand. Dips athame into cup, and says:
"As the Athame is to the Sky,
So is the Cup to the Earth,
and from their union, worlds are born."

Remove athame from liquid and let three drops fall back into chalice & then lick athame.

Libate the Deities.

Pass Cup, saying:
"It is sweet and it is sour, it is bitter and it is intoxicating, like Life."
Bless the Bread
With bread or cakes on pentacle, Priest/ess holds panacle aloft, holds wand above bread, saying:
          "Body of the God,"
then holds wand below and says:
          "Gift of the Goddess."

Feed the Deities.

Pass the Bread, saying:
          "May we hear in the breaking of bread the song of the Universe."

2. Feed and Libate the Dead

Bless the pot-luck food
"All Life is One
and Everything that Lives is Holy,
Plants, Animals, and People,
All must eat to live and nourish one another.
We bless the lives that have died to give us this food.
Let us eat together and be nourished
that we may nourish life."

Serve the Dead on a regular sized plate - a bit of everything if possible.


3. Feed and Libate the Participants

Then all eat, discussing why the particular food they brought is meaningful.
Clear away food when all are done eating.

III. Invoke the Deities of Death, Transformation, and Rebirth

A. Invoke Deities of Transformation

Each participant calls on a deity of transformation.
Mine was from a poem by Victor Anderson, founder of the Feri Tradition:

... most holy,
Goddess-Mother of all living things
And Governess of the elements,
By whose Triple Will the planets move
And the clouds between the stars are gathered up,
Turning in stately revolutions
In the darkness of your womb;
... Blessed be the Great Goddess,
Self-sustaining, self-creating one
Without beginning or end of days.
Through all things flow the milk of Your breasts,
Ever virgin because You are ever new,
Known of all, for You are all-knowing,
Eternal first love !


B. Honor the Blessings of the Passing Year

Priest/ess says:
"We will go around circle, and you can each tell of something good that happened to you or something you accomplished in the dying year, to end the old year with a good feeling."

Go around circle until all have had their opportunity.


C. Charge Tokens for Good in the New Year

Priest/ess says:
"Now each of us will place our token on the altar, stating what we want to achieve in the coming year."

When all have been placed on the altar, begin chanting (and dancing?) to raise energy and charge the tokens.

A Suggested Chant

We are an old people,
We are a new people,
We are the same people,
Stronger than before.

Cauldron of Changes,
Blossom of Bone,
Arc of Eternity,
Hole in the Stone.

Old Year out,
New Year in,
Let the Witches'
Year begin!

Then each participant feeds the person next to them a bit of honey on an apple slice to begin the new year with a sweet taste.
Hugs all 'round, and praises to each other.


IV. Thanks and Departures

A. Thank the Ancestors

Thank the Ancestors for having lived, for without them, we would not be.
Remind them that we will honor them again next year.

B. Thank the Deities

Thank the Deities for their aid and protection.
Remind them that we will honor them again soon.

C. Leave the Land of the Dead

Guardian gives everyone a tiny pumpkin & some pomegranate seeds as a token of the journey.
Priest/ess says:

"Our bodies are reborn as we re-enter the middle world
from North to East to South to West,
to North again where we will find
our wishes will be fully manifest."

All carrying their gifts from the Guardian and lit candles, to bring light back from darkness, the Priest/ess leads all round the circle clockwise, singing:

"Round and round the Earth is turning,
Turning ever into darkness,
And from darkness into light."

as sung by Libana

D. Back in the Land of the Living

All stand in a circle, Priest/ess leads the following Call and Response

For we are the stars. For we sing.
For we sing with our light.
For we are birds made of fire.
For we spread our wings over the sky.
Our light is a voice.
We cut a road for the soul
for its journey through death.

from the Passamaquoddy people
published in Technicians of the Sacred, by Jerome Rothenberg.

Priest/ess guides everyone to clean up, say goodbye, gather their stuff,


E. Take Down Circle - after guests have left


1992-1997 Lilinah biti-Anat, except where otherwise noted.




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