The core of this Samhain ritual is a feast, hosted by the Lord and Lady, in which we meet with our beloved dead and shared the bread of the feast blessed by the Lady’s own hand. During the feast, the empty Cup is passed from hand to hand, as in a sumbel. There are 5 rounds, each corresponding to one of the steps of relationship completion (from the traditions of hospice):
- Thank you
- Please forgive me
- I forgive you
- I love you
When the departed have again departed, we remain in the Presence of the Lord and Lady and continue to pass the Cup, this time filled with water, mead, or juice.
We begin with all gathered outside the Circle and enter with formal challenges. We enter trance with descent imagery toward the feasting hall, where Lord and Lady await.
All are gathered at a small distance from ritual space, which has been prepared with a circle of chairs for all present, surrounding a central table covered with a black or other dark cloth. This will serve as an altar to the ancestors and table for the ritual feast; it holds a platter or basket of bread and an empty chalice. The four quarter altars are in place on the perimeter of the ritual space, with candles and objects thereon. The Grove candle stands unlit on ancestral altar.
The ritual intentions having been announced when the schedule was announced, the participants may have in hand items for the ancestral altar.
The Bard teaches or assures that all are familiar with the chant to be used and instructs them in the ritual procedure for this occasion.
Led by the Bard, all process to the entrance singing:
||:Hecate, Cerridwen, Dark Mother, take us in. Hecate, Cerridwen, Let us be reborn.:||
On this night when the veil is thin, when those who have gone before and we who still journey may be permitted to mingle in the care of the Lady and Lord, we approach the Mystery with awe and reverence.
Hear my warning. This is not safe. The Mysteries of life, death, and rebirth have power we feel and cannot measure; they are part of our every moment, and we know them only vaguely. Those who have gone before have experience but cannot speak of all we might ask. They may hear the questions of our souls that we cannot speak for want of words – or volition. We may hear what we are not ready to hear.
We are children of Earth and Starry Heaven, beloved of the Lord and Lady, who seek to experience the Mysteries and open ourselves to Their guidance.
Bard enters ritual space and lights Grove candle.
Let none enter who is unwilling to be changed by Their touch.
East, West, South, and North enter in the order that lets them walk the Circle deosil, each stopping at the appropriate quarter altar.
Claiming the Circle
Bard and remaining quarters respond “So mote it be” to the claimings.
In the name of the Lady of Light, and in my own name, I claim this circle as a place of Men.
Let all who enter be bound to speak and hear the Truth.
So mote it be.
In the name of the Sacred King, and in my own name, I claim this circle as a place of Women.
Let all who enter be bound to Perfect Love and Trust.
So mote it be.
In the name of the Lord of the Greenwood, and in my own name,I claim this circle as a place of Nature
Let all who enter be bound to the Sacred Web of Life.
So mote it be.
In the name of the Queen of Heaven, and in my own name, I claim this circle as Sacred Space.
Let all who enter be opened to the presence of God and Goddess.
So mote it be.
Two Quarters come together at a Gate and make an arch with their athames through which the Bard steps into the circle.
The other two Quarters bar the way and deliver the Challenge.
When the Bard has answered the Challenge, she replaces one of the challenging Quarters, who leaves the circle.
Next the Priest steps through the arch to be challenged by the Bard and the remaining Quarter. When he has answered the Challenge, he takes the place of the remaining Quarter, who leaves the circle.
Then the Priestess steps through the arch to be challenged by Priest and Bard.
When she has answered the Challenge, she takes the place of the Bard and the two Quarters forming the arch leave the circle.
One by one, the Quarters and all other participants now enter the circle by answering the Challenge of the Priest and Priestess. To speed the entry of large groups the four Quarters can deliver the Challenge at one or two additional Gates after being re-admitted themselves.
First Challenger asks: Who seeks the Mystery in the presence of Lord and Lady?
[response: Name, followed by “Child of Earth and Starry Heaven”]
Second Challenger bars the way
Second Challenger asks: Will you open your heart to Their touch?
Second Challenger gives way
First Challenger clasps candidate’s hands and draws candidate into circle
First Challenger speaks: Then enter, and be welcome.
Each enters and walks the circle deosil, pausing briefly at each quarter altar and eventually placing items of remembrance on the ancestral altar before taking a seat.
Sealing the Circle
Once all other Preparations are completed, all present within, the Circle is sealed:
We have stepped beyond time, to a place not of Earth. In the presence of the Lord and Lady, we join together and are one.
Beginning with the Bard, each person takes the hand of the person to the left, repeating “We are one.”
When the circle has been joined all around, all repeat together, “We are one.”
All sit except Priestess, Priest, and the four Quarters.
Inviting the Guardians
East speaks, facing outward:
To this circle of mystery and honor, I call for one to stand in the place of the Sword,
To teach us courage and discernment and to uphold the pillar of the East.
East lights red candle on quarter altar.
Guardian of the Sword, Hail and Welcome.
West speaks, facing outward:
To this circle of celebration and mystery, I call for one to stand in the place of the Cup,
To teach us compassion and understanding and to uphold the pillar of the West.
West lights blue candle on quarter altar.
Guardian of the Cup, Hail and Welcome.
South speaks, facing outward:
To this circle of remembrance and mystery, I call for one to stand in the place of the Tree,
To teach us of life and change and to uphold the pillar of the South.
South lights green candle on quarter altar.
Guardian of the Tree, Hail and Welcome.
North speaks, facing outward:
To this circle of sacred Mystery, I call for one to stand in the place of the Stones,
To teach us reverence and awe and to uphold the pillar of the North.
North lights white candle on quarter altar.
