Some good folk arrived Friday evening before Samhain and had an enjoyable time catching up and sharing what has been going on in their lives since we last met. Sweetwood Temenos Samhain 2014 begins with a very fair and mild autumn day for late October. Starting at 1 PM there was pumpkin carving for a couple hours. Enough carved pumpkins were made to light the path through the woods to the sacred circle. The pumpkin carving took place under the picnic shelter. Thanks to Megan and Eric for the cider & snacks!
After carving pumpkins, a fire was started in the shelter’s brazier in the shelter and the good folk gathered around for a discussion of Samhain. We talked about the importance of remembering of the dead in this Celtic holy day. This celebration is observed in many other traditions around the world. We explored the meaning behind the mythopoeic death of the Goddess and God (the Lady and the Lord of neo-pagan and Wiccan traditions). Their death in this world brings about a fallow season, and in the Summerland, there is a celebration of Beltane. We talked about the idea of life & death and the promise of the God that the Spring shall return. This is a sign of life immortal, through the renewal or rebirth of the soul. This led to a discussion of reincarnation and the definition of the soul. Then we discussed the aspects of this time of year, where the veil between this World and the Otherworld (or the Summerland) was viewed as “thin” and so allowing greater communication between the two realms of the living and the dead.
In discussing the “trick or treat” aspect of Samhain, we recognized the part of the ritual that remembers the dead (especially loved ones) is a blessing of them. Thus, remembering them is akin to leaving of a food and drink offering on Samhain eve, and the “treat” is given to the dead. Many think that the “trick” is the negative consequence that ghosts of the dead visit upon those who fail to remember them at this time of year. However, the “treat” could have the effect of warding, or propitiating angry or evil ghosts. For example, remembering someone who is dead that had inflicted an injustice or otherwise harm upon one’s self, but still saying something good about them or wishing them well.
In this manner, the remembering of the dead is an act of forgiveness, which also is an act of Grace. When we bring forth such remembering, the trauma bond between the living victim and the dead perpetrator is severed. The toxic anger that had been emotionally poisoning the victim (because of the injustice suffered) is cast in to the fire of the sacred circle. So by this act of remembering, the divinity within is invoked, and acts to bring about the regeneration, or to make whole (holy), both the victim’s and perpetrator’s soul. Such remembering acknowledges that all of the dead were, at one time, some woman’s child.
So on Samhain, remembering the dead, (who in the past and to this day, have committed injustices towards those who keep this Holy Day celebration), done in a conscious and heartfelt manner, would be an act of forgiveness and high magic. Such a remembering of the dead by a ritual act would create a strengthening of the light in the dark, or life in death. This will further the renewal of humanity’s soul and pass down a new Samhain legacy. Remember, an act of forgiveness is neither an act of forgetting, nor necessarily a reconciliation.
At the end of the discussion of Samhain and the ritual role forgiveness can play in its celebration, the good folk readied for the ritual. The torches around the sacred circle were lit, as well as the candles in the pumpkins along the path through the woods to the sacred circle. The fire in the sacred circle was blazing and the sun was near setting. The good folk gathered around the fire, hand in hand and with three deep breaths grounded with an “AH”.
As the priestess and priest began casting the circle at the altar facing north, with the sound of a singing bowl and incense filling the autumn air, a very large doe appeared out of the woods close by the sacred circle. She walked from north to south (right to left), then noticed us and causally walked away. At the moment when the circle was cast, the sun set and golden twilight shined through the trees and upon the leaves that were left on them. So the remembering of the Dead began in such a beautiful autumn peace.
With the circle cast, the remembering of the dead began. Round and around we went casting wild dried flowers into the flames of the fire as we each took turns remembering the dead and our ancestors. One person sang a song that a departed dear one loved. The remembering was such a simple ritual and so heartfelt and powerful. Then we sang and chanted the chorus of a beautiful song called Circles:
And round, and around, and around turns the good Earth
All things must change as the Seasons go by
We are the children of the Lord and the Lady
Whos mysteries we know, yet will never know why …
We sang 3 rounds. This song was a fitting end to our remembering on our Samhain celebration.
After the Remembering, the priestess invoked the Horned God, and he spoke of the promise. He spoke about life in death, about bringing Beltane to the Summerland, and the renewal and rebirth of the immortal soul next Spring. The Horned God spoke on how the chanting, dancing, drumming, the Great Rite, and feasting strengthens and fosters the renewal and rebirth of the immortal soul. He talked about how the dead and living meet at the sacred circle around the fire, as fire is a light that brings us together. It is a time when the veil between this earthly world and the Summerland is thin, and so is a good time to divine. When the Horned God was finished, the priestess de-invoked the Horned God.
The priest now invoked the Lady as the Crone, and bid the good folk gathered around the fire to seek an omen to guide them through the Celtic New Year. The Crone was seated in her throne, and one by one the good folk sought her counsel. After all had visited the Crone, the priest and the Crone each took an omen and came to stand among the good folk. The priest de-invoked the Crone, and the priestess returned.
The priestess then went to bring forth the pentacle plate with slices of Apple, revealing the star within. She blessed it, then she offered it to all around. Then the priest filled the goblet with water (which was charged in the casting of the circle and prior to the good people gathering around the fire). He turned to the left and offered the goblet and water and saying “ Water shared, is life shared, is love shared. Drink deep and never thirst. Thou art God”. So the goblet moved around the circle from hand-to-hand until at last the priestess hands the goblet to the priest and he says to her, “Thou Art Goddess”. The priest then pours one last libation to the good folk in the spirits gathered tonight.
The priest and priestess then take down the circle, the priestess opens the circle with these final words “Merry meet, merry part and merry meet again! The circle is open but never broken”! At that moment, in the West through the darkened trees, the 1st Crescent Moon was setting, a wonder and beauty to behold and definitely a blessing tonight. As with every ending there is a new beginning. The good folk then danced, drummed and talked about the ritual. Finally, all decided to leave the fire and head to the home of the priestess and priest, which was but a short walk through the fields under starlit sky. One last look back towards the fire was simply mystical and moving, as jack-o’-lanterns stare back with torches lighting the way to the circle where the fire was still lit. One could feel the energy in the mystery filling the air. This energy filled the circle, the trees, the Fellowship, and those gathered in the home of the priestess and priest. Though the soul felt the emptiness of lost ones departed, the lovely good cheer of the gathered good folk began to fill the soul again tonight.
Samhain blessings on to you All and your Kin!