Samhain — another possibility

John Beckett, who is farther along the path to online ritual than we are, is presenting a Samhain ritual via U-Tube on Friday, October 30. His blog post, linked below, has given me a few ideas to incorporate in our Zoom ritual on the 31st. He has prepared a video; we will be co-creating the ritual in real time. He does not require checking in, responding to an invitation, or even identifying yourself; we’re doing the Zoom thing and will see each other’s faces ( or profile pics).

All in all, we have much the same intent. I commend his article to your attention. I’m planning to watch/join in his ritual on Friday.

Under the Ancient Oaks Online Samhain Ritual: October 30

The post, quoted:

Different sabbat, same pandemic.

I really thought we’d be able to have a public Samhain celebration. Denton CUUPS went so far as to write up a proposal for an in-person event. It would have had limited attendance, mandatory masks, social distancing, and other precautions we believed would be sufficient. There is no such thing as “safe” but we thought this would present little additional risk to people who are not completely quarantining.

But before we could send the proposal to the Board of Denton UU for approval, the “third wave” began. Even with precautions, holding a public event right now would be irresponsible.

So we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing – hold online rituals. Denton CUUPS’ ritual will be on their Facebook page. It’s in progress and should be finished early next week.

The Under the Ancient Oaks Online Samhain Ritual is ready. As with the UTAO rituals for the past three high days, it will be a YouTube Premiere.

Under the Ancient Oaks Online Samhain Ritual
Friday, October 30
8:00 PM CDT
YouTube Premiere

The Ritual

The ritual follows the same general liturgy as my other rituals, which is the same as I’ve used in public rituals for the past 15 years or so. Except I made a couple of tweaks, which happens rather frequently. There may be a blog post on the evolution of my Pagan liturgy someday…

The Deities of the Occasion are Lugh, who we honored at Lughnasadh, and the Morrigan, who we honored at Summer Solstice. We are calling on Them because we previously honored Them in UTAO rituals (and thus everyone who participated in those rituals has at least the beginnings of a relationship with Them) but also because we have a need for Their virtues and Their skills.

There will be a two-part main event. The first part will honor those who have died from Covid-19 this year. Samhain is a time when we honor our dead, and this year over a million people have died from Covid worldwide. Whether their lives were cut short by days or by decades, they all died before their time, and they deserve to be remembered.

The second part is a working for victory – in particular, victory in the upcoming U.S. elections. The Gods I follow have never told me who to vote for. But I think that’s less because They don’t care and more because They think government is something we have to figure out for ourselves.

The ritual mentions no candidates or political parties by name. But I’ve made my positions clear. The intention of the ritual is that those who oppress refugees, the poor, racial and religious minorities, women, LGBTQ persons, and anyone else be thoroughly and decisively defeated.

If your politics includes voting for people who do these things and revel in them, this isn’t the ritual for you.

What you need to participate where you are

You’re welcome to simply follow along. If you’d like to participate where you are, you’ll need a candle and something to light it with, something for offerings and something to pour them into. I’m using whiskey this time – you offer what seems right to you.

Repeat the calls of ‘hail and welcome’ and such. Pour offerings as I pour them, and light your candle as I make offerings to the central fire. For the main working, add your will and your magic to mine.

When we’re done with the main working, we’ll share a drink among ourselves. After the ritual, be sure to dispose of your offerings in a respectful manner. Pouring them on the ground is ideal. Never pour offerings down the drain.

The ritual runs about 25 minutes.

Why Friday?

As much as I prefer to celebrate Pagan holy days on the actual dates, the reality is that Covid or no Covid, Saturday October 31 is going to be a busy day. Those of you with kids will have to find an alternative for trick or treating. Many of you will celebrate Samhain with your family or close friends. More people will be available on Friday than on Saturday.

Of course, because this is a video ritual, it will remain available after it’s done – if you can’t make it Friday evening, it will still be there on Saturday, or whenever you’re ready.

