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Posts Tagged ‘Samhain’

Part of my plan for the section on Druidry at the Sign of the Black Cat was to include rituals for the solo druid.  I prefer working alone, but find that the solo ceremonies provided by my druid order are not always in tune with my own ideas or current focus.  So I have got used to creating my own rites, either adapting and recreating words and ideas I have found elsewhere, or drawing purely on Awen for inspiration.  

I have never yet succeeded in producing a ritual for every one of the eight festivals, but my aim over the coming year is to do just that, so that I not only note and attune to each festival in turn, as I am used to doing, but also actively celebrate them – which I am not so good at doing! As I create each one I will publish it At the Sign of the Black Cat, so that others can use or adapt them.

I have just posted the first two in the series, the Samhain and Alban Arthan rituals.  I don’t claim they are particularly wonderful, but they reflect my own understanding and way of celebrating both festivals, and offer an alternative to the ceremonies provided by the druid orders.  You’ll find them under Rituals for solo druids.  I’ll be doing the Samhain rite this Wednesday evening… 

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At Samhain we remember the Ancestors.  This is traditionally a time-out-of-time, when the veil between the worlds is thin.  So it is an ideal time to contact our ancestors, to ask for their guidance or to talk with them.  But before we get down to the full-on shamanic journey to the place of the ancestors, or even just the Samhain tarot reading, it’s a good idea to spend some time getting into the Samhain spirit, thinking about our ancestral heritage, and simply tuning into the energy of the season. 

Here are a few things I find useful to help me tune into the spirit of Samhain…

  • Walk in the woods, looking for fungi
  • Make a pumpkin (or turnip) lantern
  • Alternatively, turn them into tasty soup with a few more veg, a can of plum tomatoes, some herbs, bouillon cubes, a dash of Yorkshire relish…  now eat with homemade bread – delicious!
  • Do some family history research
  • Look at family photographs
  • Make a will (darn, still not done that yet – maybe next year)
  • Visit family places – ancestral villages, landscapes, graves
  • Visit burial mounds – West Kennet’s my local one, but there are many all over the country

In all of these activities, but particularly the outdoors ones, it is so much more powerful if we work ‘with awareness’.  What do I mean by that?  When I walk with awareness, for example, I am focused on the activity of walking, the touch of air on my skin, the sounds around me, the feel of the earth beneath my feet and the brushing of leaf against sleeve, the scent of damp earth and fungi, the taste of that damp woodland atmosphere as I breathe it in.  I am not thinking of the normal worries of daily life – this is a meditative state.  It’s difficult to maintain, of course, as the mind keeps throwing up thoughts as lures, but as with all meditation, once you realise what’s going on you gently go back to walking with awareness.

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We had the first frosts in West Wiltshire this morning. As I left the house I saw hoar-frost on the roof of my neighbour’s shed and on parked cars nearby. While getting my car out I commented on this to my neighbour Ken, and he said ‘That’ll fetch the leaves off the trees!’. Such signs of the turning year naturally prompt us to make mental preparation for darker, colder days.

There are two schools of thought about the timing of the seasonal festivals like Samhain. Many people go by the calendar, making Samhain fall on 31st October, whatever the weather. Others go by natural events, and say that Samhain falls at the time of the first frosts. I have sympathy with both approaches. I like the local focus of the nature-oriented approach, where Samhain falls at different times as appropriate across the country. But for a modern Pagan community, with calendar-based approach makes a lot of sense, allowing for forward planning and a nice even spread of eight festivals across the year.

I have to admit to operating an amalgam of the two approaches. While I celebrate Samhain on 31st October, I still find myself sneakily viewing the first frosts as the real start of the local season of Samhain. But I think that’s OK. It’s as if there’s both a date and a season, the second formally marking the first which might come before or after, depending on local conditions, which can vary from year to year as well as from place to place. This year in West Wiltshire the year seems to be turning pretty much in line with the calendar, with colder weather arriving just before Alban Elfed (22nd Sept), whereas last year things stayed warmer for much longer.

But whatever the weather, with the festival of Samhain approaching, it’s time to turn our thoughts towards the ancestors, and to ritual to honour our ancestral heritage. Of which more to follow…

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