Guardian of the Standing Stones, Hail and Welcome.
Welcoming the Lord and Lady
Priest invokes Lady.
Priestess invokes Lord.
Bard: Death may fascinate us – and terrify us. Death itself is a mystery. No one present here in body has experienced the death of the body. Even those who have had near death experiences have not died – they may have approached that which lies beyond, but the fact that they now live and breathe means they have not died. Even those who have seen others die, have walked with others on that final journey, yet still live and breathe – have not yet died.
Our Wheel of the Year turns and turns, birth to life to death to rebirth – these are matters of mystery and faith. We celebrate, we prepare for that time when we too will walk the path from which we will not return to this life in this form. We celebrate, we prepare, too, for all the little deaths that are part of this life – the deaths that are followed by rebirth, into new life in this form. The grain falls to earth and rises anew to grow in the spring. Relationships come to an end – end of marriage, end of job, end of some aspect of health and vigor – and we are born into new life in this form.
We live in hope that the new life into which we are reborn is all we want it to be, that what we experience as an end is merely a step on the way to a glorious new beginning. We look to our beloved companions in body in this life to walk with us and keep that hope alive, when we approach that gate – to that crossing – beyond which we must venture alone.
Priest: But not alone.
Priestess: For the Lord and Lady are not bound by veils or gates or endings –
Priest: Nor by our fears or forgetfulness or despair –
Priestess: For in the time of ending, we step between the worlds secure in Their presence –
Priest: Where time and space –
Priestess: life and death –
Priest: joy and sorrow –
Priestess: here and hereafter meet as one.
Bard: We journey tonight, in the presence of God and Goddess, to that place between the worlds where a feast of remembrance awaits. We will take our places in the feasting hall, together but spread widely apart, leaving room for those who have passed beyond to come for this sacred time and join us in the feast. We can invite. We can call to our beloved dead. But who comes – and who does not – is beyond our power. We can only be present – and wait.
As a beginning for our journey and as a beacon for us to follow in returning, let us relax now into a comfortable position, breathing deeply, letting each breath carry away with it our fears, our stress, our expectations, our intentions.
As we relax, letting the cares of the day flow into the deep silence of our Mother the Earth, let a feeling rise in you of a safe and welcoming place, your place, your very own safe place, where you can always return, relax, and know you have everything at hand that you could ever need –
Look around with your inward sight – notice your surroundings, the colors, the patterns, the objects at hand. What do you hear?
[continue with trance induction for a safe place, with identifying a marker or beacon for return]
When you notice that other are gathering for the feast, leave your beacon behind and join us. Look back just once as we head off, to see what your beacon looks like from afar – then turn your thought to the feast.
[Priest and Priestess may alternate with Bard in leading a journey downward – outdoors, nighttime, moonlight or starlight – to a wide plain, where an ancient temple stands in ruins – but misty lights within show table and seating of many kinds. When all are within and settled:]
Priestess speaks: The Lord and Lady are host and hostess of this feast, and we are Their honored guests. We have left behind – or at the door – all that might distract us from Their hospitality and from Their other guests, who even now are beginning to arrive and seeking beloved faces at the tables.
As the bread of the feast is passed among you, blessed by the Lady’s own hand, take some for yourself and some to share.
[Pause for the passing of the bread]
Priest speaks: As the cup passes among you on this first round of the feast, this is a time of gratitude and remembrance. When the cup comes to your hand, speak if you will, or silently offer thanks for gifts of the past remembered in joy – or, if you will, give thanks for the gift you would rather not have received. Now is the time for giving thanks to any or all who will hear.
Beloved, I thank you for _____________.
[passes cup to Priestess, who thanks her Beloved and passes cup along.]
Priestess speaks: As the cup passes among you on this round of the feast, this is a time of freedom and remembrance. When the cup comes to your hand, speak if you will, or silently ask forgiveness of your beloved for whatever might stand between you. Now is the time for release from the bondage of regrets.
Beloved, please forgive me for _____________.
[passes cup to Priest, who asks forgiveness and passes cup along.]
Priest speaks: As the cup passes among you on this round of the feast, this is a time of blessing and remembrance. When the cup comes to your hand, speak if you will, or silently, forgive your beloved for whatever might stand between you. Now is the time for release from the bondage of regrets.
Beloved, I forgive you for _____________.
[passes cup to Priestess, who forgives her Beloved and passes cup along.]
Priestess speaks: As the cup passes among you on this round of the feast, this is a time of loving and remembrance. When the cup comes to your hand, speak if you will, or silently, speak of your love for your beloved. Now is the time for cherishing and embracing.
Beloved, I love you.
[passes cup to Priest, who speaks and passes cup along.]
Bard speaks: As the cup passes among you on this last round of the feast, this is a time of parting. When the cup comes to your hand, speak if you will, or silently, bid farewell. Now is the time for parting.
Beloved, peace and farewell.
[passes cup to Priest, who speaks and passes cup along.]
Bard: As our host and hostess see our beloved on their way, we can relax and pass the cup again in friendship.
[fills cup, drinks, and passes it along]
We have this time for ourselves with the Lord and Lady, to share – to ask – to remember.
Priest and Priestess remain responsible for bringing the group together when it is time to leave.
Bard recalls everyone first uphill to the beacons and then to normal wakefulness.
Thanking the Lord and Lady
Priest thanks Lady
Priestess thanks Lord.
Thanking the Guardians
Quarters thank Guardians and extinguish candles.
Opening the Circle
Bard comes to center, snuffs Grove candle
Bard speaks: The rite is ended, the circle is open. May the blessing of the Lord and Lady be with us all. So mote it be.