A note for non-U.S. readers: most of the world goes off daylight saving time the last Sunday in October. The U.S. doesn’t change until the first Sunday in November. So the time difference between “here” and “there” is likely to be an hour off from what it usually is. Check your phone’s world clock or one of the online time zone conversion sites. Or set a reminder on YouTube and let it do it for you.

The future of online rituals

I’m getting more comfortable with the video production aspects of online rituals.

On one hand, I always enjoy learning new skills. On the other hand, my goal in life is to be the best Druid and priest I can be, not to be a better videographer. I wish I didn’t have this on-going opportunity to keep making ritual videos, but we learn the skills we need to do the work in front of us.

I will continue to facilitate online rituals until we can start meeting in person again, or at least until I can do it. It’s too early to make a commitment for Winter Solstice, but given what I’m reading about the “third wave” I think it’s likely I’ll be doing another one.

May your beloved dead be honored and remembered, and may your Samhain be deep and meaningful, however you choose to celebrate.


Want to get my personal weekly newsletter every Friday? It covers things that don’t fit into the blog format, mostly in my usual range: Paganism, polytheism, and magic. Current events and politics. What I’m working on that you’ll see in the near to medium future – be the first to find out about things like this.

Sign up on my teaching site https://undertheancientoaks.com/

Enter your e-mail in the big green block and do the not-a-robot thing. You’ll get a confirmation e-mail – respond to it and you’re set. You have to respond to the confirmation e-mail – my mailing service wants to make sure you really want the newsletters and someone isn’t signing you up for something you don’t want.

John Beckett on Samhain

Is Samhain coming, or is it already here? The answer is a little bit of both.

For those of you who are new to Paganism, Samhain is one of the four ancient Celtic fire festivals, along with Imbolc (February 1), Beltane (May 1), and Lughnasadh (August 1). The word means “summer’s end” – it marks the end of summer and the beginning of winter. In modern Pagan lore it’s the third and final harvest festival. It’s a time to think about the reality of death, and to remember our loved ones who have died.

This 2014 post by Jason Mankey has all the history of the day and the season, and it describes how we got from there (i.e. – ancient Ireland) to here.

A Ritual for the Elements by Gwion Raven

Gwion Raven posted this in Witches and Pagans on April 16, 2015

Working with the Elements is a core piece of magic I teach in the Reclaiming Tradition. I revisit this work every so often as a teacher and as a student. In my last five articles I’ve chronicled my explorations with Air, my connections with Fire, my dive into Water, my complex dance the Earth and finally finding myself standing in the Center.

A Ritual for the Elements

There are many ways and all sorts of reasons to do a ritual. For the past couple of months I’ve spent time in conversation with the Elements. I’ve meditated on what they mean to me. I’ve wrestled with the assumptions I’ve held/hold around each one. I’ve let their wisdom guide my thoughts and my actions and now I’ve come to the end of this re-examination of my relationship with the Elements. This seems like a fine reason to do ritual.

A word about rituals – To borrow a phrase from the poet Rumi “There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” I’m writing this ritual in a way that one person, a coven or a large group of people could recreate it, but I encourage creativity and making this ritual your own. If parts of it don’t make sense to you in your situation, then fill that piece with something that does work for you. The best magic you can ever do is your own magic.

Make your space sacred – This could mean sweeping the ritual room, lighting candles, turning off any devices that are likely to ring, buzz or chime, washing yourself, wearing your ritual clothing or jewelry or lighting some incense. Whatever it is for you or your group, know that you are stepping into that liminal place where magic happens.

Come to stillness – You might know this as grounding or centering yourself. Whatever you call it, bring yourself present. I like to feel my feet on the Earth. I send my energy downward, as far as I need to in that moment, to anchor myself, recognizing that I am of the Earth. I send my awareness upward to the stars, opening to the infinite, recognizing that I am of the stars. I stand in the knowledge that I am the living embodiment of the Elements, right now, right here.

Create a container for your magic – Just like you need a pot to hold the ingredients of a soup you are making, so you’ll need a container for your magic. You might do this by casting a circle, by drawing a temenos line and stepping across it, and/or asking the Spirits of Place to bless and accept this work. In my case, I offer libations to the spirits of my place, name my ancestors and cast a circle, starting in the center, then North, then East, then South, then West, then North, Then above and then below. I say the words that are sacred to me.

