Samhain (pronounced, “SOW-in”) is a Gaelic festival which celebrates the end of the harvest season as well as a descent into the dark half of the year. Literally meaning “Summer’s End”, Samhain is the Celtic New Year, and one of the two “Gates” or “Hinges” of the Celtic year, the other being Beltane. In modern times it has become the festival of Halloween (“All Hallow’s Eve”) and is often considered the highest holy day of the witches’ calendar. In Black Rose we generally celebrate the holiday on the astrological date, marked when the sun enters 15° Scorpio.
Metaphysically this celebration teaches us that the “veil” that exists between the world of the living and the dead is at its thinnest during this time, which accounts for the holiday’s association with spirits and the dead. This is a time to remember the ancestors, upon whose shoulders we stand.
The ancestors that we revere in witchcraft are two-fold: the Mighty Dead and the Beloved Dead. The Beloved Dead are ones’ personal, biological, and familial ancestors; those beings who are aligned to us through blood and even adopted family ties who can be called upon for guidance, protection, and as a gateway to working with other types of spirits. We are always connected to the Beloved Dead, whether we are aware of that fact or not. They are, quite literally, in our blood.
The Mighty Dead are a part of traditional witchcraft lore which describes them as the spirits of powerful witches and warlocks who —after their physical deaths— have manifested to living practitioners of the Craft as spirits offering assistance in the form of guidance, knowledge, and power from the Other Side of the Veil. These beings, over time, have evolved beyond the limits of their humanity and have become almost like gods. They are the ones to whom we call to learn the Old Magics; to better the Craft, gaining knowledge and power with each passing year.
This rite is aligned toward communing with the ancestors of the Craft, as well as your own personal Beloved Dead. In it we will perform a “Dumb Supper”, a traditional feast that honors the ancestors performed in complete silence. In addition to your main “working” altar, this rite requires an altar for the ancestors to be placed in the West.
Prepare some food and drink beforehand that you will share with the ancestors. This can be of any type, but especially those foods that your Beloved Dead knew and loved in life. If you are calling to specific spirits of the Mighty Dead —and you knew foods that they enjoyed in life— then include these as well. Otherwise seasonal specific foods such as nuts, breads, sweets, and “harvest foods” are traditional. Whiskey, rum, and wine are also appropriate, but keep in mind that certain spirits may have had problems with alcohol in life. In these cases you will want to provide a non-alcoholic alternative. Bring all of this into the circle to be placed on the main altar.
Star Goddess candle
Symbols of the Mighty Dead: Skulls, bones, images of witches, statues and images of gods of death, etc.
Symbols for the Beloved Dead: Photographs of deceased family members, personal objects, etc.
An empty cup and plate for food offerings
Arrange the western altar so that the white candle is in the center. Other objects may be arranged as desired. Open the Way and Cast a Circle. If you work with any guardians, watchers, spirits, deities, or totems that feel reverent to you invoke them here.
Opening the Western Gate
Stand before the Western altar. Imagine reaching out though your holy daemon and out into the West… and into the realm of the Dead. Open your heart to them… to the ancestors of body and spirit… to those who have gone before. Light the white candle and recite:
“By moon that hangs low in the sky,
By ancient sea, the earth’s own womb,
I call the Gate to open wide,
That leads to life beyond the tomb.”
Take a moment to imagine a gate opening before you through which you can call to your ancestors more clearly. When ready invoke the Beloved and then Mighty Dead.
“O you Beloved Dead,
Who lived and died and now do offer
Guidance from the Other Side.
We are your children. Come to us!”
“O you of the Mighty Dead,
Ancient Ones! The Mothers and Fathers of the Craft,
Who offers us the Silver Thread
We are your children. Come to us!”
Ring the bell three times and then the Dumb Supper begins. Now all participants are completely silent as the food is served in reverence. Each person takes their meal before the Western altar and offers up a portion to the ancestors with a silent prayer. All eat in silent reverence feeling the presence of the Dead joining in. When all is done, ring the bell three times to signify an end to the meal. Now is the time to tell tales of the ancestors, to make toasts, and offerings of poetry, art, stories, and more.
When all is finished, take a moment to say good bye to the Dead with prayers of your choosing. Imagine the Gate being closed and affirm it as so. Thank all attending spirits and extinguish the candles in reverse order. It is done.
©2014 Storm Faerywolf