Air – In my hand I hold a small flower pot. I look at its shape and colour. I notice that it appears empty and recognize that it is actually surrounded by and filled with Air. I focus on my breath. In and out. In and out. I note that I am surrounded by and filled with Air. I feel the breeze on my skin. I hear my breath. In and out. In and out. For several minutes I sit and experience the Air in all of its forms – Wind, birdsong, breath, rustling leaves. After some time, I thank the Air and blow into the flower pot and set it aside.

Fire – In my hand I hold seeds. I look at their shape and their colour. I imagine the plants they will become. Although I can’t see any Fire, I know that these seeds contain the spark of life inside of them. Fire takes many forms and some of them are not so obvious. I focus on my breath. In and out. In and out. Right now inside of me is that same spark of life. Right now my body is creating heat in the form of calories. My breath is warm. My skin is warm. I’m aware that there is sexual energy rising in me at this moment. I know that creativity and passion and action are burning in me too. For several moments I sit and experience all of the forms of Fire that are in and around me. After some time, I thank the Fire and set the seeds aside.

Water – In my hand I hold a small glass of water. I look at it. I can see the light dancing on the sides of the glass as the water moves around. I’m reminded that Water rarely has it’s own form and is shaped by the container it is in. At once I remember that Water also shapes the containers it is in, cutting through rocks, bursting banks, flooding plains. I focus on my breath. In and out. In and out. I think about my own precious fluids – The aqueous humor in my eyes, the saliva in my mouth, sexual fluids – and how my life, all life would be impossible without these waters. I think too of the deep wells of feelings and emotions and memory. For several minutes I sit and experience Water all of the forms of Water that are in and around me. After some time, I thank the Water and set the glass aside.

Earth – In my hand I hold a small amount of rich, fragrant soil. I look at it. It is black and brown and warmed by the sun. It smells like forest floors and summer vegetables and dogs’ paws after a good dig. I focus on my breath. In and out. In and out. There is a solidity to my body, just like there is to the Earth. I am corporeal. I do exist right now. I am the host to a million creatures that live in and on my body. I am the entirety of existence for more than five hundred species of bacteria, viruses and microscopic bugs. As I take care of my body, so should I tend to the Earth. For several moments I sit and experience all of the forms of Earth that are in or around me. After some time I thank the Earth and set the soil aside.

Center – In my hand I hold nothing. The Center is all around me. Over there and under that and just around the corner. I focus on my breath. In and out. In and out. I think about my own Center. I think about what keeps me centered, who keeps me centered. I imagine being the hub at the center of a wheel that spins. The outer edges travel a long way, but the hub stays in the center. I recall the lessons from my teachers and my teacher’s teachers about sitting in the Center of my own existence and finding my own power there. For several minutes I sit and experience the Center in all of its forms; my center, the center that is all around me. After some time I thank the Center.

Planting – I retrieve the small flower pot and once again breathe air into it. I fill the vessel with life-sustaining soil. I place the seed, full of its own potent energy, into an indentation I make with my thumb. I pour water into the soil and over the seed and place the pot in the center of my kitchen window. Air. Fire. Water. Earth. Center. I sing. I move my body. I raise energy. I give this to the planting.

Dedication – I work closely with a particular deity. She and I have a reciprocal and long-term relationship. In ways that she would recognize I dedicate this magic to her. I ask her to watch over the seed that has been planted just as she watches over me. I kiss the space that she inhabits. I speak her name. I listen to her counsel.

With the working complete, I thank the goddess I am working with. I thank and release the Center, Earth, Water, Fire and Air from this place and this magical working. I open my sacred space and spend time in silence.

b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_101481019

I will tend to this seed and to the plant it will become. I will tend to this magic of being in relationship with the Elements and listen to them as they speak to me each day.

May this work be blessed. May your work be blessed.

What rituals have you done for the Elements?

Note: All images are from ShutterStock.